The bulk of the 100-member strong Czech biological and chemical warfare unit charged with helping to protect the upcoming Olympic Games in Greece from terrorist attack left for Athens on Saturday. An advance group of 10 members for the unit arrived in Greece on Wednesday. They will join troops from the Czech component of a NATO rapid response unit, which will be based in Athens from August 1 until September 30, at the request of the Greek government.
In sports news, the Czech hockey centre Radek Bonk has signed a three-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens. He had spent all of his previous ten NHL seasons with Ottawa. The Canadiens hope that Radek Bonk, who stands 1.9 metres tall, can give them the size at centre the team was lacking in recent seasons. Meanwhile, Czech international midfielder Vladimir Smicer will miss six months of Liverpool's Premiership football campaign after having surgery on his right knee, the club revealed.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that only three ministers in his future Cabinet — Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Zdenek Skromach, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal — will not be asked to give up their seats in Parliament. All other Social Democrat ministers in the new cabinet, including the premier, may be required to do so, so they can concentrate effectively on their ministerial work, Mr Gross told journalists on Saturday. The newly appointed Czech Prime Minister added that, as he finalises his proposed list of Cabinet members, he had informed the chairmen of the other coalition parties that the willingness of candidates to vacate their seats in Parliament would be "one of the factors" according to which he would choose new Cabinet members.
An estimated 30,000 fans of techno music have descended upon a field on the outskirts of Bonenov, some 130 kilometres west of Prague, for this year's CzechTek music festival. As in past years, the location of the free event was kept secret up until the last moment. This is in part because organisers want to generate a sense of excitement among techno fans but mainly because CzechTek enthusiasts don't want to allow locals — and local officials — time to prevent the very loud techno fest from occurring.
The Social Democrat central executive committee on Saturday approved the new government of the party's acting chairman, Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, by an overwhelming majority, with 110 delegates giving him their endorsement, 10 abstaining and only two of those present for the vote opposed. The strong endorsement gave an important psychological boost to Mr Gross, who must still face a vote of confidence in his government before the Chamber of Deputies in August. With only a majority of one in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament, however, it is far from certain that Mr Gross will win that vote. Even members of his own party, including MP Josef Hojdar, have spoken out against the agreement to continue in a coalition government with the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union parties and the distribution of ministerial posts.
The Czech Republic's European Commissioner Pavel Telicka has rejected the Prime Minister's offer of a seat in the new Cabinet. He did not specify what position had been offered. Mr. Telicka will be replaced in Brussels by the former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, whom the new government approved for the post this week. Pavel Telicka told newsmen in Prague on Friday that while he was not ruling out a future job in state services under the present circumstances he was not prepared to accept Mr. Gross' offer. "I have devoted 15 years of my life to the Czech Republic's entry to the EU and I shall now try to do the maximum possible in the remaining three months in the post" Mr. Telicka said.
The new Prime Minister Stanislav Gross is holding talks with candidates for individual ministerial posts in his Cabinet. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skormach will retain his post and he will also become the deputy prime minister in charge of the Council for Economic and Social Agreement. The head of the Czechinvest government agency Martin Jahn is to become deputy prime minister for the economy, while the former unsuccessful presidential candidate Jaroslav Bures is to be appointed minister without portfolio in charge of legislation.
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.
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.