The Czech Republic received seven billion crowns (over 300 million US dollars) from the European Union more than it paid in during its first year as a member, the Czech Finance Ministry said on Tuesday. The country contributed 18 billion crowns to the EU budget, but received almost 25 billion in compensation payments and from various funds. The difference was greater than Czech officials predicted at accession talks in Copenhagen in 2002.
A group of right-wing senators have put forward a bill under which political parties would not be allowed to use the word "communist" in their names. Senator Jaroslav Stetina said the group wanted to make the promotion of communist or Nazi ideology punishable by up to five years in prison. He said they did not want to wipe out the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, who are second in opinion polls, but to force them to transform themselves into a modern left-wing party.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said he will take legal action against
Mlada fronta Dnes and Respekt, two newspapers which have questioned how he
bought his luxury Prague flat. Mr Gross said in the lower house on Tuesday
that what he called the campaign against him in the Czech media was
damaging the credibility of the Czech Republic.
For their part, his critics say the prime minister's alleged failure to explain how he bought a flat for more than he had officially earned is tarnishing the country's reputation.
A move by the opposition Civic Democrats to raise the matter in the lower house was defeated.
Pavel Nedved has been named Czech Footballer of the Year for the fourth time in his career. The 32-year-old midfielder retired as Czech captain after the European Championships in Portugal, where he was outstanding. Second in the poll was Milan Baros, who was the top scorer at Euro 2004. National team coach Karel Bruckner was named manager of the year at Monday's ceremony in Prague.
The Czech financial group PPF, together with Slovakia's J and T and Inway, has placed the highest bid in a tender for the state's 51% stake in the telecommunications operator Telecom, according to an unnamed source close to the commission assessing the bids. Under the conditions of the tender, financial groups were not allowed to bid alone but had to team up with telecom operators. The source said five bidders had placed bids, some of them offering more than 69 billion crowns -around 3 billion US dollars for the majority share in Telecom. The ministerial commission which assessed the bids on Monday has recommended that the Cabinet should consider all five offers. The government has retained the option of selling the shares on financial markets if no direct sale has been agreed by the end of March.
The deputy director of the Prague police Zdenek Janicek has committed suicide. According to the CTK press agency Janicek hanged himself in the cellar of his home. It is not yet clear what motivated his actions. The Interior Ministry has refused to comment on the case and the police have placed an embargo on further information, pending the outcome of an investigation. Janicek was deputy director for criminal investigations. A high placed police officer, who requested anonymity said he had spoken to him recently and could not see any possible motive.
Michal Kraus was elected chairman of the deputies' group of the ruling Social Democrats on Monday, when he won the third round of a secret ballot. He replaces Petr Ibl who resigned from the post in January after the Prime Minister criticized the group's performance. Michal Kraus is known to be a staunch ally of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said he will undergo security screening to clarify his financial circumstances. In the past few weeks Mr. Gross has been under mounting pressure to explain how he paid for his luxury flat in Prague but has so far failed to do so in a satisfactory manner. The matter is to be discussed in Parliament on Thursday, where opposition deputies are preparing to grill the Prime Minister regarding the origin of the money with which he bought his luxury home. The opposition Civic Democrats say that unless the Prime Minister can provide a satisfactory answer he should resign from office. A petition demanding Mr. Gross' resignation appeared on the Internet on Monday.
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