Romanian President Ion Iliescu is on a three-day official visit to the Czech Republic. Shortly after his arrival on Tuesday, he gave a speech on integration and globalisation at Prague's Carolinum and officially opened the new Romanian Culture Institute. President Iliescu is also scheduled to meet his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus, visit the Czech Parliament, and give a lecture at Charles University. On Wednesday evening, he will be travelling to the Moravian capital Brno and southern Moravia to commemorate Romanian soldiers who fell in the Second World War in the town of Kromeriz.
Two men who suffered serious burns in a gas explosion at an oil refinery in Iraq have been flown to the Czech Republic and are now in intensive care at Prague's Vinohrady hospital. Both are on respirators, in critical condition. Another Czech expert was killed in the explosion. The Foreign Ministry and the Czech Chemoprojekt company, which is helping to reconstruct one of southern Iraq's three refineries have stressed that the explosion was in no way linked to terrorism.
The heads of four heavily indebted hospitals in Moravia and Silesia have been sacked by local government authorities. The accumulated losses of these hospitals reached 318 million crowns last year, up from 142 million in 2002. Their replacements will have to introduce effective cost-cutting measures which would enable the hospitals to survive and repay their debts.
The Neo-Nazi organisation National Resistance has published a list of its biggest enemies, the country's main commercial station TV Nova reported on Monday. Some fifty personalities, including members of the Roma community, the Communist Party, as well as anarchists, have been black listed on the organisation's web site. Some of the people on the list have said they feared for their safety as they know of cases where members of the National Resistance have brutally attacked people they did not like. According to TV Nova, the Czech police have been monitoring extreme-right internet sites for some time now.
The Czech book "Labyrintem Revoluce", which translates into "Through the Labyrinth of the Revolution", a view of the Velvet Revolution and the political development that followed, has won the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award. The winners of the Magnesia Litera book awards for the best Czech books published in 2003 were announced at Prague's City Library on Saturday night. Book of the Year author, Jiri Suk, also won the first prize in the non-fiction category.
Latest figures released by the Czech Statistics Office show that exports to EU states have risen significantly in the first two months of this year. Czech exports to the European Union have increased by 8.7 percent year on year to amount to 165.6 billion Czech crowns. The demand for Czech products mainly rose in Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany. Exports to France, on the other hand, have decreased.
A record 190 delegates attended the 13th annual Czech-German conference of politicians, journalists and scientists, which came to an end in the town of Jihlava on Sunday. The three-day event, organised by the Bernard Bolzano Foundation, aims at promoting discussion and finding solutions to various problem areas causing friction in Czech-German relations. Conference participants shared the view that, concerning the period following WWII, Czechs and Germans will most likely never come to an agreement. However, according to Czech historian Jan Kren, besides agreeing to disagree, both sides need to acknowledge each other and be prepared to listen to the other's arguments.
A Czech Airlines (CSA) flight carrying 116 passengers from Prague to Amsterdam was forced to turn back on Sunday after experiencing technical difficulties. A spokesperson for the national carrier said the plane, a Boeing 737-400, suffered problems with its engine, forcing it to return to Prague's Ruzyne airport shortly after take-off. CSA management says the passengers on the flight were never in any danger and has attributed the growing number of technical problems experienced in the past few months to the significantly larger number of flights offered this year.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has expressed surprise at the failure of Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan to win the first round of direct presidential elections, which were held in neighbouring Slovakia on Saturday. The election results see the former controversial prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, and his former right-hand man Ivan Gasparovic (both opposition candidates) advance to the second round on April 17. Mr Spidla added, however, that he was convinced Czech-Slovak relations would continue to blossom, no matter who is elected president.
The US editor and columnist Alan Levy is dead. Mr Levy, lived and worked in Prague since the 1960s, passed away at the age of 72 years on Friday after a brief and courageous battle with cancer. Mr Levy first came to the Czech capital from New York as a journalist in 1967. He was editor-in-chief of The Prague Post, a popular English-language weekly, since its founding in 1991, when he was hired by the owners to help launch the newspaper. His column, "Prague Profile," introducing personalities from all walks of life, was one of the paper's most-read features and appeared 549 times. During his journalistic career Mr Levy interviewed personalities such as former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the Beatles, and authors Graham Greene and W.H. Auden. He also chronicled the Prague Spring reform movement and the Warsaw Pact invasion that followed in numerous articles and a book called "Rowboat to Prague".
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