The acquisition of Cesky Telecom by the Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica and its further ambitions in Europe have drawn mixed reviews from market analysts, the AFP agency wrote. The ratings agency Standard and Poor's said the price of 3.5 billion dollars agreed upon for Cesky Telecom was high in light of the latter's limited growth prospects and the absence of major cost advantages. On the other hand, an analyst at the Belgian-Dutch bank and insurance group Fortis described the purchase of Cesky Telecom as a positive step in a country "that is going to be one of the principal beneficiaries" of EU cohesion funding following its admission last May to the European Union. Telefonica head Cesar Alierta last November expressed a desire "to create the world's largest and best integrated company" in the telecommunications sector.
President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda will be the only Czech top officials who will join heads of state and pilgrims for the funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday in what is expected to be the biggest gathering at the Vatican in its history. The Czech Republic will hold a day of mourning on Friday, with state and black flags flying at half mast on public buildings.
The Communist Party says it will consider backing the current government only if it links its confidence vote with a vote on a bill on property statements. The party's chairman Miroslav Grebenicek said that his Communists would only support a bill with retroactive validity. Mr Grebenicek asserted though that the coalition government has never enjoyed the Communist Party's trust. The cabinet of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross last Friday survived a no-confidence vote initiated by the opposition Civic Democrats only thanks to the abstention of Communist deputies. Urged by President Vaclav Klaus, Mr Gross last weekend pledged to ask the lower house to express confidence in his cabinet.
Named the world's smallest dog in 1999, a Chihuahua just 15 cm tall, died of natural causes and not medical malpractice as its owner claimed, a Czech court ruled on Thursday. The court in the eastern city of Olomouc dismissed a one million crown (43,100 dollar) damages claim by the dog's owner against a veterinarian who, she said, gave her pet an injection that left it paralysed. The Chihuahua, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest dog in 1999, had to be put down in 2000. The owner claimed the damages as a loss of earnings for the deals that had been set up for the dog, called Ondra. The judge, citing expert testimony, ruled that death was the result of a birth defect, hydrocephalus, or water in the head.
Around 80,000 Polish Catholics heading for Italy to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II have crossed the Czech Republic's border and the traffic is now calming down. Thousands of cars and hundreds of buses crossed the Polish-Moravian borders on Thursday but there were no queues, a police spokeswoman said. According to estimates only around 3000-4000 Czech Catholics have travelled to the Vatican while around a million people from neighbouring Poland are estimated to have left for Rome.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has for the first time admitted he might step down to allow the formation of a new government with a different leader. Mr Gross's government currently hangs by a thread, ravaged by the loss of its majority and the resignation of five ministers and more threatening to follow after a row in the ruling coalition over the prime minister's private finances boiled over. Mr Gross offered his resignation after a meeting of his leftist Social Democrats but said he would resign only if such an agreement on a new administration could be reached with the rightist Freedom Union and centrist Christian Democrats.
President Vaclav Klaus has warned against attempts at re-writing history and changes in the perception of WWII. Addressing a crowd of former Nazi camp inmates at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the uprising in the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald, President Klaus said that new reconciliation gestures that are being required from the Czechs place the culprits and the victims of the war on the same level or switch one for another. President Klaus urged people the be cautious of such attitudes, adding that the lessons we learn from the past will determine the future we will be living in. Painter Josef Capek and journalist Ferdinand Peroutka were among the thousands of Czechs jailed at Buchenwald during WWII.
A British taxi company has begun actively recruiting drivers in the Czech Republic due to a shortage of applicants in the United Kingdom. Station Taxis, which is based in Darlington, County Durham, has even set up a training school in Prague. Three Czech drivers are now working for the British firm and another four are expected to arrive in the U.K. by the end of the month.
The Czech Minister for Legislation, an independent nominated by the ruling
Social Democrats, tendered his resignation on Wednesday, making good on
promise of last week to quit the Cabinet should all ministers not agree to
step down en masse by this time. Jaroslav Bures is the fifth minister to
resign from government in recent days.
The ministers of foreign affairs, the environment and transport -- all three Christian Democrats -- quit last week, after their party left the governing coalition of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. They did so in protest of Mr Gross' failure to explain away allegations of questionable family business dealings. The Minister of Informatics, Vladimir Mlynar, resigned after Mr Gross survived a related no-confidence vote on Friday, thanks onlt to the abstention of Communist deputies.
Meanwhile, the ministers of justice and defence, like Mr Mlyar, both members of the centre-right Freedom Union party, have said they will remain in the government until at least next week when Prime Minister Gross is expected to decide about a collective resignation of the Cabinet.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross wants to link a confidence vote in his Cabinet to a bill on lower taxes. The news has evoked strong criticism from the President and the opposition Civic Democrats. President Klaus said this strategy would amount to an unacceptable delay in holding the vote. The opposition Civic Democrats said that not even the best possible law could compensate for the Prime Minister's lack of credibility.
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