President Vaclav Klaus as well as the prime minister and other public
figures have marked the 16th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. 16
years ago this day an attack by riot police against demonstrating students
on Prague's Narodni trida sparked mass protests that led to the fall
of Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Speaking with journalists on
President Klaus described November 17th, 1989 as a "key moment
in Czech history", saying those who had experienced the events that
followed "experienced the birth of freedom".
Accompanied by Prague Lord Mayor Pavel Bem, and Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka, Mr Klaus laid flowers at the site where students on Narodni trida were attacked. A little later in the day the site was also visited by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek.
In its latest economic forecast the European Commission has rated as strong the Czech Republic's economic growth, 4.8 percent this year. According to the forecast the Czech economy will remain strong in the years 2006 and 2007, but growth will decelerate somewhat - to a predicted 4.3 percent by 2007. According to the commission, growth until now has been spurred by vigorous exports.
Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who scored the Czechs lone goal against Norway on Wednesday to secure the national side's first appearance at the football World Cup since 1990, reportedly played on painkillers. He had been doubtful with injuries to his knee and ankle. In the end, the player opened the scoring in the 35th minute at Prague's Sparta stadium, leading the Czechs to win the final play-off against Norway 2 goals to nil on aggregate. Rosicky has described his goal as the "most important of his career".
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mahmud has thanked the Czech Republic for humanitarian aid sent to help Pakistan with recovery from a devastating earthquake in October. Mr Mahmud made his statement in Islamabad during a visit by his Czech counterpart Cyril Svoboda. Originally, the Czech Republic donated aid worth 110 million crowns, the equivalent of roughly 4.3 million US dollars. During the two men's meeting Mr Svoboda also met - unexpectedly - with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in Pakistan for a conference related to the effects of the earthquake; on October 8th some 80, 000 died as a result. Hundreds of thousands of others are said to still be in need.
Well-known Czech musician Michal Kocab, together with architect Borek
Sipek, were prevented from trying to hang a European Union flag at one
of the courtyards at Prague Castle on Thursday, after hinting they
might take just such a step in October. The move was blocked on
Thursday by a member of the Prague Castle guard. Previously, Mr Kocab
and Mr Sipek - architect to former president Vaclav Havel - expressed
dissatisfaction with the current president's refusal to fly the flag.
The EU flag can be flown together with the national flag at official
sites including the seat of government, the Foreign Ministry, as well
as the office of the president. Mr Klaus has declined the option so
His predecessor Vaclav Havel criticised Mr Klaus' decision on Thursday as "just short of scandalous".
The Czech government hopes to speed up the modernisation of its fleet of transport aircraft and has earmarked 850 million crowns (a little over 34.5 million US dollars) to buy two new planes. One is expected to be delivered next year, the other in 2007. The fleet is highly outdated and the number of forced landings due to technical failures has been growing. A commission is to decide by the end of the month whether two of the Russian Tu-154s will be replaced by Boeing or Airbus planes. The entire modernisation of the fleet is expected to cost around four billion crowns (around 164 million US dollars).
According to unofficial information, Austria's Kapsch has won a tender to supply the Czech state with an electronic road toll system, which is to be launched in the Czech Republic in about two years. The Czech Transport Ministry said on Wednesday that the winner of the tender has been chosen but refused to reveal which of the four companies in the running it is.
During its session on Wednesday, the government also decided to ask the Supreme Audit Office (NKU) to carry out an audit on the country's biggest health insurer (VZP), give the counter-intelligence service (BIS) over 18 million crowns to use on wiretappings, and approved a revised counter-terrorism plan that increases the authority of intelligence services, posts more police officers at Czech embassies, and protects cargo carrying dangerous materials.
The Czech Republic has a new Agriculture Minister - Social Democrat Jan Mladek. Mr Mladek, who was named into office by President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday, replaces Petr Zgarba, who resigned following corruption scandals involving ministry institutions. Mr Mladek's two main priorities are to change the way key ministry institutions such as the Czech Land Fund are run and ensure that the agriculture sector's use of EU money is efficient.
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