The Communist regime collapsed in Europe because of its own internal crisis but also due to the work of the Helsinki movements, so says former Czech President Vaclav Havel. Mr Havel spoke at the start of an international conference in Prague on Sunday, where some 30 experts and eyewitnesses began discussing the contribution of the Helsinki process to the collapse of the Communist bloc. The term "Helsinki process" is used to describe negotiations between the West and the former Eastern bloc, covering commitments in a number of fields, from armament reduction to the protection of human rights.
A new study by Price Waterhouse Coopers has shown that Czech car prices
are apparently the lowest in Europe, standing 8 percent below the
European average owing to lower interest in new cars. Following last
year's accession to the European Union, experts predicted prices would
grow as differences between prices in the EU narrowed. But, says
Antonin Sipek, director of the Association of Automotive Industries,
dealers began a price war as interest in new cars decreased rapidly.
Over the past 12 months, the Czech Republic has been the only country
in which prices have fallen, posting a 1.2 percent drop.
On the whole Czech car sales have been falling by an annual 9 percent over the past two years. The drop in sales has affected all vehicle categories.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats and the leader of the country's largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, have failed to find consensus on the future of the European constitution and planned reforms to the Czech Republic's pension system. After a two-hour top-secret meeting on Monday between the prime minister and Mirek Topolanek, the prime minister told reporters that both sides would retain their previous stances. Mr Paroubek has made clear he will press for the EU constitution ratification process to continue. At the weekend he said that even opponents of the treaty - like the Civic Democrats - would be invited to address the first phase of a planned information campaign.
It has been revealed that Prague customs officials arrested a Mexican national smuggling more than three kilograms of cocaine at Prague's international airport at the weekend. The smuggler apparently arrived from Amsterdam. An X-ray check of his luggage revealed a number of record sleeves filled with compressed cocaine. Officials say the cocaine would have sold for four million crowns on the black market, the equivalent of roughly 160,000 dollars US. If found guilty the suspect could face up to five years in prison.
Almost 90 non-government organisations in the Czech Republic have asked Czech President Vaclav Klaus to apologise for statements made last month categorising non-government organisations - or NGOs - as "dangerous" to democracy. The NGOs have sent the president a letter outlining their appeal. But, the president's spokesman said on Monday the document had not yet been received. Jan Bouchal, from the association which initiated the appeal, has said that the non-profit organisations and their members have stated clearly that they disapprove of President Klaus's opinion, defending citizens' rights to interfere in public developments and decision-making. NGO members first protested the president's remarks in May, when at the Council of Europe summit in Warsaw, he described what he called "post-democracy" as involving pressure from non-governmental organisations to influence individuals' lives. In his view - without a proper mandate.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said he will aim to discuss
ratification of the EU constitution with both opposition parties, the
Civic Democrats and the Communists. On Sunday he said that both
supporters and opponents of the treaty will be invited to take part in
the first phase of a planned information campaign. A meeting of Social
Democrat and Civic Democrat leaders has been set for Monday. Unlike the
right-of-centre Civic Democrats, the Communist Party wants the
information campaign to go ahead in the Czech Republic, although party
members are undecided as to whether or not the ratification process
should be suspended. The prime minister has indicated the campaign
would be launched after the mid-June EU summit, set to discuss further
steps following the French and Dutch votes.
The government will earmark a total of 200 million crowns (over 8 million US dollars) for the campaign on the EU constitution.
The Czech Republic's demolition of Andorra in World Cup qualifying on
Saturday saw a number of new team records set, not least the record for
highest number of goals in a single match. A Czech national football
side had never before scored 8 goals in a game: the closest it came was
twice in the 1920s, both times hitting 7 goals against former
Saturday's qualifier saw striker Jan Koller also set a new record for most goals scored by a player for the national team (breaking the 34 mark set by the legendary Antonin Puc), while team captain Tomas Galasek scored his first international goal in 43 starts.
Despite the win, the Czechs remain 2nd in their qualifying group, one point behind the Netherlands, whose team defeated Romania on Saturday by a score of 2:0.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has stressed that, in his view, there is no
point in continuing
with the ratification of the current version of the European constitution
following its rejection by France and the Netherlands. Speaking on a TV
discussion programme on Sunday the president suggested, for example, that
an alternative text be found, one that - in his view - did not
"infringe on peoples' lives". While opposed to the constitution
treaty, Mr Klaus said he would not veto any move by the Czech government
and Parliament to hold a referendum to ratify the document.
Following the two "No" votes last week Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek emphasised that the ratification process should continue in remaining countries.
The Sunday paper Nedelni svet has written in its latest edition that Social Democrat MP and head of the Parliamentary Committee for the Economy Josef Hojdar is in danger of being expelled from party ranks. The paper outlines two reasons, one being a procedural mistake in Mr Hojdar's election as head of the party district branch in the north-west Bohemian town of Most; the second is opposition within his party to the Social Democrats' so-called left-wing faction, of which Mr Hojdar is a part. Nedelni svet quotes one Social Democrat as blaming Mr Hojdar for helping to bring down former prime ministers Vladimir Spidla and Stanislav Gross. The paper writes that if Mr Hojdar is expelled it could threaten the stability of the government which would lose its slim one-vote majority in the Lower House.
A tanker truck crashed near Podebrady, east of Prague, on Saturday, spilling some 17,000 litres of petrol and 12,000 litres of diesel oil. The truck turned over in a bend, which the driver failed to manoeuvre. Fire fighters have been cleaning up at the scene. The accident has been described as the worst of its kind in the area of Podebrady in years.
Demonstrations held in 11 cities over election of Communist MP Ondráček to chairman post
National Museum discovers fake gems in its collection
Czech Republic caught up in plastic waste disposal crisis in Europe
President Zeman’s Chinese advisor arrested
Growing concern over plight of leading Chinese investor in the Czech Republic