The Czech Republic's first elections to the European Parliament will be probably take place on June 11 and 12, and political parties will be required to submit their lists of candidates by April 6. Many parties have already approved their slates or at least agreed on their election leaders. President Vaclav Klaus has to set the EP election date in the first half of March at the latest, according to a decision of the EU Council. According to a recent opinion poll, just a little over a half of Czechs are willing to go to the polls and two thirds believe the Czech Republic should be represented in the European Parliament by independent personalities rather than members of political parties. Czechs will have 24 seats in the 732-seat European parliament after European Union enlargement in May.
The first and only Czech astronaut, Vladimir Remek, has confirmed that he was interested in running in the country's first election to the European Parliament on the Communist Party's candidate list. Mr. Remek's confirmation followed several insider reports this week in the Pravo newspaper about his alleged negotiations with leaders of the Communist Party. Remek, who is 55, currently works in the commercial section at the Czech Republic's embassy in Moscow. Mr. Remek flew with a Russian partner on the Soyuz 28 mission in 1978, becoming the first person in space who was neither American nor Russian. Czech voters will choose 24 of the European parliament's 732 seats after European Union enlargement in May.
The Communist Party say that the first Czechoslovak cosmonaut Vladimir Remek has confirmed he is interested in running for a seat in the European Parliament for the Czech Communist Party. The party's vice chairman Miloslav Ransdorf is expected to top the list of the Communists' candidates for the European Parliament, and according to speculation Vladimir Remek could come second in Sunday's secret vote of the party's central committee. The Czech Republic will have 24 MEPs in Strasbourg.
Following an earlier decision by the Chamber of Deputies, the Czech Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that will set the presidential pension at 100, 000 crowns per month. Half that sum will go directly to former presidents, while the other 50, 000 will go towards expenses such as maintaining an office after leaving power. The bill, which for the time being would affect only former president Vaclav Havel, must now be signed by Mr Havel's successor Vaclav Klaus.
The Czech government has approved a new demerit points system for drivers that should discourage reckless driving and lower the number of accidents on Czech roads. According to the bill amendment two serious transgressions committed by drivers would be enough to see them lose their licence. The new system will rely on twelve demerit points, whereby those who reach the 12-point mark will automatically lose their licence, while having to pay an extensive fine. According to the proposal drivers, for example, caught drinking at the wheel will automatically lose 7 points. The bill amendment also describes - in detail - protocol for remanding licences, as well as outlining maximum fines for various offences. If approved by Parliament the bill will come into effect on May 1st, the day the Czech Republic joins the European Union.
Well-known Czech actress Jirina Bohdalova, who filed a law suit against the interior ministry last year for including her name on a list of agents of the Communist-era secret police, or the STB, has won her case in court. However, a loophole in the law says the ministry can not be forced to remove Mrs Bohdalova's name and requires only that a link to the court's verdict be marked on record. Mrs Bohdalova commented to reporters after the verdict that she could not understand how the Czech justice system could allow for her to be guilty on paper, even after she had been proven innocent.
European Union food inspectors have begun inspecting Czech food companies in a final check up before EU accession in May. However the inspection was overshadowed by what could be the country's first case of BSE or mad cow disease this year, and the ninth case since BSE was first discovered in a Czech herd in 2001. The State Veterinary Authority says test results should determine by Thursday whether the cow, from a farm near Litomysl, was infected. Food safety has been a key issue in accession talks between Brussels and Prague. Last year, the EU said hygiene at meat processing plants and dairies was a problem which needed addressing before accession. Several hundred companies were forced to close at the end of 2003.
Police in Prague are searching for two men in connection with an attack on the editor of the country's leading investigative newspaper. Tomas Nemecek, editor of the Respekt weekly, is recovering in hospital after an attack that he said included being tear-gassed, hit on the head with a club and kicked in the face by a pair of unknown assailants on Saturday outside his home in Prague. Mr Nemecek said he believed the attack was in retaliation for articles about crime gangs in northern Czech cities that had appeared in his weekly.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has wound up an important four-day visit to the Middle East, which included stops in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Egypt, where the foreign minister met with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Sunday. On the table for discussion were economic and military issues as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq. Earlier Mr Svoboda indicated the Czech Republic viewed Egypt as an important player in the region. Meanwhile, a representative of the Czech Foreign Ministry, Martin Kosatka, has indicated the Czech Republic aims to specialise in Middle Eastern affairs within the framework of the European Union. The Czech Republic joins on May 1st.
A flight by the national carrier CSA from Prague to New York was forced to turn back on Saturday after experiencing technical difficulties. Reports say the plane suffered problems with its hydraulic system forcing it to return, landing at Prague's Ruzyne airport at around five pm local time on Saturday evening. A spokeswoman for the airline has said that at no time were the passengers on the flight in any danger, though one passenger did experience nausea and had to receive treatment.
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