Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has received the St George Prize, awarded by the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny. Havel is the first Czech to receive the prize. Also awarded was Polish journalist, human rights promoter and a friend of Mr. Havel's, Adam Michnik. The prize goes every year to personalities who act for the general benefit. Established in 1945, Tygodnik Powsechny is the oldest independent weekly in the former eastern bloc countries.
Nearly 5,000 Czech police stormed more than 400 brothels on Friday night in the biggest strike against the sex slave trade in the country. They checked documents of over 4,000 people, nearly half of them foreigners and charged 21 people, mostly with pimping and trafficking women. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the raids across the country were in response to growing criticism, both at home and abroad, that police were doing little to contain the illegal sex trade. He said foreign women detained in the raids would be given a chance to win residency permits if they co-operated with police. The Czech Republic has become a transit point and also destination for large numbers of sexual workers from other east European former Communist countries. Most women checked in the raids came from the Balkans and from countries further to the east of Europe like Ukraine or Moldova.
The Czech Republic has been elected to the UNESCO Executive Council at the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference to replace half of the 58 council members. The Czech Republic will be represented in the council by senator Jaroslava Moserova who also chairs the Czech UNESCO commission and who was chairwoman of the UNESCO General Conference between 1999 and 2001. Mrs. Moserova said earlier that she would like to work on the human rights committee. The election of the Czech Republic to the UNESCO Executive Council is seen as an evidence of the country's good position in the organisation.
Franz Ulrich Kinsky, a descendant of the Kinsky noble family, has lost two further court cases involving property confiscated after the Second World War. A court in the northern town of Decin rejected Mr Kinsky's claim that he was the rightful owner of a hunting lodge and a restaurant. Franz Kinsky has filed a total of 157 lawsuits against the Czech state, asking the courts to declare him the legal owner of property including country homes and woodland. Most of the property was confiscated after 1945 from Mr Kinsky's late father, an alleged Nazi sympathiser who died before the war. However Mr Kinsky says the property belonged to him, not his father, and the confiscation was therefore illegal.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has begun a two-day official visit to Bulgaria with talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the country's former king. Mr Spidla is in Bulgaria to boost trade and bilateral relations. A government spokesman said the Czech Republic saw Bulgaria as a stabilising factor in the Balkans, and supported the country's bid to join NATO and the European Union. Mr Spidla is being accompanied by Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban and Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, as well as a large delegation of Czech businessmen. Meanwhile President Vaclav Klaus has ended his three-day state visit to neighbouring Hungary.
Former President Vaclav Havel is being tipped as one of the favourites to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Mr Havel, nominated for the eighth time, is among three leading candidates for the prize along with Pope John Paul II and the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Most observers believe the ailing Pope will win; however some believe the pontiff's views on abortion and the use of condoms against AIDS make him too controversial. There are a record 165 nominees this year: the winner will be announced at 9:00 GMT on Friday.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic has risen to its highest level in seven months, reflecting the slow rate of growth in the nation's economy. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said the registered jobless rate rose to 10.1 percent in September from 10.0 percent in August and was up from 9.4 percent in September 2002. This was the highest level since February 2003, when the registered jobless rate stood at 10.2 percent.
The Chamber of Deputies has been holding a special session to discuss the planned constitution for the European Union, days after an inter-governmental conference on the document began in Rome. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Tuesday that his cabinet would put forward a bill allowing for a referendum on the proposed constitution. Meanwhile, MP Jan Zahradil of the opposition Civic Democrats, which called the debate, said the EU was already functioning well without a constitution. The Czech Republic and nine other countries are to become members of the EU next May.
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