The Czech foreign trade balance posted a 6 billion crown surplus in March, the equivalent of about $230 million dollars. It was the best result for the month since 1993, and confirms a long-term favourable trend, said the Minister of Industry and Trade. Car and machinery exports accounted for the bulk of the surplus. The Czech currency strengthened on the news, to 23.12 crowns to the US dollar.
The ruling Social Democrats have slipped further in the opinion polls despite replacing the prime minister, a poll by the CVVM agency showed on Thursday. The poll was conducted between April 18 and April 25, during which time former regional development minister Jiri Paroubek replaced Stanislav Gross as prime minister, amid allegations of unethical behaviour surrounding Mr Gross' personal finances and his wife's business dealings. The new CVVM poll puts the Social Democrats at 10.5 percent support compared with 14.5 percent support one month ago. The centre-right Civic Democrats retain a commanding lead of 31 percent support, while the largely unreformed Communist party polled at 16.5 percent. The Christian Democrats have the support of 8.5 percent of those polled, enough to cross the 5 percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation.
The documentary Death in Gaza by British cameraman James Miller, who was killed during the film's shooting in 2003, has received the top prize at a human rights film festival in the Prague. A total of 120 films were shown since April 27 at this year's seventh edition of the festival, organised by the Czech charity People in Need. The jury at Prague's One World 2005 human rights documentary film festival said it appreciated the film's "professional approach", its "humanism" and its "dynamic action". The film documents the Israeli army's destruction of hundreds of homes in the Palestinian territories.
Revellers from the north west of England could be given "codes of conduct" to stop them causing trouble in European cities, the Manchester Evening News reported. The move follows an explosion in binge-drink related disorder in continental stag-night hotspots like Prague, said the newspaper. Police in Prague say that 20 percent of all weekend crime in the Czech capital involves British men on stag nights. Czech tourism officials estimated there are 500,000 British "sex and booze" tourists each year, said the daily, and Manchester city councillors are now looking at ways of cracking down on troublemakers.
A Prague court has ruled that the Czech generic drugs maker Zentiva may resume distributing its anti-cholesterol drug, overturning an earlier ban imposed as part of a dispute with US drug giant Pfizer. The court had earlier banned the Czech company from distributing it's a-tor-vast-a-tin drug after complaints from Pfizer about its marketing campaign. Zentiva's drug is a generic version of Pfizer's Sortis, whose patent expired last month.
Social Democrat deputy Jan Kavan has said he is ready to support the new government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in a May 13 confidence vote. Mr Kavan, a former Foreign Minister, was among five Social Democrat MPs who had threatened in recent days to vote against the new government. The group also included the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lastuvka, who, like Jan Kavan, has been calling for greater party influence in the sphere of foreign policy. A deal has been reached within the ruling coalition that will allow the party to choose who will fill the post of the first deputy foreign minister. With Mr Kavan on board, it now seems likely that the prime minister will have the support of all 70 Social Democrat MPs in the upcoming confidence vote.
The majority of Czechs are in favour of reinstating the death penalty, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency. Some 28 percent said they were "definitely" in favour of capital punishment; 38 percent said they were "inclined" towards it. Only nine percent of those polled said they were "definitely" against bringing back the death penalty, which was abolished exactly 15 years ago, by the government that took over after the fall of communism. The CVVM agency found that pensioners, non-religious people, and those without formal education tend to favour the death penalty, as do
In related news, the German cabinet has approved a draft law aimed at preventing cheap labour from Eastern Europe from undercutting wages. The draft law sets minimum wages for foreigners working in certain professions and would make it more expensive to hire Czech brick-layers or butchers, for example. Berlin is also looking to crack down on independent contractors based in the Czech border regions from circumventing the seven-year restrictions on the free movement of labour that Germany imposed on new European Union members states.
Four Chinese nationals have been taken into custody on suspicion of having illegally imported and sold some $30 million worth of textiles and other goods, on which customs duties and VAT was not paid. The Chinese nationals were arrested following an eight-month-long investigation. The arrests themselves took place over two days during an action codenamed "List". Police searched 15 homes and several storage facilities during the raid. They seized over $4 million in cash. The Chinese nationals each face up to 12 years in prison.
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