Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, on an official visit to Kosovo, met with President Ibrahim Rugova on Monday to discuss the future status of the province. The Czech prime minister extended an offer for Czech diplomats to help with negotiations between representatives in Pristina and Belgrade. On Sunday, Mr Paroubek made much the same offer in the Serbian capital. Mr Rugova said he could envision, for example, someone like former Czech president Vaclav Havel playing a role as mediator. Meanwhile, the Czech prime minister said any initiative will have to include the European Union. One of the goals of Mr Paroubek's four-day visit is to get a sense of opinions in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo on the region's future; the Czech Republic is seeking to play a more dominant role in the region.
Two Dutch national detained in the Czech Republic on Saturday are under investigation for allegedly promoting racist ideology. The men were detained en route to a Neo-Nazi concert held in the Czech town of Zlata Olesnice, about 160 kilometres north of Prague. Police shut down the concert, which had been booked as a private birthday party, and was attended by some 140 skinheads and far-right extremists. Police made several arrests and seized clothing and electronic media promoting racist ideals. Along with the two Dutch nationals, at least one Czech will likely face charges of inciting racial hatred.
Former Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman is writing a book on the recent history of the Social Democratic Party - which he plans to publish ahead of next year's parliamentary elections. Early this year, Mr Zeman published his memoirs, entitled, "The Mistakes I Made in Politics," in which he pulled few punches in judging other politicians; for example, labeling his onetime protégée Stanislav Gross an "ignoramus" with "no ideas of his own". Mr Zeman's often vulgar accounts of behind-the-scenes dealings were a hit with the general public. His next book, "The Rise and Fall of the Social Democrats," is to be a "political horror." He also plans a chapter on the way forward for the party of which he was long-time chairman, leading to speculation that Mr Zeman, who lost to Civic Democrat Vaclav Klaus in the presidential elections, plans a comeback.
Industry Minister Milan Urban is to ask the Cabinet for an additional 1.5 billion crowns to be set aside for the repair and construction of industrial zones and infrastructure near Ostrava, the proposed site of a new 1.2 billion dollar Hyundai car plant. The Cabinet has already earmarked 3.25 billion crowns in relation to the proposed venture of the South Korean carmaker. Hyundai reportedly wants a four-lane highway built from Ostrava to neighbouring Slovakia, where its affiliate Kia Motors has a factory. The South Korean investment has become a focal point for political debate over the Czech Republic's system of incentives for attracting foreign investment, with the main opposition Civic Democratic Party calling for a major reduction in incentives packages.
City councillors from the district of Prague 1 have cancelled a tender on the renting of a villa by Prague's lucrative Kampa Park. The villa that once belonged to Jan Werich, the famous Czech actor; Werich died in 1980. The tender was won by the firm Colly, which beat out Meda Mladkova of the Kampa Museum. City councillors based their decision to cancel the decision based on the new law on public tenders. A new tender on the villa will consequently be called.
On Wednesday the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, will name MP Jan Mladek, a member of Parliament's budget committee, the new agriculture minister. Mr Mladek is to fill the post following Petr Zgarba's decision to resign over the Land Fund property scandal. A member of the Social Democrats, the incoming minister is regarded as liberal in terms of economic policy. Once named, he plans to implement reforms in the Land Fund to prevent a repeat scandal. In the case, allegations have been made that state officials - including the former minister - passed on inside information to speculators who cheaply bought-up property now worth millions more than the original price.
The head of the Czech Social Security Administration Jiri Hoidekr has revealed that 354 Czechs are 100 or more years of age, with the oldest, a woman, 108. In the group of 'one hundred year-olds' women far outnumber men. Of the 354, 292 are women. According to the Czech Social Security Administration, the majority of one hundred year olds are Prague residents. The oldest living Czech - at 108 - has been receiving a pension for 43 years.
The new Health Minister David Rath has said he will turn to the Interior
Minister for help after a Health Ministry inspector controlling the
administration of the country's largest health insurer, the VZP, received
an anonymous threat. An employee in charge of checking the firm's finances
received an anonymous call in which a male voice warned her of danger to
her person (telling her she'd have to watch herself to make it home). She
has not contacted police. The head of the forced administration team,
Antonin Pecenka, has also said his team was under external pressure.
Last week the VZP came under forced administration under the new health minister: the health insurer's debt has exceeded more than 12 billion crowns, around 480 million US dollars. Tensions between the company and the Health Ministry have continued to intensify.
The health minister, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking support from among the VZP's administration board against current VZP head Jirina Musilkova. Last week Mr Rath called on Mrs Musilkova to resign, a call she has ignored.
A new poll by the CVVM agency has suggested that among the five parties in Parliament the Communists have the highest percentage of 'core' supporters, at 24 percent, while the ruling Social Democrats, enjoy a core base of just 4 percent. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have a core of 11 percent. The study found that the number of Czech voters who consider themselves core supporters of any political party is considerably lower than nine years ago. According to analysts, some 27 percent are not happy with any of the parties in Parliament.
A major Czech brewery has offered 160 litres of beer, the average yearly consumption of each citizen, to each member of the Czech football squad irrespective of whether the team beat Norway to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, AFP reports. The Czechs beat Norway 1-0 away in the first leg of their qualifying play-off on Saturday. The Czech players will only be able to take up the offer of free beer after the second match against Norway this Wednesday. The Czech Republic has never qualified for the World Cup, but the former Czechoslovakia reached the finals in 1934 (losing to Italy) and 1962 (beaten by Brazil) and the quarter-finals in 1990.
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