The Czech finance minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, and representatives of eight other new European Union countries agreed at a meeting in Bratislava on Friday that the current ceiling on expenditure in the EU budget should be maintained. The officials also said conditions set in the stability and growth pact should not be loosened. The Czech Republic is one of ten countries joining the EU on May 1.
Hundreds of fish were killed when an as yet unidentified chemical leaked into the water system near the east Bohemian town of Nachod on Friday. The chemical is believed to have come from a house in the area and criminal charges against the owners are being prepared, a spokesman for the local authority said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Prague's Drop In centre, which helps drug addicts, has said that most of the measures proposed by the government in its fight against drugs would not prove effective. Drop In's Ivan Douda said on Friday dividing drugs into different categories was standard practice around the world.
Five former managers of one of the Czech Republic's biggest banks, Komercni banka, are being investigated for fraud, police said on Friday. The five are accused of helping Austrian businessman Baraka Alona defraud the bank of over a billion crowns between 1996 and 2000. Nine former members of Komercni banka's board of directors have been under investigation for fraud of eight billion crowns, also involving Mr Alona, since May 2001.
The government is to establish an expert group to revise the state's anti-drug policy, Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek told reporters after talks late on Thursday. His party, the second biggest in the governing coalition, has made the fight against drugs one of its key policies. Mr Kalousek said his proposal that no distinction be made between soft and hard drugs had been accepted by the coalition partners.
The Czech Olympic Committee has presented cross country skier Katerina Neummanova with a symbolic cheque for 200,000 crowns for the silver medal she won at the 2002 Winter Olympics but has not yet received. The skier won the medal after a Russian skier who finished ahead of her was disqualified for drug-taking. However, the Russian has not yet returned the medal and Ms Neummanova has not been given a replica by the International Olympic Committee. Ms Neummanova had been given 300,000 crowns for coming third, while 500,000 is the reward for second place.
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised the Czech Republic's legal system, saying there are too many laws. In his first address to the upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, since his election as president last year, Mr Klaus also criticised what he called quick changes to the legal system. President Klaus added that instead of producing new legislation, politicians should try to revise and reduce the existing number of laws.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called for an end to the ethnic violence between Serbs and Albanians in the south Serbian province of Kosovo which has claimed at least 22 lives. Speaking during a short visit to Prague, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he had been on the phone to "all the relevant players" in Pristina and Belgrade following the worst ethnic violence in the Serbian province since it was put under UN administration in 1999. The NATO chief also appealed to the media to show restraint in reporting. Mr De Hoop Scheffer visited Prague briefly on Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Czech Republic's accession to NATO.
The Czech Republic has received a list of requests sent to NATO by Greece, calling for aid in protecting the Olympic Games in Athens this summer, Defence Ministry spokesman Ladislav Sticha said. Mr Sticha declined to give any details of Greece's requests, saying that the material was classified. However, it is likely that the Czech Republic will send its special anti-chemical unit. Greece first asked for NATO aid during the Summer Olympics last week, saying it should include protection of airspace, joint sea patrols, and protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical attack.
A Slovak member of the Czech-Slovak battalion at the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo has been injured in the latest outbreak of violence. The soldier is reported to have suffered concussion when a demonstrator hit him with a stone on Thursday. According to unit commander Josef Kopecky, the soldiers have been trying to mediate between Serbian and Albanian mobs who are looting and burning the houses of the opposite ethnic group near the regional capital of Pristina. The joint Czech-Slovak battalion is responsible for the northeast portion of Kosovo, primarily its border with Serbia.
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