Czech and Slovak police have charged 25 people with running an internet-based global prostitution ring using 230 women, many of whom were forced into selling their bodies for sex, officials said on Wednesday. The group posed as the Eli modelling agency, luring girls with promises of work as hostesses at events round the world, but then forcing them into prostitution, Slovak Police First Vice-President Jaroslav Spisiak told Reuters news agency. "They were invited to castings, where they had pictures taken, mostly in underwear or naked -- then they were gradually told that they will have to offer sex if the client wants," he said. The girls were offered over the internet and spent up to a week with clients wherever they requested them, including Japan, western Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The leading Czech airline, CSA, is the first airline at Prague's Ruzyne airport to allow passengers check-in one day before their flights. The Czech Airport Authority has welcomed the move as the country's main international airport has been overwhelmed by growing numbers of passengers. In the first five months of this year, CSA recorded over 30% more passengers than in the same period last year.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he will not ask Parliament for a vote of confidence in the Cabinet this Thursday. The future of the coalition government will thus be decided at a crucial meeting of the Social Democrats' executive committee this Saturday. The Prime Minister has said that if he fails to defend his position as party leader he would step down as head of government. His resignation would signal the end of the three-party governing coalition. The government crisis was precipitated by the governing parties' humiliating defeat in the recent Euro elections.
Poland has expressed interest in several dozen L-159 fighter jets from the Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody, the company's spokesman told Czech Radio on Wednesday. A Polish Air Force official confirmed a proposal to purchase the jets has been put forward to the Defence Ministry but noted that a decision has not yet been made. L-159 jet cockpits are similar to F-16s that Poland is adding to its fleet. Poland can use the L-159s to train its pilots at a new training base that it plans to build within the next two years, for pilots of the four Visegrad countries - the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland.
The future of the coalition government remains uncertain as the Lower House awaits the Prime Minister's decision on a confidence vote in the Cabinet. The government crisis was precipitated by the governing parties' humiliating defeat in the recent Euro elections. The Prime Minister earlier announced his intention to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence this Thursday, but he has come under pressure from coalition members who are against such a move. The last 24 hours have shown that the governing coalition would have a problem securing enough votes to pass the test. The opposition Civic Democrats, say they have already prepared a no-confidence vote proposal, should the Prime Minister fail to take action himself.
In related news it is unclear whether Mr Spidla will call for a confidence vote on the government in an attempt to steer it out of the current crisis stemming from the government's poor showing in the recent European Parliament elections. The prime minister has been weighing the confidence vote as an option to reconfirm the government's mandate, though this is an option not entirely supported by the coalition's junior parties. They say, however, they will respect Mr Spidla's decision. It is not certain at this time whether Mr Spidla can count on all 101 coalition MPs' votes in the 200 member Chamber of Deputies.
Czech-born tennis legend Martina Navratilova has won her opening
singles match in the first stage of this year's Wimbledon tournament.
Earlier in the day the 47-year old Navratilova, a naturalised American,
eliminated Catalina Castanova of Columbia 6:0, 6:1.
The win was an impressive one for Navratilova: although she is the holder of nine Wimbledon singles titles, she last appeared in the singles tournament ten years ago.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he will resign from his post
if he fails to gain a vote of confidence from the Social Democrats at
their party executive committee meeting next weekend. Following coalition
party negotiations on Monday Mr Spidla told journalists he felt he'd be
unable to lead the government if he didn't get an affirmation of support
from his own party, and he added that the future of the current coalition
would definitely be decided by the end of the week. According to
constitutional procedure, the prime minister's resignation would signal
the end of the current coalition, which counts the senior Social
Democrats, and two junior right-of-centre parties, the Christian
Democratic party and the Freedom Union.
The government enjoys only the slimmest of majorities in Parliament.
The weekend meeting of the Social Democrat's executive committee was to weigh replacing Mr Spidla as chairman but leave Mr Spidla at the head of the government. As Mr Spidla has now made clear, he finds that option unacceptable.
Coalition party representatives meeting in four hours of talks on
Monday have agreed on a proposed state budget deficit of some 90
billion crowns for 2005. That number does not include a loss of 19
billion crowns covered by the CKA, the state bail-out agency. Compared
to this year's projected deficit, the 2005 budget gap, in real terms,
amounts to about 6 billion crowns less.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that the coalition had decided on the outline for next year's state budget, following reform guidelines put forward by Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
In related news, the Czech Republic football coach Karel Bruckner has been offered free beer for the rest of his life if his team wins Euro 2004. The Bernard brewery is offering him 60 litres of beer per year - the equivalent amount an average Czech drinks annually -- as an incentive to bring the football trophy home. Each player on the Czech squaw will receive 160 litres of beer for one year if they win the final.