Senior state officials, judges and prosecutors are unlikely to receive a 14th month's salary this year, after a government vote on Tuesday overturned a decision of the Senate, which had approved the bonus. Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach said he did not regard the 14th month's salary as just in terms of the state administration as a whole. The Czech Union of Judges has said some of its members may sue the state over the matter.
President Klaus has expressed support for Bulgaria's bid to join the European Union in 2007. But Mr Klaus, a critic of European integration, warned the Bulgarians not to have "exaggerated expectations" of what membership of the EU would bring them. The Czech president, in Sofia at the start of an official visit, was speaking after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Parvanov.
The chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said that Czech Republic and neighbours Poland and Hungary are in need of serious fiscal reform. Speaking at a seminar in Brussels, Willem Buiter said the three countries needed to implement structural reform and increase control of public finances.
The Czech Republic has offered to help the authorities in Slovakia deal with the effects of devastating hurricanes which hit the Tatra Mountains at the weekend. Around 50 Czech fire officers are ready to be sent to the scene of the worst natural disaster in the region in many years. The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has sent a letter of support to Slovakia, saying the tragedy also affected Czechs, who value the Tatras highly.
The State Veterinary Institute has found that some fish in the Elbe River contain a high level of mercury. The chemical company Spolana which is located on the Elbe north of Prague instigated the tests, in an effort to refute claims by an environmental organization that fish in the river contained 12.5 mg of mercury per kg. The new tests found levels that were about one fifth of that amount, which is still higher than permitted.
A cheetah at a Czech zoo has become the first in the world to be fitted with an artificial hip. The two-year-old cheetah, from a zoo in Usti nad Labem in north Bohemia, had been suffering from a congenital disorder of a hip joint. The animal was operated on by doctors at a local hospital, to replace the distorted joint with an artificial one. A zoo spokesman said that without an operation the big cat would have been condemned to a gradual loss of mobility and would have had to be put down.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has cut short a visit to Asia after suffering a fracture to his foot. The accident happened when Mr Havel, who is 68, slipped in the bathroom at his Taiwan hotel. Officials said Mr Havel has already made changes to his itinerary and cancelled additional visits to Thailand and Indonesia. He will be returning to the Czech Republic mid-week. It is possible the former president will face minor surgery upon his return.
The Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, has responded to criticism of the EU Constitution by President Vaclav Klaus, who said he was against it 100 percent at the weekend. On Monday, after meeting with the prime minister of Luxembourg, Mr Gross said he believed the constitution would help strengthen the Czech Republic's place within the union, allowing a proper forum for Czech opinion, while a failure to ratify the document would see the Czech Republic pushed to "the outskirts". Mr Gross made clear that despite the president's strong view on the subject, in his view ratification of the EU Constitution was "a step in the right direction".
Defence Minister Karel Kunhl has revealed that the Czech Republic will provide at least 350 troops for new EU rapid-response forces by 2007. Along with neighbouring Germany and Austria, the Czechs will form one of 13 rapid-response units, capable of acting in trouble zones anywhere in the world over the course of 15 days. The defence minister pointed out that by 2007 the Czech military will have completed necessary reforms making it capable of providing troops for such operations. Czechs serving in the EU rapid-response force will include classic infantry along with anti-chemical troops and health specialists.
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