French police have begun questioning several people after seizing 100 kilogram's of Semtex explosive hidden in a truck in the northern town of Hazebrouck. The operation on Saturday was part of an investigation into organised crime. Semtex - a Czech-made plastic explosive - has been used by various terrorist groups. The French prosecutor's office has said it believes that the Semtex seized at the weekend was to be divided up and sold to criminal gangs, rather than to terrorists.
At 61 percent, the Czech public's satisfaction with the economy is at its highest level in eight years, according to a mid-February poll by the CVVM agency. The last time the public had been so optimistic in this regards was in 1997, following a package of austerity measures adopted by the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, the current Czech president. The CVVM poll found that just over one year ago, in January 2004, only 41 percent of the Czech public was satisfied with how the economy.
The Czech Republic has among the highest number of women in the workplace in the whole of European Union, the daily Pravo reports, citing a newly released study. Some 44 percent of Czech women of working age are employed or self-employed, it said, and only Finland, Lithuania and Romania have a higher percentage of women in the workplace.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday he would not accept the resignations
of the four ministers who have given notice in recent days, until it
becomes clear exactly which other ministers intend to remain in the
The Minister of Information Technology, Vladimir Mlynar, tendered his resignation on Saturday, following the results of a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Stanislav Gross the previous day. The ministers of foreign affairs, the environment, and transportation resigned early last week when their party, the Christian Democrats, withdrew from the governing coalition in protest over Mr Gross' refusal to step down following the release of controversial information about his personal finances and the business dealings of his wife.
Mr Mlynar, a member of the centre-right Freedom Union, said he would not remain in a government that relied on the tacit support of the Communists; Mr Gross survived the no-confidence vote only because the Communist deputies abstained from it. The prime minister has promised to call for a parliamentary vote of confidence in the minority government he now leads, but a date for this vote has not yet been set.
President Vaclav Klaus told journalists on Monday that calls to link that vote with the passage of certain legislation would amount to an unacceptable delay in holding the vote, of perhaps months.
The leader of the Freedom Union, Pavel Nemec, has asked Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross to hold a meeting to discuss the future of the
government. The Freedom Union, which is the smaller party in the
coalition with the Social Democrats, has decided to leave the
government if the entire cabinet refuses to resign. On Friday, the
minority government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, thanks
to the Communists who abstained from the vote. On Saturday, Freedom
Union Information Technology Minister, Vladimir Mlynar, sent his
resignation to the government office, saying he could not be in a
government that needs the Communists to stay in power.
Meanwhile, a senior Social Democrat MP, Michal Kraus, said in a TV discussion programme on Sunday that the cabinet would not resign as it would lead to the fall of the government and the rise to power of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Mr Kraus stressed that his party would stay on as a minority government even if the Freedom Union were to depart. In such a case, the Social Democrats would have a mere 70 seats in the 200 seat lower house.
Pope John Paul II, the first Slav head of the Catholic Church in history,
died at just after nine-thirty on Saturday evening. At noon on Sunday,
church bells tolled throughout the country to honour the Pontiff. To the
head of the Czech Catholic Church, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Pope was a
great person who led an untiring fight for human rights, both before and
after the end of the Cold War. The priest and former Czech dissident Tomas
Halik pointed to his personal charisma and to his symbolic significance.
Although most Czechs are not practising Catholics - only some four percent of the population attend mass regularly - Pope John Paul II was very popular in the Czech Republic and hugely respected for his role in helping to bring about the fall of communism. Czech was one of the many languages that the Pope spoke, and he visited the Czech Republic three times during his papacy, firstly in 1990 - less than a year after the fall of communism. To the former Czech President and former dissident, Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II was "his wise and understanding confessor" who gave him hope and the strength to cherish life.
The minority government of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross will ask for a vote of confidence in parliament, Mr Gross said on Sunday. The cabinet made the decision following Friday's demand by Czech President Vaclav Klaus that a confidence vote is called before he appoints new ministers, including replacements for the three Christian Democrat ministers who resigned on Thursday. Mr Gross said the confidence vote will be held in order to stop the government crisis and stressed that the president did not have the right to make such a demand under the constitution.
Upon the news of the Pope's passing, a number of Czech politicians, including President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, sent letters of condolence to the Vatican. Mr Gross valued the Pontiff's firm stance against dictatorial regimes and in a telegram, the outgoing Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda wrote the Pope's pontificate where human dignity, democracy and the fight for human rights were a priority shows the world that it has not just lost the head of the Catholic Church but also a man who stuck to morals even in the most difficult of times.
The Presidents of the Visegrad Four group - Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, have decided to postpone their annual meeting due to the ailing health of Pope John Paul II. Alexander Kwasniewski, Ivan Gasparovic, Ferenc Madl and Vaclav Klaus were scheduled to discuss further Visegrad cooperation, the EU, US-European relations, and developments in Ukraine, in southern Poland this Sunday and Monday. The offices of the heads of state have yet to decide on a new date.
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