The Czech Statistics Office has said that even though nearly 1,000 more babies were born in the first quarter of 2004 than in the same period in 2003, birth rates in the Czech Republic continue to remain among the lowest in Europe and the world. Despite the recent slight increase, the average number of births per woman between the ages of 15 and 49 has not risen, and remains at 1.18 children. During the 1990s, experts explained the low number of births by a tendency among young people to delay parenthood and enjoy the increased career and study opportunities that opened up after the fall of communism. However, after over a decade, the situation remains unchanged. One of the reasons cited by the Czech Statistics Office for Czech women's reluctance to have more children is a lack of part-time employment opportunities.
Around 4,000 Czech football fans are expected to arrive in the Portuguese city of Oporto on Sunday to watch the quarterfinal match between the Czech and Danish team in the Euro 2004 football tournament. A representative of the Czech Football Union has said that 3,800 tickets for the match were sold in the Czech Republic, but there may be many other Czech fans in Oporto who bought their tickets from other sources.
Genetic information is going to be included among sensitive personal data, under a draft amendment to the law on personal data protection that was passed by the lower house on Thursday. Approved by the Senate earlier, the bill will take effect once it is signed by President Vaclav Klaus. Under the current law, sensitive information includes people's national, racial and ethnic origin, political stance, trade union membership, religion, criminal record, state of health and sexual life. The amendment changes the fines imposed for breaching the law. Under the current law, the fines range between 25,000 and 20 million crowns. Under the amendment, the lower and the upper limits are 100,000 and 10 million crowns.
The lower house of parliament has rejected the draft amendment increasing radio and television licence fees. The fees were last raised in 1997, to 75 crowns per month and household for owning a TV set, and to 37 crowns for owning a radio. The public service broadcaster Czech Television says that if the fees do not increase soon, it will have to limit the production of original programmes. Czech Radio has also expressed worries about financial troubles.
The Czech Senate has approved the deployment of the Czech anti-chemical unit in operations of NATO rapid-response forces for the second half of the year. The Senate's vote enables the government to decide by itself on the unit's deployment. However, parliament will have to vote separately on the deployment of around 100 Czech military chemical specialists to Greece to protect the summer Olympic Games, on which the government decided last Wednesday. Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka said Greece was not interested in having the multinational NATO unit guard the events, just the Czech specialists. Minister Kostelka added that the chemical experts would stay longer in Athens than the assumed 60 days, since they will also have to guard the Paralypmic Games scheduled for immediately afterwards. The Senate is due to vote on the deployment at a special session on July 13, shortly before the unit's scheduled departure at the end of the month.
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.
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 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.
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