The International Monetary Fund has criticised the Czech Republic for continuing shortcomings in the judicial and legal systems and for weaknesses in corporate governance. In its Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes released on Monday, the International Monetary Fund or IMF said Czech courts suffered from insufficient resources and lack of wider experience among the judges in understanding modern business law and corporate finance. Other problems, stated by the IMF, include costly, cumbersome and non-transparent court proceedings. According to the IMF, slow court proceedings lead to significant backlog of filed and pending bankruptcy cases and weak legal protection of creditors' rights.
An elderly man blamed for a five-year string of bombings and bomb threats across the Czech Republic has died of self-inflicted wounds. Police said the 68-year-old retired locksmith died on Sunday in a Prague hospital from stab wounds to the neck. The man, whose name was withheld, had tried to kill himself while being arrested on December 29 near a memorial to Germans expelled from the former Czechoslovakia after World War II. The memorial in the northern town of Teplice nad Metuji was damaged by a bomb last spring. The memorial bombing had been one of 18 unsolved incidents since March 1999 that police thought might be the work of a single attacker.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed an amendment to the law on the Constitutional Court. A spokesman for the Presidential Office said that according to Mr Klaus the law severely disturbed the balance between the legislative, executive and judicial powers. According to the President, the amended law would, in a concealed manner, broaden the powers of the Constitutional Court to the detriment of the government and parliament.
Archbishop Diego Causero is to be the new Papal nuncio in the Czech Republic. He will replace Erwin Josef Ender, who is now working in Germany. Archbishop Causero is the third ambassador of the Vatican to Prague in the history of the Czech Republic. He was previously posted in Syria and Chad and is due to arrive in Prague in mid March.
A Czech humanitarian aid convoy has arrived in Bam, southern Iran where it will spend around ten days helping quake victims. The convoy of three off-road vehicles and nine volunteer workers have brought power generators, medical supplies, disinfectants and water-purification tablets. They will be giving aid directly to the survivors, travelling outside Bam to remote villages. The convoy is being assisted by representatives of the Iranian Red Crescent.
Austrian anti-nuclear activists have announced their intention to resume border blockades in protest of the Temelin nuclear power plant is southern Bohemia. A spokesman for the Stop Temelin platform in Austria said the next blockade would take place at the Halamky-Gmuend Neunagelberg crossing on January 17th and should last for about three hours, starting mid-day. The main goal of the border blockade is to protest against alleged efforts by the power utility CEZ, the operator of Temelin, to keep a recent technical breakdown secret.
Over 500 food processing plants in the Czech Republic have been closed down for failing to comply with EU regulations. The facilities, mainly beef, poultry, egg, fish and milk processing plants, failed to meet strict hygiene standards and other rules adopted by the Czech government ahead of the country's entry into the EU in May. The EU had issued several warnings that this would happen if EU norms were not met, but many producers failed to comply arguing that they lacked the finances needed.
Roads were blocked and many flights were cancelled on Wednesday amid heavy snowfall in the Czech Republic. Most of the country's motorways were cleared by mid-morning, but mountain roads especially in the north and northwest of the country remain blocked. Morning commuters had tough journeys in Prague, where slippery conditions were blamed for a number of accidents. More than 20 flights were cancelled and many others delayed at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. Among the cancellations were regular flights to Paris, Brussels and Vienna. Meteorologists said much of the snow would melt by the weekend as temperatures gradually rise above freezing.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka hopes to reduce the state budget deficit to 100 billion Czech crowns by 2005 from the 115 billion that has been approved for this year. In a TV Prima programme on Sunday, he said the government plans to lower the deficit gradually to reach 100 billion Czech crowns next year, and go well below that figure by 2006. The government should be successful if its public finance reform plan is met, Mr Sobotka noted. But according to Vlastimil Tlusty from the opposition Civic Democrats, the state budget deficit will still be too high to meet the requirements for the adoption of the Euro. The Maastricht Treaty criteria that governs entry to the currency union allows a deficit no higher than 3% of the GDP.
In a TV discussion programme on Sunday, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the Czech Republic's representative in the European Commission should be a former government minister, the minimum age for a judge should be raised, and took the opportunity to sharply criticise the state of the economy. Speaking on TV Nova's Sedmicka programme, Mr Klaus said the growth of the Czech economy was too slow because it was over-regulated and added that businesses and entrepreneurs should not have to face a much higher taxing system than those in neighbouring countries.
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