The authorities in Prague announced on Thursday that the state of emergency put in place during the summer's severe floods had been lifted, although the clean-up operation continues. A city spokesman said public services in the capital will not return to normal until at least next spring, while the city is still struggling to raise funds to cover clean-up and repair costs totalling about 1 billion dollars. The state of emergency began in August when the Vltava River burst its banks and forced 50,000 people to evacuate low-lying areas. Some people are still waiting to be allowed home.
The spokeswoman for Czech Rail has revealed that fierce gales that hit the Czech Republic over the weekend caused more than 18 million crowns in damages to the country's roads and railways. Damaged were railway tracks covered by fallen trees, rail communications systems, and trolley-bus lines. Vehicles were also damaged, and in all two-hundred and seventy-nine trains showed late arrivals during the storms. Thirty-six trains did not pull out all and another ninety-eight were by covered replacement busses.
Some three thousand dissatisfied farmers and agriculture representatives gathered in Prague Wednesday to demonstrate against what they see as an imminent financial crisis in the agriculture sector. Farmers also protested agriculture accession terms proposed by the European Union, and called for more government support in areas of the country damaged by mid-August floods. The protest demonstration concluded at the Office of the government and the houses of parliament, where farmers blocked traffic and chanted slogans before presenting government and parliament members with a petition signed by more than 100, 000.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, has held talks in London with his British counterpart Tony Blair. The two men discussed the enlargement of the European Union, NATO, Czech emigration to the UK and the Czech government's plans to buy Gripen war planes, which are made by a British-Swedish consortium. On the question of Iraq, Mr Spidla said it was necessary to deal with the issue through the United Nations, which should give weapons inspectors a clear and strong mandate to inspect any site in the country.
Farmers' organisations have collected almost 120,000 signatures on a petition calling on the state to help them cope with the financial crisis they say is facing Czech agriculture. The petition is to be presented to the government and both houses of parliament on Wednesday morning, when around 3,000 farmers are due to hold a demonstration in the centre of Prague. Farmers in candidate countries are not expected to receive the same level of subsidies as those enjoyed by farmers in existing EU members.
Voting ended at the weekend in the first round of the Senate elections, in a poll marked by widespread voter apathy. Officials said just 24 percent of people had bothered to vote - the lowest turnout since the upper house was created six years ago. The Senate is highly unpopular among the public, with most people seeing it as irrelevant. The low turnout was also due to the long weekend, which many Czechs are spending at their country cottages.
TV Nova director Vladimir Zelezny, the only candidate to win in the first round, has said he will stay on as head of the popular television station. Mr Zelezny, who won the Znojmo constituency with just under 51 percent of the vote, told reporters he was capable of handling both jobs at the same time. Mr Zelezny was the most controversial candidate in this year's elections. He is being prosecuted for a number of fraud offences, including damaging the interests of a creditor and tax evasion. Some claim he sought public office in a bid to gain immunity from prosecution.
A third of the Senate's 81 seats are being contested, but only one candidate was elected in the first round. The remaining 26 seats will be decided by a runoff next weekend. The main opposition Civic Democrats made the strongest showing, sending 19 candidates into the second round. They were followed by the ruling Social Democrats. The Senate has little real power, as vetoes can be overridden by the lower house. But its consent is crucial for changes to the constitution, and the elections will influence who is to succeed President Vaclav Havel in February.
The only incident in an otherwise uneventful first round occurred in Brno, when a member of the electoral commission died of a heart attack minutes before the polling booth was due to open on Saturday morning. Doctors were unable to save the 75-year-old man, who collapsed shortly after arriving at the polling booth. The chief electoral officer said voting had began on time.
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