European Parliament members from Eastern Europe are calling for a ban on communist symbols such as the hammer and sickle if the European Union decides to outlaw Nazi symbols, such as the swastika. Lawmakers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia said that any such ban should also cover communist symbols because of the killings and torture suffered by people in the former Soviet Union and the countries of the Eastern Bloc. The deputies wrote to the EU's Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini to press their demand.
The Czech international football goalkeeper, Petr Cech, has set a new record for minutes gone without conceding a goal in England's prestigious Premier League. On Wednesday Cech, who - at 22 - is young for a top-flight goalkeeper, extended the Premiership record to 781 minutes when he kept another clean sheet for his club Chelsea. The Pilsen-born player also holds the Czech league record of 903 minutes, which he set while at Sparta Prague.
Tests have proved that a four-year-old cow from a farm in the eastern Jihlava district was infected with mad cow disease or BSE. The state veterinary office has announced it is the 17th BSE case in the Czech Republic, and some 300 cows will have to be killed in a preventive measure. The first BSE case occurred in the Czech Republic in June 2001. Since then all slaughtered animals over 30 months of age have had to be tested for BSE.
The Czech crown passed the key psychological barrier of 30 crowns to the euro on Thursday, hitting the highest point for two and a half years of 29.95 crowns to the single European currency in morning trading. Vis-à-vis the US dollar, the crown is stable, trading around 23.02 crowns. Analysts explain the development by investors' expectations of strong December trade figures being published on Friday. Other Eastern European currencies strengthened sharply against the euro on Thursday as well, leading the Slovak central bank to intervene in the market to weaken its currency.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed a law restricting the movement of some unsuccessful asylum seekers in the Czech Republic. The law prevents foreigners whose application for Czech asylum has been rejected from leaving the refugee facility for some time until they are transported to a facility in another EU country which can assess their asylum application. These asylum seekers will be allowed to leave the refugee centre only in clearly specified cases, as, for instance to see a doctor or arrange documents for their asylum application. A group of Senators object that the law is at variance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and they are planning to turn to the Constitutional court in this respect.
The Czech branch of the garden tools company Mountfield has decided to withdraw a TV commercial featuring a miserly orthodox Jew after Israel's ambassador to the Czech Republic complained it promoted anti-Semitism. The commercial for a sale at Mountfield's stores featured an orthodox Jew happily rubbing his hands together at the announcement of price reductions. The company defended itself saying the commercial promoting their radical price reductions featured a prudent shopper. The commercial will be taken off the air from February 7. The advertisement had been screened on all four of the country's terrestrial television channels since January.
The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have asked Prime Minister Stanislav Gross to explain to Parliament where he got the money to buy his Prague flat. The call comes after Czech media reports that called into question Mr Gross' ability to have paid for the flat on his official salary. The prime minister recently disclosed a net income of the past few years that he said proved he could afford the flat, but was criticised for including various allowances which parliamentarians are allotted to cover expenses such as transport and meals.
The Prague City Hall plans to double the number of controls it conducts to ensure that taxi drivers aren't violating regulations and ripping off clients. Prague Mayor Pavel Bem said on Wednesday that the number of controls should increase substantially to reach some 140 this month. Last month, Mr Bem, disguised as a tourist, was charged six times above the normal rate by a Prague taxi driver.
The Cabinet has decided to lower the minimum wage to motivate people into preferring lower paid jobs to unemployment benefits. The minimum monthly wage, which currently stands at 4,300 Czech crowns (some 180 US dollars), is to be reduced to 2,870 crowns (120 US dollars). If approved by Parliament and signed by the President, the new minimum could be introduced as early as January 2006.
The founder of the Microsoft Corporation, U.S. billionaire Bill Gates, met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Wednesday. While the topics of discussion have not been disclosed, Mr Klaus says it was only a friendly gathering. Mr Gates is visiting Prague to introduce the EuroScience initiative to some five hundred government representatives and public officials at the Government Leaders Forum. Under the initiative, Mr Gates plans to speed up European innovation in the areas of science and information technology.
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