Charles IV, Holy Roman emperor and King of Bohemia /1316 -1378/ has been elected the Greatest Czech in history. The results of the competition were announced at a gala evening on Czech TV on Friday night. Charles IV brought the Czech lands to unprecedented prosperity, he was a skilled diplomat and peacemaker and a generous patron of learning and the arts. His legacy includes the oldest University in central Europe, the famous Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral, where he was laid to rest in 1378. Charles IV won over 68,000 votes from the public. The founder of Czechoslovakia, president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk came second and the former Czech president Vaclav Havel third.
Meanwhile, the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has called on European Union leaders to send a strong signal to voters in the Czech Republic which would renew trust in the Constitution and the EU integration process in general. Speaking at a Visegrad group summit in Warsaw, the Czech Prime Minister said the upcoming EU summit in Brussels could have a significant impact on the situation in the Czech Republic, where Euro-scepticism has been on the rise since the French and Dutch rejections of the treaty. Prime Minister Paroubek had been in favour of forging ahead with an information campaign on the EU Constitution, but after consulting with his coalition partners he agreed to shelve that decision pending the outcome of the EU summit in Brussels.
The Czech Communist party is against the ratification of the EU Constitution in its present form. A meeting of the party's executive committee concluded that following the French and Dutch rejections of the treaty and Britain's decision to shelve its referendum, continuing with plans for ratification was no longer meaningful. The other opposition party on the Czech political scene, the right wing Civic Democrats, have expressed a similar opinion, saying that the treaty was dead and there was no point in wasting time and money on it.
A new witness has appeared in the Koristka bribery case in which the governing coalition accused the opposition of trying to bribe one of the coalition's MPs with the intention of bringing down the government. The case was recently shelved for lack of evidence. Ladislav Sommer, a 58 year old former journalist and writer, has now come forward to say that while sitting in a café in Ostrava he had overheard two men offering Freedom Union deputy Zdenek Koristka 10 million crowns and a promising career in exchange for voting against the coalition government in a planned no-confidence vote. He said he could identify the two men as Vecerek and Dalik, a lobbyist and adviser to the opposition Civic Democrats. The Civic Democrats say this is a smear campaign against them and point out that if this were true Sommer should have come forward while the case was still open. Police are investigating the claims.
The number of foreigners living in the Czech Republic has been rising markedly in recent years. Some 250,000 foreign nationals stayed legally in the country at the end of last year, including nearly 100,000 foreigners with a permanent residence permit, the Interior Ministry announced on Friday. According to the ministry's asylum and migration policy department the number of foreigners rose by almost 19,000 last year compared to 2003. According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Czech Republic has become a country with the steepest increase in the number of foreigners in the world between 1992 and 2002.
Tuesday June 14th will be tax freedom day in the Czech Republic, two days earlier than in 2004, the Liberal Institute think tank announced on Friday. According to Liberal Institute President, Jiri Schwarz, since 2000 tax freedom day has moved eight days forward, which means Czechs spend more time earning for the state. Some economists argue taxes in the Czech Republic are too high, making life difficult for businessmen and contributing to high unemployment.
The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda's return from an official trip to Montenegro was delayed by an hour due to a defect on his plane. The door of the Soviet-made Antonov-26 would not shut and a device controlling air-pressure onboard was out of order, Minister Svoboda told the CTK news agency. However both defects were quickly repaired. Mr Svoboda had arrived in Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Balkans, including the status of the Kosovo province.
The US Embassy in Prague has confirmed that a new location for the headquarters of the US-funded radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been found in Prague. In an interview for the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said the station's management had chosen a new location but it was up to them when they would make it public. Currently, the station is located in the centre of Prague. Relocation for security reasons has been planned since the events of September 11, 2001.
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