The Roma Civic Initiative in the region of Moravia and Silesia may be faced with a heavy fine for failing to officially register humanitarian collections organised to help the Roma community in Slovakia. The Roma initiative has been collecting food, clothing, sanitary material, and money without the consent of the local authorities. Czech law requires that any collection of money has to have their permission. The Roma initiative may now have to pay a fine of up to half a million Czech crowns.
The world famous singer and songwriter Sir Paul McCartney, will be giving a concert in Prague within the framework of his O4 Summer Tour, during which he will be performing in 13 cities. The one time Beatles idol has not performed live in the Czech capital before. His Prague concert has been scheduled for June 6th. His summer tour also includes Lisbon, Madrid, Zurich, Leipzig, several concerts in Scandinavia and one in Russia's St. Petersburg.
The leading Czech beer brewer Pilsner Urquell has announced an increase in the price of Pilsner beer. This should send the price of bottled beer and beer on tap up by one crown per half a litre as of Monday. Pilsner Urquell controls 50 percent of the market and its decision is expected to set off a wave of price increases by other beer producers in the country.
In an interview for Czech Radio, President Vaclav Klaus criticized the Czech government for failing to adequately inform Czech citizens about the impact of EU accession on their everyday lives. The President who enjoys strong public support a year after taking office, said it was often the media not the governing coalition which informed Czechs about fundamental changes that EU membership would bring. Mr. Klaus also criticized the government on a number of other counts and said that only new elections could bring about a radical change since the current distribution of forces in the ruling coalition did not offer any overly-optimistic perspectives. Commenting on the choice of Pavel Telicka for the country's first European Commissioner, the President said he was "a typical civil servant, proficient in the EU environment" but that disturbingly, his views were unknown. Although he is not unknown, as a person he is a blank card and that is not good, Mr. Klaus said.
Czech forwarding firms and customs agents ended their one day strike on Friday night, slamming the government's unwillingness to negotiate their demands and saying that a future blockade of the border could come without warning. The strike affected eight of the country's busiest border crossings with Germany and Slovakia, resulting in confusion and long pile ups. However due to early warnings of the strike many truck drivers opted to pass through other check points. The association of forwarding firms and customs agents wants the government to compensate forwarding companies that will have to sack up to 1,500 employees after Czech accession to the EU. The government has refused to do so, saying that it is only prepared to finance re-qualification courses for laid off employees.
A 48-hour strike of the Czech Republic's train drivers due to begin on March 1 has been called off, after unions reached an agreement with Czech Rail on Friday. The national rail carrier gave in to union demands to change the pay conditions of some drivers from the beginning of next month, a union spokesman told reporters, adding that many other issues remained to be discussed with Czech Rail's management.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has written a letter to his Austrian counterpart, Tomas Klestil, protesting at statements made by an Austrian Sudeten German organisation. The Austrian Sudeten German Landsmannschaft said it was "surprised" by the recent passing of a Czech law honouring President Edvard Benes, under whom Czechoslovakia's German minority were expelled after World War II. The Sudeten Germans said Mr Benes had brought servitude and 40 years of communism to the Czech nation. In his letter to Mr Klestil, President Klaus said he could not believe the Sudetens' comments.
The Czech government has confirmed Pavel Telicka as the country's candidate for European commissioner. Mr Telicka, the current Czech ambassador to the EU, was chosen after the original nominee, Milos Kuzvart, withdrew his bid last week, citing a lack of support in particular from the country's Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. On Wednesday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla informed European Commission President Romano Prodi of Mr Telicka's nomination.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved sending over 100 troops from Czech special forces to take part in the U.S.-led operation "Enduring Freedom", aimed at countering remnant Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorist forces in Afghanistan. The decision, approved by the Senate last month, marks the first time Czech troops will take part in combat operations since the end of the Second World War. In total 127 out of 186 deputies on Wednesday voted in favour, while 46 voted against. On Tuesday the head of the Czech military general staff, Pavel Stefka, said the first group of soldiers could leave for Afghanistan as early as seven days after deployment approval. Around 108 reconnaissance specialists are set to join Operation Enduring Freedom, while another 30 soldiers will participate in NATO's ISAF operation in Kabul.
The government is to meet in a special session on Wednesday morning to approve the nomination of Pavel Telicka as the country's first EU commissioner. European Commission President Romano Prodi has given the Czech Republic until Wednesday morning to confirm the nomination. The meeting follows an embarrassing few days for the government in Prague, after the man originally nominated for the post - former Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart - told the cabinet he had changed his mind. The Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla collapsed after Mr Kuzvart's announcement and had to be taken to hospital.
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