The Senate has approved the participation of ten Czech officers in NATO's rapid reaction force from July of this year to January 15th of 2007. Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl said the Czech Republic had opted to participate symbolically in the upcoming period since it would have a leading role in the 8th rotation of the rapid reaction forces in the first half of 2007, contributing 400 troops. The ten officers will most likely remain in the Czech Republic during their mission.
The Czech Green Party says in its election programme that at some point in the future it would like to see NATO replaced by a new European defence system. This new system should be made up not only of combat units but also include police units, firemen and emergency forces in order to meet the needs of the present day, predominantly the threat of terrorism. The response to the idea on the Czech political scene has been generally negative. The opposition Civic Democrats dismissed it as utterly naïve, while the ruling Social Democrats pointed out that Europe already had a well functioning defence system.
Former health minister Marie Souckova who appeared before a Prague court on Thursday on charges of breach of trust and abuse of power has pleaded not guilty. The former minister is alleged to have signed a highly disadvantageous contract for the services of a lawyer which cost Czech taxpayers millions of crowns. Mrs. Souckova challenged the authenticity of the document, telling the court it was forged. Marie Souckova is the second former cabinet minister to face trial. Ivo Svoboda, a former finance minister, is now serving a five year sentence for embezzling funds from a private company.
The IMF in its World Economic Outlook has forecast that economic growth in the Czech Republic will be the 2nd fastest among Central European countries this year - projected at 5.5 percent. Only Slovakia's growth is expected to accelerate faster. The IMF release indicates that GDP growth in "emerging Europe" has been underpinned by factors including generally strong domestic demand and solid export growth. The Czech economy - in particular - has benefited from exports fueled by sizeable investment by foreign companies.
Czech Railways has decided to press for criminal proceedings to be launched over the purchase of high speed Pendolino trains from the Italian company Alstom. The trains for which Czech railways paid 200 million US dollars have suffered repeated breakdowns and it has come to light that some of the spare parts purchased in the late 1990s can never be used. The railway's bosses want the police to probe the criminal responsibility of the individuals who signed the respective contracts. The formal demand for criminal proceedings to commence will be made on Friday.
A Czech information centre was opened in Prague's Rytirska street on Thursday. It is part of a network of non-profit, non-political centres located around the world whose aim is to actively promote the Czech Republic abroad. The Prague centre should function as a home-base, providing information about Czech-related events abroad and strengthening cooperation and an exchange of ideas within the network.
The Senate has approved a bill which should triple the fine for abusing or deliberately damaging the state symbols of the Czech Republic. The fine for such an act could be 10,000 crowns. The bill, which has yet to be signed by the president, would also enable the authorities to fine institutions which fail to hoist the state flag on state holidays.
The police have charged six people, including a German citizen, over illegal imports of German waste to the Czech Republic. They are believed to be behind the illegal waste dumps which have appeared in several north Bohemian villages. Some of the dumps were repeatedly set on fire in order to get rid of the evidence. The problem has strained Czech German relations in recent months and been addressed at the highest level. Since the beginning of the year, an estimated 20 thousand tons of German waste has been dumped in the Czech border areas.
The Czech Republic will need to invest an estimated 40 to 50 billion crowns into flood prevention in the coming years, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said at a press conference in Prague on Thursday. The money is expected to come mainly from state coffers, possibly also from the European Investment Bank. The prime minister said that experts would need to consider the most efficient means of protection, such as the construction of small dams which would not only hold back floods but provide water during periods of drought. The government has earmarked 5 billion crowns to cover the cost of damages caused by this year's floods.
The police are searching for a missing Czech truck driver who disappeared somewhere in Spain last week en route to delivering car parts to a company in Portugal. The forty one year old truck driver last contacted his company on April 16th from Spain. He was to delver the goods on the 18th but failed to turn up. The car parts he was transporting were worth several million crowns.