Arms imports to the Czech Republic have increased nearly fourfold in the past decade. A report, published on Tuesday, says that until 1989 Czech arms exports exceeded imports, but the situation changed radically in the 1990s. Last year the Czech Republic imported over 2,500 revolvers and pistols from Bulgaria, Austria and Ukraine and various types of rifles from Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. About a thousand sub-machine guns were imported from Belgium and Switzerland.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has called on Ukraine to focus on
the new presidential election and to put other problems such as the
resignation of the government and constitutional reforms on the back
burner. Speaking during an official visit to Prague, where he arrived just
hours after mediating talks in crisis-hit Ukraine, Mr Kwasniewski said the
election was the key to unlocking the situation in the country.
The political crisis in Ukraine was one of the main topics of debate with leading Czech officials during President Kwasniewski's one day visit to the Czech Republic. The two countries have traditionally good relations and cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group, a lose alliance of central European states. At Prague Castle President Kwasniewski was decorated with the Order of the White Lion, the highest Czech state distinction.
A state attorney has charged the former ultra right republican leader Miroslav Sladek with damaging creditors. During his years in office, Sladek indebted the party heavily, although according to the police, he must have known that the party would be unable to meet its obligations. It now owes more than 40 million crowns. If found guilty, Sladek could face up to 5 years in prison.
The well known Czech folk singer and song writer Zuzana Navarova has died at the age of 45. She entered the Czech music scene in 1980, when she set up the folk group Nerez. Fascinated by Latin American music and culture, she studied Spanish and paid frequent visits to that part of the world. Navarova had a devoted audience here in the Czech Republic. She regularly toured the country and has several CDs to her name. In recent years she performed with the group Koa with whom she recorded the popular CD All colours, which won her the 2001 Angel award for folk music from the Czech Music Academy.
Jan Nadvornik has filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court over the invalidation of the Senate elections in the Prague 11 constituency. Last week the court invalidated the elections on the grounds that the election campaign had been conducted in a dishonest manner, in violation of the election law. This was in relation to a number of slanderous articles against the unsuccessful candidate which were published in the local papers. Jan Nadvornik who won the elections, has protested against the verdict, saying that he was in no way responsible for what the local papers had printed.
The Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has met the Czech Republic's EU Commissioner, Vladimir Spidla in Prague to discuss above all the European social policy and the Lisbon Strategy - the European Union's action and development plan. Mr Spidla, who was Mr Gross's predecessor in the post of prime minister and head of the ruling Social Democratic Party, refused to comment whether the current situation in the party, which is losing public support, was also discussed.
Several dozen conscripts have symbolically parted with the military at Prague Castle, on the eve of the abolition of compulsory military service in the Czech Republic. As of January 2005 the Czech military will become fully professional. The soldiers, coming from around 70 units from all over the country, represented the last 2,000 conscripts whose service will end before Christmas. Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl presented the conscripts with commemorative plaques and watches to mark what he called a closing of a historical period. Czech men were subject to universal conscription for the past 140 years. The length of the service had been gradually reduced to one year after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime.
The first 90 members of a new Czech and Slovak contingent have left Prague for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo to replace the members of the battalion who have served in the province since May. A special unit trained to suppress demonstrations will also operate in Kosovo. The new contingent will stay in the Balkans till July. It will guard a section of the provincial Kosovo-Serb border.
Meanwhile, the head of the ruling Social Democratic Party Stanislav Gross attempted to rally the weakened and divided party for a crucial confrontation with their main rivals in the remaining 18 months to elections. At a meeting of the party's executive leadership, Gross unveiled an eight-point plan which should help the Social Democrats to regain lost ground and restore public trust. Stanislav Gross strongly emphasized his party's pro-EU policy, warning Czechs that the right wing Civic Democrats would plunge the country into political isolation.
The Civic Democratic Party, which is slated to win the next general elections, has made it clear that it would fight the European Constitution. Addressing the conference the party's deputy chairman Petr Necas voiced radical opposition to the EU Constitution and said the party should explain its drawbacks to the public and recommend that people do not vote for it in a national referendum. The party's shadow foreign minister Jan Zahradil, said that the Civic Democrats did not want a federation of European states but a flexible structure in which countries could integrate according to their needs.