The foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has reopened the Czech embassy in
Baghdad. Mr Svoboda also held talks with the American civil administrator
of Iraq, Paul Bremer, who praised the Czech government for the part it is
playing in the reconstruction of the country. Mr Svoboda was also due to
visit Basra on Saturday and to meet members of a Czech military field
hospital based in the city. On Sunday the foreign minister is moving on to
Israel, where he will meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other senior
Meanwhile the Czech Catholic Charity Association has sent a tonne and a half of medicines to Iraq. The medicines, mainly antibiotics and vitamins for children, were flown to Basra on Friday night in a Defence Ministry plane.
More than a dozen people were injured when a local passenger train collided with a truck at Rokytnice in the Orlicke Mountains, east Bohemia on Saturday. The truck driver was flown to hospital in Hradec Kralove with serious head injuries. The train was derailed in the accident, which occurred at an unmarked crossing between two towns in the mountains.
A 21-year-old man burned himself to death in the north Moravian town of Frydek-Mistek on Friday evening. The man, said to have been a drug addict, doused himself in flammable liquid and set it alight. He died before doctors managed to reach the scene. It was the 17th case of suicide, or attempted suicide, by burning in the Czech Republic since the beginning of March.
The leader of Britain's opposition Conservatives has unveiled his party's vision of Europe during a visit to Prague. Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith signed a declaration in the Czech capital on Thursday calling for the strengthening of national democracies to resist the formation of what he called a European superstate. Mr Duncan Smith, speaking to reporters after meeting President Vaclav Klaus, said his party supported European integration, but opposed unification and excessive bureaucracy. The declaration was also signed by the party Mr Klaus led until last year - the opposition Civic Democrats. The Czech Republic will be one of 10 new countries to join the EU next year.
The Information Technology Ministry has released the first stamp bearing the portrait of President Vaclav Klaus, who was elected in February this year. The stamp will be available in post offices as of July 30 and will cost six crowns 40 hellers. The authors of the green, orange and pink-purple stamp are painter Oldrich Kulhanek and graphic designer and engraver Milos Ondracek.
The 38th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which opened last weekend, is hosting film stars, film directors and cinema-goers from around the world. Among the VIPs present are: British film director Steven Frears, American actor Morgan Freeman and Canadian actress Deborah Kary Unger. On Monday visitors to the festival could take their pick from 63 screenings, among them the Norwegian film Buddy directed by Morten Tyldum, and the American film The Cooler directed by Wyan Kramer, both serious contestants for the Crystal Globe award. The organizers report record attendance. Over 40,000 tickets have been sold in the first three days of the festival, alone.
The Czech government has approved a series of proposed tax amendments within its budget reform plan. This includes a gradual corporate tax reduction from the present 31 percent to 24 percent in 2006. The medium-term reform plan aims to cut the public finance deficit to four percent of GDP by 2006 and envisages sweeping changes in the pension and social systems, tax adjustments and a reduction of 30,000 posts in state administration. The government has stuck firmly to its outlined goals, in spite of widespread trade union protests, and the proposed reform is to be presented to Parliament later this month.
The Finance Ministry is not planning to reserve money in the state budget, for emergency cases when an already completed project is not covered by the EU, mainly for the reasons of having violated EU rules and regulations. According to Finance Ministry spokesperson, Eva Novakova, the ministry's decision was made to force individual Czech ministries into processing and approving only the best projects that will guarantee EU funding. Should a project fail to get EU support, it will be up to the ministry responsible to cover the costs involved.
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