A Czech government delegation is to leave for Seoul, South Korea, on May 15th to sign a one billion euro contract with the South Korean car maker Hyundai which is to build a car plant in the Czech Republic. Hyundai Motor officials confirmed earlier this week that the project would go ahead despite the fact that the company's chairman is embroiled in an embezzlement scandal. A ceremony to mark the beginning of construction at the Nosovice plant, in the northeast of the Czech Republic, has been postponed indefinitely.
The European arrest warrant continues to be valid in the Czech Republic after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected a proposal by opposition Civic Democrats to abolish related provisions in the penal code. They claimed that the European arrest warrant contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and "interferes with the foundations of the law-abiding state". The arrest warrant makes it possible to extradite Czech citizens abroad for criminal prosecution which, the court said, is not anti-constitutional. Judge Frantisek Duchon said that Czech citizens had to "accept a certain portion of responsibility" while benefiting from EU membership.
The European Union has criticised the Czech Republic in a recent report for sending Roma children to special schools for those with learning difficulties. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said that the Czech along with the Slovak and Hungarian governments must do more for the children's integration and for ensuring equal access to education. The report calls on countries to include more information on Romany culture and history in text books. Some 250,000 Roma live in the Czech Republic according to unofficial data but out of 25,000 Romany juveniles only 6 percent are said to study at secondary schools.
The police officer who allegedly beat up a government human rights official on Monday has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. Katerina Jacques, a senior official from the government's human rights section, and Green party politician, was demonstrating against a neo-Nazi gathering in Prague. She says she was thrown to the ground, kicked and beaten with a truncheon before being handcuffed and taken away for questioning. The Prime Minister has sharply criticized the police action, saying such behaviour was inexcusable and the officer responsible should be sacked. Both the interior minister Frantisek Bublan and the police president Vladislav Husak have said they consider the use of force against Jacques inappropriate and have promised a thorough investigation.
Customs officials in the Most region of North West Bohemia have uncovered a stock of illegally produced alcoholic spirits during an inspection of three locations around the area. A production line of around 8,500 litres of barrelled spirits and over 11,500 unlicensed bottles of liquor worth around 3 million crowns (more than 130,000 dollars) were discovered, a Customs Department spokesman revealed. Two suspects were also detained during the operation, and, if convicted, could face up to 12 years in prison. An investigation is now underway.
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised negative campaigning ahead of the June parliamentary elections. He said that what was happening had never been the case in the past, that it is dishonest and could mislead voters. His comments came in response to a student's query regarding the billboard posters of the ruling Social Democrats which parody the opposition Civic Democrats slogan "ODS plus" with one which reads "ODS minus", as he visited a Prague secondary school on Wednesday. President Klaus said that a negative campaign is outrageous and questioned why it is not punishable. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have also reacted to the approach, calling it "deplorable".
The South Korean car maker Hyundai has announced that the one billion euro contract under which it will build a major auto plant in the Czech Republic will be signed in mid-May in Seoul. At the same time Hyundai Motor has postponed "indefinitely" a ground breaking ceremony for the plant at Nosovice, in the northeast of the Czech Republic. Confirmation of the deal seemed uncertain when Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong Koo was arrested on embezzlement charges last week. Czech top officials have expressed readiness to go to South Korea for the signing ceremony.
Health minister David Rath has moved to end forced administration at VZP, the country's largest state owned health insurance company. The decision coincides with the appointment of Pavel Horak to the post of general director. Minister Rath, who imposed forced administration on VZP last November said the situation had stabilized and the company's debt had shrunk from 12 billion to seven billion crowns. The minister's critics counter that it was not forced administration which reduced the debt but a generous financial injection from the government.
A public opinion survey just out indicates that more than half of Czechs would like to see Vaclav Klaus re-elected president in 2008. 57 percent of respondents said Mr. Klaus represented the country well and should serve a second 5 year term in office. The survey also revealed that 73 percent of people across the political spectrum would like the president to be elected in a direct vote.
The Czech Veterinary Office has called off special measures aimed at preventing the spread of bird flu in two of the five areas where infected birds were found. They include a ban on outdoor breeding and a ban on the transport of live birds and poultry products. The last infected bird was found on Czech territory three weeks ago and if no further cases appear the measures will gradually be modified and lifted in all affected areas of southern Bohemia. Altogether twelve birds were found to be infected with the lethal H5N1 virus, all of them in southern Bohemia.
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