The Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba is prepared to resign if police prove he broke the law by helping an East Bohemian village to get a state subsidy, Mr Zgarba told journalists on Thursday. The press recently wrote that Mr Zgarba had arranged a subsidy for the village of Lipa-Petrkov to modernise its infrastructure. Part of the money reportedly went for a sewerage system to lead to the property where Mr Zgarba's family plans to manage a spa. Originally, the subsidy was to be used for the reconstruction of old sewerage, pavements and the construction of a water treatment plant in the village. Mr Zgarba denies accusations he has misused the subsidy.
Jarmila Bohackova, a deputy for the ruling Social Democrats, has died after a long disease, aged 57, a spokeswoman for the party said. Mrs Bohackova should be replaced in the lower house by Frantisek Konicek, the current Deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister. The new MP is expected to take his oath at the next lower house session which begins on Tuesday. Mrs Bohackova was a Social Democrat member for many years and a deputy from 1998.
The Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Martin Jahn said that he expected Czech GDP growth this year to again exceed 4 percent on high exports in particular, adding that exports have grown also thanks to the country's accession to the EU last year. Mr Jahn also said that for economic growth to accelerate further, investments in education, research and development and transport infrastructure were necessary. The Czech GDP has grown faster than Poland's (2.1 percent) and Hungary's (2.9 percent), but slower than Slovakia's (5.1 percent).
The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection says it has reservations about the new bill which empowers police to obtain DNA samples without the agreement of the accused, even by force. The new bill, which the cabinet approved on Wednesday, is supposed to facilitate identification of crime perpetrators. The data protection office chairman Karel Neuwirt has expressed concern about the extent of this "extraordinary intervention in the individuals' privacy" and about the fact that the Interior Ministry had not discussed the bill with the office. Health Minister Milada Emmerova, too, said she feared that the register could be abused.
The Czech economy grew by 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2005, the growth slowing down from 4.6 percent in the last quarter of 2004, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday, adding that it had revised last year's GDP growth from 4 to 4.4 percent and the growth for 2003 from 3.7 to 3.2 percent. The GDP growth in the first three months of 2005 was pulled by foreign trade which showed a record surplus of 22.8 billion crowns, the Czech Statistical Office said.
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus received the European Regional Integration prize in Austria's Sankt Polten during his one-day state visit on Wednesday. Mr Klaus was awarded with the prize by Lower Austria and the Krems University for preserving equality but also the diversity of regions on the way to a united Europe.
The Social Democratic Party, the senior party in the ruling coalition, has
made it to second place on the popularity ladder, an opinion poll suggests.
According to the results of the poll, which was conducted by the CVVM
agency in May, the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats continue to
be in the lead with 30%, followed by the Social Democrats with 16%, and
the Communists, who had enjoyed second place in preceding months, with
The popularity of the Social Democrats suffered greatly at the beginning of the year when the party backed its leader and then prime minister Stanislav Gross in a scandal over his personal finances that led to a coalition crisis. Mr Gross resigned as prime minister and was replaced by Jiri Paroubek in April.
Eight senators have expressed support for an association of Czech house owners who are planning to sue the Czech Republic for hundreds of millions of crowns in "moral damages" at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The association is unhappy with the country's policy of regulated rent. Eight senators for the opposition Civic Democratic Party have publicly backed the association's decision to sue the Czech Republic calling on the government to address the problem. House owners who have filed the complaint, say that the collected rent does not even cover maintenance costs. Rent control covers almost 20 percent of occupied apartments nationwide.
The Czech Foreign Ministry and US embassy officials are discussing concrete steps which would lead to either easing or abolishing visa requirements for Czech citizens in the future. Czech officials see the term 2007 as a possible date for the inclusion of the Czech Republic in the US visa-free programme, but the US embassy in Prague has refused to confirm the possibility. Of the new EU members only Slovenian nationals do not require visas to travel to the United States.
On an official visit to Slovakia, the Czech Prime Minister likewise discussed EU matters with his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda. Both heads of government said they might support a possible extension of the two year deadline for the ratification process. The Czech Prime Minister said he was in favour of pushing ahead with ratification, but that he could not rule out certain modifications in Czech policy following Britain's decision to shelve its referendum. The Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said his country would do whatever appeared "meaningful", stressing that in the expanded European Union it was necessary to show flexibility and listen to the arguments of others.
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