Vladimir Spidla, one of 25 incoming Euro commissioners, spoke on Monday in
favour of the European Union social model during his hearing in European
Parliament. He said he also supported reforms to increase the
competitiveness of the European economy and said as commissioner of EU
social affairs he would strive to achieve and maintain a high employment
rate within the union.
Later in the day, Mr Spidla then faced grilling from euro MPs, including representatives from the Czech Republic and Greece, over topics like state debt and poverty. Mr Spidla also spoke about the free movement of labour as one of the EU's strengths, the reason why, as commissioner for social affairs, he would push for twelve countries from the "original fifteen" to reconsider restrictions against new member states that joined the EU in May.
Czech police have arrested 13 Vietnamese members of a human trafficking gang believed to have smuggled young Vietnamese women into the Czech Republic for forced prostitution. A police spokesman said on Monday the gang had been broken by the police special unit against organised crime. The gang lured victims to the Czech Republic on promises of legal employment, before forcing them into prostitution. One under-aged girl was allegedly sold in Germany for an estimated 100, 000 euros.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus, on an official visit to Spain, has rejected the notion of a single European identity, for Spanish journal El Pais. Speaking with the paper Mr Klaus said differences over Iraq were proof that Europe was "not united". During the discussion Mr Klaus rejected the "eurosceptic" label, telling El Pais he preferred to be seen as a "euro realist" for whom a freer, more democratic Europe with higher productivity was important.
About a dozen Czech rock bands took to the stage on Sunday afternoon to play a benefit concert for the "We don't talk to Communists" group, which wants to prevent politicians from working with the unreformed party. Among the bands playing are the rap-metal group Cocotte Minute, the Romani band Gluo Car and the pop-rock combo Chinaski. Several avant-garde theatre groups including Divadlo Continuo and Teatr Novogo Fronta were also staging productions at the event, which took place in an abandoned factory in Prague's Karlin district. The first "We don't talk to communists" concert was first performed last year, on November 17, the anniversary of the intervention by communist police in 1989 against a peaceful students' demonstration in Prague, which led to the so-called Velvet Revolution.
Vladimir Zelezny failed to turn up for a televised debate on Sunday with his former party colleague and fellow Member of the European Parliament, Jana Bobosikova, who, after a very public row this month, split with the Independent Party he had founded. Ms Bobosikova has threatened to sue Mr Zelezny for slander if he didn't apologise for saying her decision to hire her husband to work for her in Brussels was, in essence, unethical.
The Czech swimmer Martin Kovar has won his third gold medal at the Paralympic Games now underway in Athens, after winning the 50-metre event. The Czech Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, was in Athens for part of the games and presented Mr Kovar with the medal. Czech athletes have so far won 25 medals at the games.
The Czech army has confirmed that this year it will begin building a high-tech electronic surveillance and passive monitoring centre. The new military centre, which will initially have its headquarters in Opava, north Moravia, will be tasked with detecting and monitor enemy targets. As many as 500 specialists would eventually man the monitoring station. The Czech-made "Vera" radar system, which is capable of detecting the U.S. Stealth fighters, will be an integral part of the centre. The Czech Republic, which within NATO has concentrated on providing elite anti-biological and chemical units, intends to offer the specialised surveillance unit to the military alliance in the coming years.
Otto von Hapsburg, the son of Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I, was granted honorary citizen of the spa town of Frantiske Lazne on Saturday in recognition of his efforts to promote the peaceful unification of Europe. He was also on hand to unveil a statue of his ancestor, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who founded the spa town in 1793. Von Hapsburg, a former Member of the European Parliament from Bavaria, had gone against many in his party by objecting to preconditioning Czech membership in the European Union to the abolishment of the so-called Benes Decrees, which led to the post-WWII expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.
After talks with state ombudsman Otakar Motejl, Health Minister Milada Emmerova has agreed to establish a special commission to investigate fresh allegations that Romani women were sterilised without their consent in the past decade. The birth rate among the Roma is significantly higher than the general population and documented evidence shows that from 1959 to 1990 the former Czechoslovakia encouraged Romani women to undergo sterilisation by giving them cash payments, and in some cases doctors performed the operation without the women's consent. The practice was condemned by international human rights groups as racist and halted as official policy. Charges that sterilizations continued in recent years have been brought forth by the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre, along with two Czech civil society groups which are representing the legal interests of about 10 Romani women.
Two Czech test pilots have begun training on JAS-39 Gripen fighters in Sweden. The men will return home as pilot-instructors themselves in a few months time to begin training their Czech colleagues. The Czech government agreed to lease the Swedish jets for the next ten years. As of May 2005, the Czech air force will decommission the fleets Russian-made MIG-21s.
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