Czech and Slovak soldiers will serve together in a single unit of the European Union's proposed Rapid Reaction Force. Czech Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl and his Slovak counterpart Juraj Liska announced in Brussels on Monday that the joint Czech-Slovak unit should be deployable by the second half of 2009. Czechs will make up four-fifths of the 1500-member strong unit, which will be under Czech command. EU member states have agreed to form 13 such units as part of the new EU Rapid Reaction Force. The units are to be deployed for peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions with the first one fully operational by 2007.
Teachers and schoolchildren in the town of Ricany, just outside Prague, braved near freezing temperatures on Monday to hold class outdoors in protest overcrowding and scarce resources. Ricany has become increasing popular in recent years with young families, due to its short commuting distance to the Czech capital. There is a waiting list for spaces at the town's two elementary schools. The mayor of Ricany says that a project has been drawn up to build a third school but the town lacks the resources.
Police will not launch criminal proceedings against a Czech member of the
European Parliament accused by a former Czech human rights commissioner
with the crime of denying the Holocaust. Petr Uhl filed a criminal
complaint against the Communist MEP Miloslav Ransdorf in May for saying
that a site in central Bohemia where some 1200 Romany people were interned
during the Second World War was not a "concentration camp".
Experts have reportedly sided with Mr Ransdorf's assertion that the site
at Lety u Pisku was technically an internment camp. Over 240 Romany
children and 85 adults died from disease or abuse in the Czech-run
facility. At least one thousand more later were killed in Auschwitz and
other death camps.
A commercial pig farm was built on the Lety site in the 1970s. This April, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the Czech Republic remove the farm and replace it with a fitting memorial to the Romany Holocaust. In debate that followed, MEP Ransdorf said that as a historian, he knew many "lies" had been spread about Lety, which he said was not home to a "concentration camp" in the common understanding of the term.
The Czech antitrust office (UOHS) began legal proceedings on Monday against the German power giant RWE's Czech gas unit, RWE Transgas, for the suspected abuse of its dominant position. RWE Transgas is alleged to have given favourable conditions to related distributors. Several large industrial companies had lodged complaints against RWE with the Czech Energy Regulation Authority (ERU), claiming that they were pressured to sign supply contracts that would have had them paying more for natural gas than do domestic purchasers.
The commercial TV station Prima has announced that its prime-time reality show VyVoleni will be broadcast from a different location. The reason is a legal dispute with the owner of the plot on which TV Prima had built the house in which the contestants live. At 5 am on Sunday, around 40 security guards with dogs surrounded the house in a Prague suburb and ordered TV Prima employees to leave. The five remaining participants of the successful TV show will move to Slovakia where the commercial TV station JOJ is running a similar show under the same licence.
Almost no working people in the Czech Republic and Hungary are poor unlike in Spain or Luxembourg, according to data released by the European Union statistical office Eurostat. According to Czech analysts the low figures for the Czech Republic are indicative of certain egalitarianism in society. Differences between salaries in the Czech Republic remain among the smallest in Europe. The average net monthly salary is 13,700 crowns (570 US dollars). The poverty line calculated by Eurostat is around 6,500 crowns (270 dollars); the net minimum monthly wage in the Czech Republic is 5,800 crowns (241 dollars).
The chairman of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek has said that the director of the state run health insurance company VZP, Jirina Musilkova, has faced criminal prosecution because of a disadvantageous 1999 sale of shares of a jewellery making company owned by the VZP. The lawsuit was filed by then president of the Czech medical chamber, now Health Minister David Rath. Mr Zaoralek added Jirina Musilkova was still on the supervisory board of the jewellery making company. According to Mr Zaoralek the lawsuit was suspended because of an expired statute of limitations. Last week Health Minister David Rath put the heavily indebted state health insurer VZP under forced administration and called on Mrs Musilkova to step down. So far she has refused to resign.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda who is on a three-day visit to the Palestinian territories met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss the role of the European Union in the Middle East and the path towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The two officials also discussed the situation around the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt which the EU wants to monitor, an option Mr Svoboda does not support. Mr Svoboda also told Mr Abbas the Czech Republic was ready to participate in the training of Palestinian police officers.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said he still sees no reason why the European Union flag should fly at Prague Castle, the seat of Czech heads of state. In a televised interview on Sunday, President Klaus said he believed the Czech Republic was not a province of the European Union and that the Czech national flag should not be substituted or overshadowed by any other one. Earlier this week two activists attempted to raise the European flag at Prague Castle but their effort was thwarted by the castle guards.
During his Prague visit, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met the Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Friday. According to the CTK news agency they failed to agree on the scope of EU integration and the status of a European constitution. Mr Barroso urged further EU integration. President Klaus, who is strongly anti-federalist, said he particularly welcomed the new EU initiative since he felt that there was a lack of open debate on problems of European integration, particularly following the rejection of the European Constitution by Dutch and French voters.