Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and his Norwegian counterpart Jan
Petersen signed a mutual understanding agreement in Prague on Tuesday
that will see the Czech Republic receive around 65 million euros, or 2
billion crowns, in funds over the next five years. The finances are
meant to be divided among smaller projects not covered - or not covered
fully -by EU structural funds, including protection of the environment
and historic sites, improving human resources, and financing research
projects and health care.
The conditions for drawing money are to be similar to those that guide funds in the European Union: with funds being divided up by the Finance Ministry. It will be possible to submit first project proposals in November.
Norway's contribution follows a provision through which more well-off states in the European Economic Area contribute financially to economically weaker countries in the European Union. Norway itself is not a member of the EU.
A feisty Sparta Prague drew with Manchester United in Prague on Tuesday night in a match that saw impressive opportunities for both sides. Man United started strong with efforts by Wayne Rooney and John OShea, but the home side had chances as well, especially from Lukas Zelenka, who shot wide, and former Man United player Karel Poborsky, who was dangerous throughout the night.
Poborsky cleared a late fitness test to take part in the game, giving Sparta an added bite. The draw gave a valuable point for Sparta but the home side needed to win to have any real chance of going through to the next round in the Champions League.
A Prague court has acquitted Russian national Denis Gerasimov, the singer
of a neo-Nazi rock group, Kolovrat, of propagating neo-Nazism in the Czech
Republic. Mr Gerasimov was remanded in custody in January after officials
found neo-Nazi propaganda in his suitcase as he prepared to depart from
Prague's Ruzyne airport.
Mr Gerasimov's rock band, accused of promoting racism, had performed at the weekend at a skinhead concert in east Bohemia.
But, on Tuesday Judge Katerina Kohoutkova said the court had not found Mr Gerasimov guilty on any of three counts, including the singing of racist lyrics during live performances.
The prosecution has already appealed Tuesday's decision; Denis Gerasimov will remain in custody for the time being.
A collision between a car and a train at a railway crossing in the south-east Moravian region of Vyskov left one dead, one seriously injured on Tuesday. The accident took place in the afternoon at a crossing that featured warning lights but no gate, allowing the car to drive through. Railway officials said the warning signal was in operation.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel opened the eighth successive Forum 2000 international conference in Prague on Sunday, with a speech celebrating a vibrant civil society as a guarantor of diversity. Speakers at this year's Forum 2000 conference, which continues until Wednesday and focuses on the role of civil society and globalization, include John Shattuck, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and Jeremy Hobbs, the executive director of Oxfam, an international development and anti-poverty group.
The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Zdenek Skromach, said at a conference on Monday marking 80 years of state social insurance, that a Czech working group of experts has prepared four possible versions for pension reform, and that if politicians can agree on a version by July, implementing pension reform would be possible within two years' time. About 9 percent of the Czech Republic's GDP now goes towards pensions, a ministry expert told the conference, but could reach the unsustainable level of 15 percent or more within a couple of generations if widespread reforms are not introduced in the pension and health insurance systems.
The Czech Republic's Nicole Vaidisova, age 15, won the Tashkent Open on Monday. The unseeded teenager claimed her second WTA title with a 5-7 6-3 6-2 win over French ninth seed Virgine Razzai. Miss Vaidisova, who was 103rd in WTA rankings ahead of this victory, had only won a single WTA title in her tennis career - in Vancouver, earlier this year.
State prosecutor Josef Blaha has dropped all charges against two men taken
into custody earlier this month for having allegedly attempted to bribe MP
Zdenek Koristka of the Freedom Union, a junior government coalition party,
to help bring down the government in a vote of confidence. The charges
against the two — Jan Vecerek, a lobbyist, and Marek Dalik, an adviser to
the leader of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party — were dropped
due to a lack of evidence. On Friday, the state prosecutor assigned to the
politically charged case, Martin Fras, was relieved of his
related responsibilities, for refusing to drop the charges as directed by
a superior. The Civic Democrat leader, Mirek Topolanek, who now refuses to
discuss the case publicly, had said that he merely sent Mr Dalik to find
out how Mr Koristka was intending to vote and that Mr Vecerek facilitated
Although the charges against the two men have been dropped, the police investigation into what the media is calling the 'Koristka affair' will continue. The Freedom Union MP, who agreed to a polygraph, or 'lie detector' test, claimed he was offered the equivalent of 300,000 euros and the post of Czech ambassador to Bulgaria to vote against the government coalition of which his party is a member.
A proposal by Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek to delay an
increase in wages for police officers, fire-fighters and customs officials
has been criticised by the prime minister as well as the head of the
opposition communist party. Speaking on a Sunday discussion programme
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, together with Communist Party head
Miroslav Grebenicek, called the proposal a "populist" tactic
ahead of regional elections in November. Mr Gross pointed out that the
Christian Democrats had previously helped approve the government's law on
raising wages for police and other public officials in Parliament.
The bill will take effect next January 1st.
Tuesday's Champions League football match-up between Sparta Prague and England's Manchester United will be refereed by Italian ref Massimo De Santis, a police inspector from Rome who is well-known for his love of good food, theatre, and water skiing. Mr De Santis, 42, has called international games since 2000. It will not be the first time he has refereed a Czech team either: three years ago he oversaw a match-up between Sigma Olomouc and Celta Vigo in the UEFA Cup, in which the Czech side won 4:3.
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