Vol 2, No 6
14 February 2000
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for the Czech Republic
All the important news from the Czech Republic
since 7 February 2000
Zeman's Cabinet to Be Re-Shuffled
Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman announced that his government is to undergo yet another major change in configuration. He announced the change, which will see an exchange of five cabinet ministers, after a meeting with President Václav Havel at Prague Castle on Tuesday 8 February. Although Zeman has not yet specified which ministers will be affected, the most likely candidates are Minister of Local Development Jaromír Císař, Minister of Transportation Antonín Peltrám, Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Bašta (responsible for security services and the government's anti-corruption "Clean Hands" initiative) and Minister of Interior Václav Grulich. So far, names of their potential replacements have also been kept silent.
At the same time, Miloš Zeman also appointed Bohumil Fišer as the new minister of health to replace Vladimír Špidla, who has been acting health minister ever since Ivan David resigned last year. Fišer, a professor at the medical school at Masaryk University in Brno, will assume office on Monday 14 February.
At the meeting with the Prime Minister, President Havel also expressed his wish to see Minister of Trade and Industry Miroslav Grégr resign. However, this proposal was refused by Prime Minister Zeman.
Zeman described the major shifts as "not abnormal," saying that they were needed in order to make fresh efforts to bring the country out of the economic crisis. He also emphasised that he was making the changes under his own will and not on account of pressure from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which - it is widely suspected - made the changes a pre-condition of approval of the government's budget when it met recently with the ruling Social Democrats to add five amendments to the two parties' so-called opposition agreement.
If implemented, these will be the biggest cabinet changes made by any of the Czech post-Communist governments. But although it may be good to bring new faces into the cabinet, they won't be much use if they fail to improve the country's already alarming economic crisis. Time is of the essence.
Kavan Welcomes Statement of the Austrian Cabinet
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on Friday 11 February welcomed the official statement made by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel that his Cabinet's programmes will not contain the controversial passages urging the Czech Republic to return the property of Sudeten Germans expelled under the Beneš Decrees at the end of the Second World War before entering the European Union. Relations between the Czech Republic and Austria worsened when leader of the Freedom Party Jörg Heider repeatedly said that his country is ready to compensate labourers forced to work for the Nazis in Austria if Sudeten Germans and Austrian war prisoners also receive their compensation. This was fiercely criticised by the Czechs.
In a joint-statement, Czech President Václav Havel and Prime Minister Miloš Zeman expressed their support of the EU sanctions to be imposed against Austria. The Czech Republic even plans to impose its own economic sanctions if Austria keeps raising the Sudeten issue and uses it as a tool to block the Czechs from joining the EU. Zeman stated that although officially not written on paper, the threat remains a threat.Czech national Team Wins Asia's Most Prestigious Cup
The Czech national football team won the Carlsberg Cup in Hong Kong and now occupies second place in the FIFA ranking.Markus Bonorianto, 11 February 2000
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