The first secretary of the Czech Embassy in Havana has been given three days to leave Cuba after local authorities refused to extend his visa. The Czech Foreign Ministry has called on Cuba's charge d'affaires in Prague to explain the decision, which it regards as tantamount to expulsion. It said the move was clearly in response to the Czech Republic's policy of criticizing human rights abuses in Cuba and supporting the island state's opposition. Tensions have been high between the two countries for some years.
Small Czech breweries have turned to the anti-monopoly office over the planned introduction of new bottles by larger beer makers. The action has been taken following suggestions that small breweries would have to buy up tens of millions of used bottles, if their bigger rivals don't agree to supply them. But Plzensky Prazdroj, one of the main producers, says that the allegations are nonsense; it said it would fulfil all its legal obligations.
The remains of around 4,000 world war two German soldiers are to be stored at a Czech military facility for two years, before being buried in a German cemetery in the town of Marianske Lazne. They were exhumed around the Czech Republic and have been lying in a disused factory for three years, after the German organisation behind the project ran out of funding.
Water traffic on the Vltava in Prague has partly resumed, following the floods which have interrupted it in the past two weeks. The river is now open to boats between the Barrandov and Jirasek bridges. But Jiri Friedl, of Vltava river management, said that more of the river will be opened depending on the weather in the upcoming week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has made an unusual challenge to Civic Democrats chief Mirek Topolanek. Mr Paroubek sent a letter written in archaic Czech to his rival, challenging him to a television "duel" before the elections. It was delivered by an old-fashioned horse and carriage. Mr Topolanek has accepted.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, is refusing to appear before a German parliamentary committee to answer questions about allegations that secret CIA planes stopped over in Prague. MP Max Stadler of Germany's Free Democratic Party called on Mr Svoboda to discuss the matter in Berlin. But he said it was unthinkable for a minister of the sovereign Czech state to be questioned by German deputies. Amnesty International reported last week that over 20 CIA planes had landed in Prague, an allegation denied by both the Czech foreign and defence ministries.
Senator Martin Mejstrik is again pushing for Good Friday to be made a state holiday in the Czech Republic. Currently a bill on the issue also includes the scrapping of the International Women's Day as a day of national significance. But Mr Mejstrik says if that issue is dealt with separately, making Good Friday a holiday would have a greater chance of being passed in the left-dominated Chamber of Deputies.
The second biggest party in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats, is in danger of not winning enough support to remain in the Chamber of Deputies. A poll by the SC&C agency suggests the party would receive only 4 percent of the vote, falling below the necessary 5-percent threshold. The Civic Democrats are expected to come first in general elections in June, followed by the Social Democrats. Polls suggest the Green Party, who have no MPs at the moment, are now supported by around ten percent of the electorate.
Doctors are planning more protest actions against Health Minister David Rath. The minister's radical reforms have met with opposition from a considerable number of doctors, dentists and medical staff who claim that they are undermining the quality of medical care. Rath's opponents say he has failed to consult any of the planned reforms with specialists in the field. A week of protests is being planned for mid-May although it is not yet clear what form they will take.
The government has decided to double the amount of money to be spent on flood prevention between 2007 and 2010. After a week of heavy flooding which showed that many municipalities were ill-prepared to deal with floods the Cabinet on Wednesday voted to spend eight to ten billion crowns on flood prevention measures and approved the setting up of a special flood fund. The government is also considering the possibility of helping people who live in high risk areas to move to safer ground, by buying their property or offering them a state owned plot of land in exchange for their own.
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