The Czech Trade Minister Milan Urban has said that the Czech Republic will
submit its own demands at negotiations on the EU budget outlook for
2007-13. On Thursday Mr Urban, in Brussels, said demands could include
asking for a longer period for the Czech Republic to draw EU funds. But,
he stressed that the Czech government was interested in EU member
countries reaching an overall consensus. In the coming days the British
presidency will submit its own draft budget for the EU, notable for cuts
made at the expense of the ten new EU member countries - including the
Czech Republic - that joined last year. As it stands, the proposed cuts
could mean a decrease of as much as 2 billion euros (around 2.3 billion US
dollars) for the Czech Republic. In exchange, British Prime Minister Tony
Blair is proposing easier terms for drawing funds.
The prime ministers of the Visegrad Group - the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, have already criticised Mr Blair's planned cuts.
Czech police have charged a 37-year-old representative of the Japanese investment bank Nomura with insider trading, in the so-called "Czech beer operation", in which the bank is said to have used shareholdings in the Plzensky Prazdroj brewery to support its investment in the now defunct Czech IPB bank. According to the anti-corruption office, bank funds were used to pay for the brewery's acquisition. The illegal use of property as 'insurance' then allegedly helped the investment bank illegally gain seven billion crowns, the equivalent of more than 280 million USD. If found guilty of insider dealings the bank official could face up to twelve years in prison.
A Central Bohemian court is considering whether or not to reopen the case of Rostislav Roztocil, a Czech convict recaptured in Germany after a brief prison break. The convict, found guilty of murdering an Egyptian student in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, has maintained his innocence and has been asking for a retrial. The court is now looking to interview Mr Roztocil, as well as new witnesses, before ruling on whether or not to reopen his case.
The Health Minister David Rath has claimed that the chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, may have been involved in corruption. On Thursday the health minister suggested to journalists that an association founded by Mr Topolanek had received financial donations from a metal works company, with connections to private hospitals. They, Mr Rath said, had been given above-standard contracts with the state-owned insurance company, the VZP - now under forced administration. The Civic Democrats have denied the allegations and Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek is said to be considering legal action. Since taking office, the health minister and the Civic Democrats have clashed on several occasions, with the Civic Democrats calling on the health minister to resign.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported on its website that a suspect wanted for a gangland-style attack in Prague will be extradited to the Czech Republic. A court in Jerusalem ruled in favour. The suspect, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, is said to have tossed a grenade at the vehicle of an Israeli casino owner outside his Prague venue last August. The site was found in one of the city's busiest pedestrian zones and 18 passers-by were injured. The suspect was then arrested a month later in Israel on an international warrant; if found guilty he could face between eight to fifteen years in prison.
The Chamber of Deputies has voted to lower the age of criminal
responsibility from 15 to 14. The age of consent is also set to drop from
15 to 14. The changes are part of a new Penal Code which also lengthens
prison terms for murder and other serious crimes; it must now go before
the Senate and the president.
The Communist Party voted against the new legislation, as it also includes a provision to make denial of "communist genocide" a crime like denying the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies has rejected a proposal to extend until the end of 2009 the deadline for the return of property confiscated under communism. The current deadline for the filing of restitution claims is the end of next month. The Social Democrats and the Communists, who together hold a majority in the Chamber, voted against the extension.
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