The draw for qualification matches for the 2008 European football championship to take place in Switzerland and Austria, will take place on Friday in Montreux, Switzerland. The Czech Republic, currently 2nd in the world according to FIFA football rankings, has been put in the strongest group together with the Netherlands, meaning the Czechs will not have to face their somewhat "traditional" rivals in the qualifiers. Other teams in the prestigious first basket include England, France, Portugal, and defending European champions Greece.
The Senate has backed a bill on same-sex partnership approved by the Chamber of Deputies last month. On Thursday 45 of 65 senators present voted in favour of the bill, which will entitle gay couples to legal union, allowing access, for example, to a partner's medical information, or inheritance rights. Gay couples will also be able to raise children, although the bill does not allow them to adopt. Some opponents of the bill, notably the Christian Democrats who voted against, have criticised the legislation as "threatening" the standing of the traditional family. The bill must now be signed by the president to go into effect. If approved by the president, it will make the Czech Republic the 13th European country to recognise same-sex partnerships, as well as the first post-communist country to do so.
Three officials from the first division's FC Slovacko football club (formerly FC Synot), as well as seven referees have been found guilty of corruption. Fines handed down ranged between the equivalent of 2 - 12,000 US dollars. The biggest penalties were handed out to the former owner of the club, Ivo Valenta, as well as manager Jaroslav Hastik. Hastik and the seven referees have also been banned from undertaking any football-linked business activities for periods of up to five years. The match fixing scandal first broke in May 2004.
Information released by the European Commission on Thursday has shown the
Czech Republic lagging behind in drawing money from European Union funds.
According to European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Huebner,
the country has used roughly 20 percent since joining the union in 2004,
from resources available until the end of 2006. The EU allocated the Czech
Republic 2.6 billion euros, the equivalent of 3 billion US dollars, for
2004 - 2006. Last year, the country drew only around 258 million US
dollars' worth. Only one country - neighbouring Slovakia - drew less.
Commissioner Huebner has pointed out that most newcomers to the EU fall behind in drawing subsidies, but stressed the situation has gradually been improving.
The Czech Senate has rejected a bill passed in the Chamber of Deputies proposing three new commemorative dates for the Czech calendar. The bill had proposed April 7th be officially recognised as "scholarship day" or "day of letters" marking the founding date of Prague's Charles University in 1348. May 10th was to be recognised as "Family Day", and June 10th was to gain official status to remind Czechs of the massacre of civilians and destruction at Lidice by the Nazis in World War II. Members of the Senate on Thursday made clear there was no question over the importance of the dates, but rejected the necessity for the days to be specially recognised on the calendar.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has begun a four country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. From Wednesday until next week Saturday, he will be visiting Angola, Namibia, Tanzania, and Nigeria. The main topics of discuss at meetings with politicians and businessmen will be development aid, possible economic cooperation, but also questions of security.
The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ plans to open up a branch in Prague in April, the internet server Euro OnLine reports. The Czech branch will mainly offer services to Japanese investors, who are currently attended to by an office in Vienna. The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi recently merged with the UFJ Bank to become the largest bank in the world, in terms of financial transactions and activities.
The Czech Senate has approved a resolution that condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes. The resolution was drafted and recommended by the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last month. It calls for "sympathy, understanding and recognition to the victims of crimes" by the international community in order to "pave the way to further reconciliation".
The Czech opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have decided to draw inspiration from the Polish conservative Law and Justice Party, ahead of the general election in mid-June. Poland's centre right parties won an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections last September. The Civic Democrats are holding a meeting this Saturday to determine the ways in which they can learn from their Polish colleagues.
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