Six central European countries, including the Czech Republic, have announced that they want to set up a joint explosives and ammunitions database. At a conference in Prague the countries' interior ministers said that the database would help in the fight against organized crime. The author of the initiative, Slovak Interior Minister, Vladimir Palko, said that a special international organization, similar in structure to Interpol, would be set up to oversee co-ordination of the project.
Passions flew on Friday at the opening night of a new production of the great 19th century Czech opera, The Bartered Bride by Bedrich Smetana. Some members of the audience cried out in disapproval of a production that highlights the humour of the opera and rejects a historical or patriotic interpretation.
A mass was held at Prague's Saint Vitus Cathedral on Saturday to mark the 15th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Agnes, the 13th century daughter of the King and Queen of Bohemia. She was canonized just days before the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, and the bishop and former dissident Vaclav Maly, who led the mass, warned that the ideals of that time were rapidly fading or being trivialized. Her canonization in 1989 in Rome was attended by 10,000 Czech and Slovak believers, in open defiance of the then regime's atheist ideology. Saint Agnes is remembered in particular for helping the poor and rejecting a life of privilege.
An opinion poll carried out by the agency Median suggests that the majority of Czechs are not in favour of gay marriage. 44 percent of the 500 people asked said that they were in favour, as opposed to 56 percent against. Support for registered gay and lesbian partnerships was strongest among 15 to 19 year olds, at 70 percent, and lowest in Moravia, the traditionally more Catholic eastern part of the Czech Republic.
The right-wing opposition Civic Democrats have come out as clear victors in elections to a third of the upper house of the Czech parliament, the Senate, but they have fallen short of an absolute majority. Even before the vote-count was complete, it was clear that the ruling Social Democrats had failed to defend any of the three seats which they were contending in this weekend's run-offs. The smaller parties in the ruling coalition also sustained losses. There was disappointment too for the opposition Communists, who had nine candidates in the run-offs, but won in only one constituency. For the first time a Senator has been elected for the Green Party, the journalist Jaromir Stetina in Prague. The overall turnout was extremely low, at under 20 percent, the lowest in the history of Czech Senate elections.
The Czech ice hockey team suffered defeat in their second Karjala Cup game in Helsinki on Saturday. They were defeated 2:3 after their game against Sweden went to a penalty shoot-out. This now puts them in second place behind the Swedes, and in order to win the competition they will have to beat the Russians on Sunday and hope that Sweden loses its Scandinavian derby against Finland.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has recommended the government sell the 51.1 majority stake it holds in the country's dominant fixed-line operator Cesky Telecom on the capital markets, rather than holding a new tender to choose a single buyer. The government is to decide the issue next Tuesday. Mr Sobotka outlined his stance in a document sent to the cabinet describing the political and economic transparency - as well as efficiency - of selling on the capitals markets, an option which does not need approval by the European Commission. Opponents of the plan, however, say it is far from certain investors will be interested in buying up such a large amount of Telecom stocks: excessive availability could consequently drive share prices down.
Polls in the Czech Republic opened on two o'clock Friday for the second week in a row for the 2nd round of Senate elections; in the run-off Czechs will be decide who gets elected to one third of the country's Upper House. The election will determine whether parties that are in the opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, the Civic Democrats and the Communists, can gain a majority in the Senate. Polls will close on Saturday at two in the afternoon.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, was one of many state leaders
and officials who attended the funeral of President Yasser Arafat on
Friday morning in Cairo. Earlier, Mr Svoboda said that Mr Arafat had
played a major role in the history of Palestine, stressing the Palestinian
leader would be greatly missed by his people. Mr Svoboda added that the
Nobel Peace Prize winner could be regarded as a controversial figure
because of his role in the troubling Middle East conflict.
In the 1970s and 1980s communist Czechoslovakia provided political and financial support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as well as arms and military training. Mr Arafat visited former Czechoslovakia on several occasions.
The Bulgarian government has approved a draft privatisation contract for the sale of three power distribution companies to the Czech power utility CEZ. The Czech power producer is supposed to pay over 280 million euros for a 67-percent stake in the distribution companies in the capital Sofia, the city of Pleven and in the Sofia region. The head of CEZ, Martin Roman, said the purchase was a milestone in the development of CEZ and the Czech energy industry. He said it was the first step to becoming a leader on the Central and Eastern European electricity market.
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