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 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.
A flu epidemic has hit the northern parts of the Czech Republic. Hospitals in the towns of Liberec and Jablonec are closed to visitors and doctors have warned people to avoid crowded places. Other parts of the Czech Republic report a high incidence of viral infections. Children and elderly people are considered particularly vulnerable. Thanks to the half-term holidays there is no need to close down schools and doctors hope that the cold weather will prevent a further spread of the flu epidemic.
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