The Lower House of Parliament has passed an amendment to the energy law under which the Czech electricity and gas markets should be liberalised by 2007. As of next year large companies should be able to choose their supplier of natural gas. Deputies approved the proposal including the Senate's recommendation that the amendment take effect on the day it is published in the Collection of Laws. The bill as passed by the Chamber of Deputies was originally meant to come into force two weeks ago. The amendment is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
Nine Slovak citizens died in two separate traffic accidents in the Czech Republic on Monday. Six people died and five were injured when a bus from Slovakia crashed on the country's main motorway linking Prague to the Slovak capital Bratislava in the early hours of Monday. The victims include a seven-month-old girl, her 24-year-old mother and a 23-year-old pregnant woman. Another three Slovaks died in a traffic accident involving two cars in North Moravia. Monday was one of the most tragic days on Czech roads this year, with road accidents claiming 14 victims, the highest death toll in 2004.
The Czech Republic and the United States have agreed on the need to sign a new agreement on the mutual extradition of citizens. The Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and the visiting US Attorney General John Aschcroft said in Prague on Tuesday that the existing agreement from 1925 is badly outdated and does not apply to certain crimes. The new agreement should be in line with the framework agreement between the European Union and the United States. During their meeting in Prague the two officials discussed the fight against terrorism, people trafficking and the fight against drugs.
The entire dramatic works of the former Czech President Vaclav Havel are to be presented at a New York Festival being staged to mark his 70 th birthday in 2006.The Prague agency Aura-Pont, which handles the copyrights for Havel's plays, has confirmed that New York's Untitled Theatre Company No. 61 would organize a festival showcasing all 17 of Havel's plays, including those he has co-written. It will be the biggest ever performance of Vaclav Havel's plays.
The Lower House of Parliament will vote on next year's state budget on Wednesday. The Chamber's Budget Committee has recommended that MPs should approve close to 600 proposed amendments. Three hundred proposals sent in by governors, mayors and organizations have already been rejected. The government's budget proposal puts revenues at 824 billion, spending at 908 billion and a deficit of 83 billion crowns. In Wednesday's vote the governing coalition will have to rely on its slim, one-vote majority in the Lower House.
The Lower House has delayed voting on a bill on homosexual partnerships for fear of sparking opposition before the traditional Christian Christmas holidays. Tana Fisherova, a deputy for the Freedom Union, told journalists that organizations representing gays had agreed "not to disturb the Christmas atmosphere". The bill on same sex marriages would give homosexual couples similar rights as heterosexual couples including the right to inherit property and to know their partner's medical condition. It would not, for the present time, allow adoption. Parliament deputies remain divided on the bill, with opponents claiming that it could undermine the role of the family.
The US company Central European Media Enterprises (CME) has bought the Czech commercial television channel TV Nova for 642 million dollars in the largest direct US investment in the country. CME announced the deal on Monday and TV Nova's majority-stake owner, the financial group PPF, has confirmed the sale. CME previously held a stake in TV Nova but was involved in a long legal dispute with Nova's former general director Vladimir Zelezny, who is now a Czech MEP. Mr Zelezny eventually broke off all relations with CME and its head, the cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, in 1999. The news of the sale comes two years after an international arbitration ruled that the Czech state had to pay nearly 360 million dollars in compensation to CME for failing to protect its investment in TV Nova.
The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that President Vaclav Klaus does not observe his promise that he would stand above parties and that he behaves like the honorary chairman of the strongest opposition party, meaning the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party which Mr Klaus chaired for many years. Mr Gross was reacting to Mr Klaus's statement for Saturday's issue of the daily Pravo that the cabinet of Stanislav Gross was unable to solve long-standing problems, reinforcing the power of state over the individual.
The outgoing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is set to arrive in Prague on Monday evening ahead of talks on Tuesday with Czech politicians including Justice Minister Pavel Nemec and Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan. Among other things the Czech justice minister and his U.S. counterpart will work to negotiate a new treaty on extradition. The current treaty between the U.S. and the Czech Republic dates back to 1920s Czechoslovakia and a new basis for cooperation between the two countries needs to be adopted, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry has said.