The Czech Republic's Ambassador to NATO, Karel Kovanda, has been appointed the European Commission's Deputy Director General of External Relations. The 61-year-old former Ambassador to the United Nations will be the second Czech to become a senior European Commission official, after Marie Bohata was named Deputy Director General of Eurostat in October. Mr Kovanda is expected to take up his post in the coming weeks. The current Czech Ambassador to London, Stefan Fule, will most likely succeed Mr Kovanda in the post of Ambassador to NATO.
The Slovak government has decided not to appeal a court verdict ordering it to pay 24.8 billion Slovak crowns (some 775 million US dollars) to the Czech bank CSOB (Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka). In December last year, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled that Slovakia still had an outstanding debt to the Czech bank after it failed to pay back a loan from 1993. The Slovak Finance Ministry has promised to pay CSOB 16 billion Slovak crowns by Friday. The remaining sum owed would be paid by the beginning of next year with one percent interest.
Europe needs more, not fewer, economic migrants despite public fears and high unemployment in West European countries, the EU Labour and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said on Wednesday. Speaking in an interview with the Reuters news agency, the former Czech prime minister warned there would be 20 million fewer workers in Europe, including migrants, over the next twenty years, due to an ageing population and falling birth rates. Mr Spidla also expects some of the 15 old EU member states will not extend the transition period on the free movement of workers from the 10 new countries, once the first two-year transitory period expires in 2006. Mr Spidla said he hopes to see a more flexible retirement system in the EU that would encourage more Europeans to work later in life, while providing pensions for those who needed to retire.
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.
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