The lower house has passed a bill on renewable sources of energy despite protests from the opposition Civic Democratic Party. Under the bill small power stations would be guaranteed fixed state purchasing prices of electricity for fifteen years. The government says the bill had been expected by private investors who will help the Czech Republic meet the European Union's demand to produce eight percent of all power from renewable sources by 2010. Currently, only two percent of energy produced in the Czech Republic comes from renewable sources. The Civic Democrats argue that nuclear and coal power are much cheaper and the involvement of alternative sources would deform the market. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president.
The Czech mobile operator Oskar Mobil said on Wednesday it had been awarded the country's third 3G (third generation) licence. The Czech Telecommunications Office declared a tender for the country's third 3G licence using UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) technology in mid-January but said it would give preference to Oskar, offering it the licence for two billion crowns (88 million dollars). Oskar Mobil, the smallest and newest mobile operator on the Czech market with 17 percent market share, is the only one of the country's three mobile operators which did not hold a 3G licence to date. Third generation technology is designed to provide e-mail, high-speed internet surfing and live sound image broadcasting to compatible handsets.
The lower house of parliament has passed a bill under which the Czech Republic should pay compensation to victims of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1991. The bill awards 150,000 crowns (6,631 dollars) to the families of dozens of people killed in the invasion, and smaller amounts to people injured or raped. Soviet troops and soldiers from four other communist countries invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, to halt a liberalisation movement led by Czechoslovak Communist party chief Alexander Dubcek. After the invasion, the Soviet Union helped install a hard-line leadership which dismissed reformers from the party and jobs, and suppressed human rights and opposition movements. Soviet troops stayed in Czechoslovakia until 1991. The bill must still win the backing of the Senate.
The state will not expropriate the restaurant building and the land adjoining the premises of Prague's National Theatre as the lower house of parliament has rejected a Communist-sponsored bill which would allow for the expropriation. The bill was only short of 10 votes to be passed. Opponents of the nationalisation said that by passing the bill the country would set a very dangerous precedent. In 1990, the Czechoslovak parliament adjudged the restaurant building with a large underground technical complex serving the National Theatre to the Order of St Ursula by mistake. The Order owned the land under the building before World War Two. Later, it sold the building to the firm Themos, which has been locked in a protracted dispute with the theatre. The loss of the facilities has caused significant problems to the actors and theatre staff.
Around 200 people gathered outside the government headquarters building on
Wednesday afternoon demanding that the Prime Minister Stanislav Gross step
down. The protesters said that the Prime Minister did not give sufficient
explanation of the origin of the money he used to pay for his luxury flat
in Prague, nor did he explain his wife's business activities and the
activities of special police teams he founded in recent years as Interior
The protest took place amid an ongoing government crisis. The coalition parties are due to meet later on Wednesday to discuss the current situation. The chairman of the Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek has called on Stanislav Gross to step down over his flat-financing scandal. However, Mr Gross has told the Christian Democrats to either back down or leave the cabinet.
Prague's Ruzyne airport was closed for some time on Tuesday due to snow
and poor visibility. However, a spokesperson said conditions were not
as bad as last Wednesday, when the airport experienced its worst
weather for a decade and was closed for over 10 hours.
Meanwhile, customs officers at Prague airport on Monday arrested a Slovak man attempting to smuggle protected rare parrots from Jamaica.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, in Brussels on Tuesday for a NATO summit,
said discussions between the US president, George Bush, and European
leaders showed that differences of opinions over some issues had not
affected the fundamental basis of transatlantic relations. Mr Klaus held
brief talks with Mr Bush, and the US secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice.
Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, who was also in Brussels on Tuesday, said NATO had a future and would play a key role in securing the stability of Europe.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the centre-right Civic Democrat's deputies group in parliament, Vlastimil Tlusty, has dismissed allegations by the Czech media that his wife Ladislava's bank loan was secured thanks to Mr Tlusty's influential post. On Sunday, Czech public television reported that her company had received a 20 million crown loan from a bank owned by the PPF group, which in turn won a lucrative tender from the Czech consolidation agency, of which Mr Tlusty is chairman of the governing board. Mr Tlusty said he had never abused his office and the link between the tender and loan was just speculation.
The number of counterfeit euro bills has increased dramatically in the Czech Republic last year, the Czech National Bank (CNB) announced on Monday. Compared to 2003, the central bank has recorded twice as many counterfeit bills. The number of fake Czech crowns and US dollars, on the other hand, have decreased. In total, the 9,289 counterfeit bills and coins uncovered amounted to 27.1 million crowns (1.2 million US dollars).
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has asked Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, and the Chairman of the junior coalition Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, to find a way out of the "coalition crisis". On Saturday, Mr Kalousek called onto the prime minister to resign, over allegations about the financing of his Prague flat and his wife's business dealings that, Mr Kalousek says are damaging the credibility of the government. Mr Gross has no intention of resigning and retaliated with a call on all three Christian Democrat ministers to leave the government by Wednesday or be removed from office. Both Mr Gross and Mr Kalousek have defended their standpoints at separate meetings with the president.