Some 100 Czech soldiers specialised in anti-biological and chemical warfare have joined a special-forces battalion that has begun deployment in Greece for the forthcoming Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The weapons-of-mass-destruction-defence operation, known as "Distinguished Games", is the first major mission of NATO's new Multinational Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Task Force. The battalion expects to have a task force of troops, vehicles and equipment from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain at its base in the northern Greek beach resort of Halkida by August 1.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate has approved the nomination of Ivana Janu to the post of a Constitutional Court Judge. After Ms Janu is appointed by President Vaclav Klaus, she will become the 13th judge of the 15-member Constitutional Court. Ivana Janu is a former member of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and is a widely respected expert on international public law.
The new Prime Minister and acting head of the Social Democrat party, Stanislav Gross, has announced that the "new-old" ruling coalition have agreed on the distribution of portfolios in the new government. The junior coalition Freedom Union has given up the Ministry for Local Development. Instead the party will be allotted the Defence and Justice Ministries, along with the Information Technology Ministry. The Christian Democrats will retain the same portfolios as in the government of former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, that is the Foreign, Transport and Environment Ministries.
The Czech Veterinary Office has confirmed the thirteenth case of BSE in the Czech Republic in a five-year old cow from a farm near Jicin in East Bohemia. As a result, 143 animals from the same farm will have to be put down. Overall, 606,000 cows have been tested for BSE so far in the Czech Republic, and some 2000 have had to be put down as a preventative measure. The first case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic was reported in June of 2001. It resulted in tightened regulations regarding animal breeding, cattle-feed, and the sale and import of meat and meat products.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has taken up the issue of the state of Czech psychiatric hospitals in his reply to British author J.K. Rowling. The author of the popular Harry Potter children's books had sent a letter to Mr Klaus and other Czech politicians in mid-July urging them to stop the use of caged beds in Czech psychiatric wards and institutions to restrain people with mental disabilities. Upon receipt of the letter, President Klaus summoned experts in the field to Prague Castle to discuss the state of the mental health care system. "The problem that you mentioned is, of course, very serious, and is the subject of permanent professional study within our country... I cannot but disagree with the impression that in Czech health-care institutions there occurs regular abuse of the aforementioned beds, or even the abuse of mentally disabled children," Mr Klaus wrote.
The outgoing Cabinet has confirmed the dismissal of the Czech's European Commissioner, Pavel Telicka. Mr Telicka is to be replaced in Brussels by Vladimir Spidla, who resigned as prime minister last month. Wednesday's action overturns a Cabinet decision made five months ago, which guaranteed Mr Telicka a mandate until 2006. With newly appointed Prime Minister Stanislav Gross expecting to have a new government formed early next week, this week's session was most probably the last for the old Cabinet. Vladimir Spidla and his cabinet resigned shortly after the ruling coalition parties' poor showing in the elections to the European Parliament held in June. However, Mr Spidla says his Cabinet has met a significant part of its policy aims and has nothing to be ashamed of. In Brussels, Mr Spidla is mainly interested in the justice, enlargement or transport portfolios. The next executive European Commission, which takes office in November, will be put together by new Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal.
A policeman who covered up for a crime committed by his colleagues has received a six-month suspended sentence from the court in the eastern town of Frydek-Mistek. Roman Byrtus was found guilty on Tuesday of trying to prevent an investigation into the theft of World War II medals by two fellow officers.
The leaders of the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the
Freedom Union have said they are extremely close to reaching a coalition
agreement, one day after Social Democrat Stanislav Gross was named prime
minister. The three parties have committed themselves to supporting
families with children, education and faster economic growth.
Talks on the composition of the new cabinet are expected to continue until at least the weekend; though Mr Gross had earlier said some ministers would remain in their posts, Freedom Union chairman Pavel Nemec told reporters on Tuesday it had not even been decided which parties would get which ministries.
All three parties were in the previous coalition led by Vladimir Spidla, who stepped down a month ago after the Social Democrats did badly in elections to the European Parliament.
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