Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas has said Czech farmers could be as successful as their Greek counterparts in drawing funds from the European Union. Speaking during a visit to Greece, Mr Palas said Czech farmers could learn from the experience of Greece in winning agricultural subsidies from the EU.
The deputy leader of the senior coalition Social Democrats, Zdenek Skromach, has said discussion on the proposed reform of the country's healthcare system has been postponed. Mr Skromach said the proposals, submitted by the Health Minister Marie Souckova, had been taken off the agenda of Sunday's talks between coalition leaders. Mr Skromach said there would not be enough time for a discussion on both tax and healthcare reform. The proposed healthcare reforms are controversial, as they envisage reducing the number of doctors and increasing the financial burden on the patient.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Russian Ambassador Igor Savolsky met at the presidential retreat at Lany on Friday. Mr Savolsky, who has been representing his country in the Czech Republic for three years, is expected to leave his post early this year. He has been meeting with senior Czech politicians this week to discuss Czech-Russian relations before his departure. Both President Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, with whom Mr Savolsky met on Thursday, agree that economic and political bilateral relations are at their best since the fall of Communism. Mr Savolsky's most likely successor is Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexej Fedotov.
Over a hundred people from all corners of the Czech Republic gathered outside the Office of the Government on Wednesday to demonstrate against Industry Minister Milan Urban's proposed energy policy. Mr Urban's plans to limit coal-mining and build a nuclear waste dump are to be discussed by the government in a month's time.
Ten Czech police instructors have left for Jordan, where they will help train Iraqi police officers. The Czech officers will be divided into two teams and be rotated every six months, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. The training will be of both a practical and theoretical nature, and is being financed jointly by the Czech Interior Ministry and the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
The cabinet has delayed indefinitely a decision on a proposal to give legal status to same-sex partnerships. The latest proposal is the fourth gay-rights measure considered by the government since 1997; all previous bills have either been quashed by the cabinet or defeated in parliament. Activists from the organisation Czech Gay Initiative said on Wednesday they hoped the new delay was just "technical" and that the issue could be considered next week. The largest party in the coalition, the Social Democrats, are in favour of same-sex partnerships, while the Christian Democrats are opposed.
The leaders of the Czech parliament's two main opposition parties, the Civic Democrats and the Communists, have refused to attend a meeting called by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla to discuss the appointment of the Czech Republic's first European commissioner. Both parties are expected to send representatives to the meeting, though the Civic Democrats said they might boycott it altogether.
An appeals court in the North Moravian town of Bruntal has ordered a retrial of a case in which three youths carried out a racially-motivated attack against a Romany couple. The three were given suspended sentences for the attack, a verdict which outraged human rights groups and Romany activists. The three youths, masquerading as policemen, burst into the couple's flat in Jesenik last June. The woman, who was pregnant at the time, was hit in the eye with a cobblestone, leaving her with permanent injuries. The state prosecutor failed to appeal against the original verdict, and has since complained of political interference.
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.
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