The antitrust office has dropped an investigation of three major Czech banks over alleged collusion in setting customer service fees. The office said it had found insufficient evidence to make a case against the banks -- Ceska Sporitelna, CSOB, and Komercni Banka - but claimed to have proof that CSOB had made a concrete offer to set at least one rate with another bank. All three banks deny any wrongdoing.
A Czech man who joined a demonstration outside the German embassy in Prague for the release of a far-right extremist imprisoned in Germany for denying the Holocaust will himself face trial for the same offence. Czech state attorney Zdenka Galkova said on Monday that the unidentified 21-year-old man -- whom media have described as a Neo-Nazi - faces three years in prison. The accused was among some seventy far-right extremists who protested in support of author and Holocaust-denier Ernst Zuendel, now on trial in Mannheim, Germany. The rally on October 28, a state holiday, was shouted down by a larger much group of anti-fascists. The accused was one of two far-right extremists arrested that day.
The Czech crown could join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II in the second half of 2007, the finance ministry said in a statement Monday, stressing that the timetable would not affect plans to adopt the euro at the start of 2010. Two years of ERM II membership is a condition for joining the so-called Eurozone. During that time the currency is pegged to the euro and can fluctuate within a very narrow band. Slovakia this weekend became the fifth post-communist European Union member state to join ERM II, after Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia.
Britain, which now holds the rotating EU presidency, is set to propose cuts to the union's 2007-2013 budget proposed by the previous presidency. Britain is expected to suggest slashing the proposed EU budget three percent in part by lowering by 10 percent regional aid to newcomers like the Czech Republic and rural development funds to several old member states. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to meet central and east European leaders on a trip to Estonia and Hungary on Thursday and Friday, and the cuts are certain to top the agenda. The Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, appealed to Blair in a letter on Monday to reconsider the cuts.
The country's largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic
Democrats, have wrapped-up a two-day party congress in the Moravian
city of Brno, outlining the party's priorities ahead of national
elections in 2006. At the weekend, party members criticised the current
government coalition, expressing alarm over allegedly growing ties
between the ruling Social Democrats and the Communists. On Sunday,
Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek stressed his party would take
solutions "directly to the people", and would aim at a positive
The Civic Democrats continue to top public opinion polls, but the Social Democrats have been gaining. Both parties have set goals of winning more than 30 percent of the vote next year.
Czech cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova has finished first in the women's 10 km Nordic World Cup skiing freestyle in Finland. Neumannova beat her nearest rivals Russian Julia Chepalova and Estonian Kristina Smigun on Sunday, beating Chepalova by approximately 21 seconds. Neumannova holds four medals from past Winter Olympics. Her World Cup finish on Sunday has brought her number of career wins on the World Cup circuit to fourteen.
Justice Minister Pavel Nemec has said he will call for 300 million crowns (roughly 12 million US dollars) and 200 new employees for the Czech prison service. The justice minister made the comments during a Sunday news programme, saying he planned to submit the financial requirements to the cabinet following the 2006 state budget vote scheduled in the lower house this week. According to Mr Nemec, the impulse behind his decision was a recent escape by two Czech convicts from a maximum security prison, which cast light on the poor situation - not enough funds and too few personnel - in Czech prisons.
Around 50 history fans in historic-replica costumes marked the 200th
anniversary of Napoleonic battles on Bohemian territory on Sunday.
Several hundred on-lookers turned out to watch the enacted battle near
the village of Stoky, representing an original clash between Napoleon's
armies and Austrian forces in 1805. The battle, won by the Austrians,
was a Pyrrhic victory, coming two days after Napoleonic forces won at
Austerlitz (Slavkov, near Brno).
Later this week, around 4,000 visitors from 23 countries are expected to visit the Czech Republic to take part in a re-enactment of the famous Battle of Austerlitz, near Brno.
Speaking in Brno on Saturday, the head of the Christian Democratic Party, Miroslav Kalousek, warned of growing influence by the Communist Party under current Prime Minister and Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek. Mr Kalousek alluded to the so-called "threat" during Saturday's party congress of the opposition Civic Democrats, who unveiled their election strategy ahead of next year's election. Both the Christian Democrats and the Civic Democrats have consistently ruled-out co-operation with the Communists, while the current prime minister has suggested the Communists could play a greater role in Czech politics in the future. Despite being one of the few unreformed leftist parties remaining in post-communist Europe, the Czech Communist Party enjoys relatively high voter support. Recent opinion polls place the party 3rd among voters, at around 13 percent.
The health minister has said he will begin looking for a candidate to
succeed Mrs Musilkova at the VZP, saying he would discuss suitable
candidates with the VZP's board of directors and members of different
political parties. He has also indicated that forced administration of
the VZP could end as soon as January.
Mrs Musilkova's stepping down was conditional to the forced administration wrapping up. The minister is expected to put forward several names over the next few days.
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