The Senate has approved a law allowing the issuing of more than 72 billion crowns, (the equivalent of over 3 billion U.S. dollars), in bonds to help cover this year's state budget deficit. Bonds are likely to be issued on both domestic and foreign markets, while the remainder of the deficit, some 11 billion crowns, is to be covered by long-term loans from the European Investment Bank. The law has yet to be signed by the president to come into effect.
European Union leaders are attending a summit on Thursday and Friday in
Brussels to discuss the fate of the EU constitution and try to reach an
agreement on the Union's contested budget for 2007-2013. Before the
meeting, Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, for whom this is the first
official visit to Brussels as prime minister, met with NATO Secretary
General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission President Jose
Manuel Barroso to reassure them of the continuity of the Czech Republic's
position in NATO and the EU.
Mr Paroubek also appealed that the ratification process of the European Union constitution continue but that the period be extended beyond 2006 to give the countries more time for reflection. With regards to the European budget, the Czech prime minister says he aims to achieve the best terms for the Czech Republic.
The Czech government has agreed to release an extra 634 million crowns (around 28 million US dollars) out of next year's state budget to help the Justice Ministry cover a wage increase for judges and state attorneys. From the beginning of this year, their salaries have increased by 18 percent with their average monthly wage at 50,400 crowns (around 2,200 US dollars) for judges and 45,400 crowns (around 2,000 US dollars) for state attorneys. Some 2,963 judges and 1,113 state attorneys are paid by the ministry.
Bohumil Kulinsky, the director of the prestigious Bambini di Praga girls choir, accused of sexually abusing underage girls is to stay in police custody for at least another three months. According to the State Attorney handling his case, Mr Kulinsky cannot be released as the chances that he would try and influence witnesses are high. The prestigious Bambini di Praga girls choir, made up of girls aged 12 to 19, performs nationally and internationally with leading Czech and foreign orchestras. Since Mr Kulinsky's arrest last year in November, over one hundred former choir members have come forward with accusations of sexual abuse.
Telefonica's acquisition of the majority stake in the Czech Republic's biggest fixed line operator, Cesky Telecom, is final. The Spanish telecommunications company won the privatisation tender with the highest bid - 82.6 billion crowns (a little over 3.5 billion US dollars). On Wednesday, it paid the National Property Fund a remaining 90 percent of the purchase price and is now the owner of the state's 51.1 percent stake in Cesky Telecom, which also owns the country's leading mobile operator Eurotel.
The chairman of the Social Democratic Party Stanislav Gross has said he would like Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek to be the party's election leader in next year's general elections. Mr. Gross, who was re-elected party chairman shortly before he was forced to resign as prime minister, has gradually been taking second place to Jiri Paroubek, whose popularity is on the rise. Mr. Gross said on Wednesday that it would benefit the party if Jiri Paroubek headed the election campaign and became the party's candidate for the post of prime minister in the 2006 elections. Mr. Paroubek has made no secret of his ambition to do so.
The Czech actor and drama theoretician Leos Sucharipa has died at the age of 73. The actor - easily recognised by an inimitably gruff voice - was well-known for his work for Divadlo - or Theatre - magazine, as well as for roles performed both on stage and in film. He was a "house actor" at Prague's well-known Divadlo na Zabradli.
The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said he will not give in to pressure to sack the health minister Milada Emmerova even if the government rejects her long-term concept for the health sector. Mr. Paroubek said that the concept was sound and that the health minister could not be blamed for the sector's present problems, primarily its indebtedness. At the beginning of the week hospitals, employee representatives, and employers in the health care sector, rejected her reform concept, which includes a debt bail-out of the Czech Republic's largest health insurance company. Mrs. Emmerova has so far ignored calls for her to resign.
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko have discussed an agreement on temporary work permits that would make it easier for thousands of Ukrainians to work in the Czech Republic. The foreign ministries are expected to present a treaty proposal in the near future. Around 200, 000 Ukrainians would be affected by the agreement, including workers currently employed illegally in the Czech Republic. The vast majority of them are working in the construction industry.
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