Czech and Global Events from the First Quarter of 2009

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* 1. 1. The Czech Republic and Slovakia

The Czech Republic becomes the second post-communist state (after Slovenia) to become the EU President. The Czech presidency begins dramatically when a government spokesperson, Jiri Frantisek Potuznik, describes Israel's actions in Gaza as defensive. While this unofficial declaration creates sensation around the world, the Israeli government expresses appreciation of the Czech's position.

* 1. 1. Slovakia

Slovakia becomes the sixteenth member of the European Monetary Union. The Czech government remains undecided over their own date of acceptance and transition to the Euro.

* 1. 1. Italy

Italy assumes the G8 presidency. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's goals are to expand the elite club's membership to include thirteen or fourteen more states, including the evolving economies of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Egypt. In the case of expansion, the G13 or G14 would produce 80% of the world's economy.

* 1. 1. Costa Rica

The United States-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) officially enters into force in Costa Rica.

* 8. 1. Czech Republic

An unofficial meeting between foreign ministers of EU countries takes place in Prague. The meeting provides the foreign ministers with the opportunity to voice concerns over ongoing or upcoming issues.

* 10.-11. 1. Brussels, Belgium

David Cerny's installation at the European Council building causes uproar and controversy. Cerny was commissioned to create an art installation which would depict the Czech's EU presidency. The controversy stems in part from Cerny's stereotypical depiction of the individual EU countries, as well from falsly asserting that 27 artists from each member-state contributed to the installation.

* 11. 1. Ukraine and Russia

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek establishes an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to resolve disputes relating to the supply of Russian gas to Europe at a time when Slovakia and Bulgaria are realistically threatened by a blackout. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responds by saying that the agreement is null and void.

* 14. 1. Russia

The Slovakian and Bulgarian Prime Ministers, Robert Fico and Sergei Stanishev, accept an invitation from the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, to visit Moscow and discuss gas exports. Russia reveals that it is willing to use energy policy to promote their position in their former sphere of influence. Last year, Slovakian PM Fico expressed that he understood Russian fears over the US plans for a radar base in the CR. Russia's decision to cut off gas supplies comes at a time when the Czech presidency has made the Eastern Partnership one if its goals. The partnership seeks to reinforce the EU's relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

* 15.-16. 1. The Czech Republic

An unofficial meeting between the EU's ministers of justice and the Interior takes place in Prague. The ministers discuss cooperation between the member states in regards to mutually recognizing judicial decisions.

* 15. 1. Israel and Palestine

The Israeli military launches its third phase of operations against Gaza in what has been a twenty day offensive. Ground troops enter the center of Gaza, one of the most densly inhabited areas of the world. Thousands of Palestinians leave their homes. The Leftist regimes in Bolivia and Venezuela sever their diplomatic relations with Israel.

* 15. 1. The Czech Republic

The world famous Czech architect, Jan Kaplicky, dies suddenly in Prague. Kaplicky was the architect behind the National Library project which drew controversy due to the octopus-like shape of the building.

* 18. 1. El Salvador

Municipal elections in El Salvador produce a victory for the former leftist guerrillas--the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)--over the governing right-wing Nationalist Republican Party (ARENA). …