Former foreign minister Jan Kavan has said he is to resign from his post in the European Union Convention, the body laying the foundations for EU expansion and reform. The resignation comes two weeks after one of Mr Kavan's former aides was arrested in an alleged plot to kill a journalist, although Mr Kavan denied there was any connection with the case. He said he was giving up the post to allow more time for his positions as chairman of the U.N. General Assembly and M.P in the lower house.
Meanwhile the opposition Civic Democrats have said the governing Social Democrats are responsible for the scandal, which they say is without precedent in the history of the Czech Republic. Ex-foreign minister Jan Kavan, Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla all bear personal responsibility in the matter, Civic Democrats deputy chairman Vladimir Tlusty said on Friday. Mr Kavan gave Karel Srba a job at the Foreign Ministry, Mr Tvrdik is responsible for military intelligence, for whom Mr Srba was an agent, and Mr Spidla was responsible for the intelligence services in the last cabinet.
The four people in custody on charges of planning to kill a journalist have also been charged with the illegal possession of firearms, the state attorney's office said on Friday. Among the four is Karel Srba, a former senior official at the Foreign Ministry Mr Srba was forced to resign when he was implicated in a scandal exposed by journalist Sabina Slonkova, the target of the alleged murder plot.
Two policemen were set upon in a run-down largely Romany area of the north Bohemian town of Most on Thursday evening. The police officers were attacked when they arrived at the scene of a street dispute involving up to 400 people. One man is being questioned in connection with the attack, during which one of the policemen suffered concussion.
The Environment Minister of Upper Austria, Ursula Haubner of the far-right Freedom Party, has said she wants to start talks with the Czech Republic on the phasing out of the controversial Temelin nuclear power station which is situated close to the Austrian border. Ms Haubner suggested on Thursday that the cabinet should invite the new Czech Environment Minister, Libor Ambrozek, for negotiations in Upper Austria. The topic of their talks should be renewable sources of energy and the eventual closing down of Temelin. Mr Ambrozek said on Wednesday he wanted the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be the country's last and that he would ask the Czech government to adopt an energy policy that includes the complete phasing-out of nuclear power. Ms Haubner's party has welcomed Mr Ambrozek's statements saying that anti-Temelin activists had been given fresh hope in their battle to have the plant shut down.
Czech Roma asylum seekers who have been rejected political asylum abroad should not be entitled to social benefits after they return to the Czech Republic, the Government Council for Roma Affairs decided on Thursday. The council also agreed that a special police body should be established in order to deal with the widespread problem of illegal money-lending among the Czech Roma community. The number of Romanies seeking asylum in Great Britain has grown dramatically in the last few months. According to the government's human rights commissioner, Jan Jarab, excessive debt is among the reasons why Czech Roma are leaving the country.
A senior member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party reacted quickly to Mr Ambrozek's comments, saying anti-Temelin activists had been given fresh hope in their battle to have the plant shut down. Hans Achatz, head of the party's parliamentary club in the upper house, described Mr Ambrozek's remarks as a "huge step in the right direction."
The new Czech minister for the environment has said he wants the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be the country's last. Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday that he would ask the government to adopt an energy policy that includes the complete phasing-out of nuclear power. Mr Ambrozek said he wanted to focus on renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric and wind power. However the minister said Temelin would remain operational, despite protests from anti-nuclear groups in neighbouring Austria and Bavaria, who claim the plant is unsafe. The Czech Republic has two nuclear power stations, Temelin, launched last year, and Dukovany which has been operating since 1985.
The final wording of the government's programme for the next four years will not be ready until Monday, just one day before it is submitted to the lower house of parliament for approval. A member of the government's press department said the cabinet had not approved the programme at its meeting on Wednesday, explaining that the document still had to be completed. The new centre-left government enjoys a majority of just one seat in the lower house.
The Czech Republic could start using the currency the euro by 2010, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday. Mr Sobotka said introducing the euro was a priority of the recently-formed government, adding that it was a realistic ambition. To meet the Masstricht criteria necessary to adopt the euro, the public deficit must not exceed three percent of gross domestic product. The Finance Ministry expects the public deficit to be down to 5.5 percent of GDP four years from now. The Czech Republic hopes to join the European Union in 2004.
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