A pastoral letter aimed at helping Catholics decide who to vote for in the coming elections is to be read at Roman Catholic churches around the country this Sunday, newspapers reported. The letter does not mention any particular party by name but seems to favour the Christian Democrats. The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Czech Republic, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, denied the pastoral letter gave concrete instruction on who to vote for. But he said Catholics should not vote for the Communist Party, which persecuted the church when it was in power.
If the United States lifts visa requirements for Polish citizens, Prague will push for the US to do likewise for Czechs, the Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, said on Friday. Under legislation passed by the US Senate this week, visa requirements will be discontinued for any country which is in the European Union, does not pose a threat to US security and has at least 300 soldiers in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Czech Republic meets the first two conditions, but not the third: it currently has 200 troops in those countries. The law still has to go before the US House of Representatives.
A 39-year-old Czech man found on a raft off the coast of Sweden has been escorted back to the Czech Republic. Jiri Kvapil was discovered floating in the North Sea a month ago and subsequently betrayed almost nothing about what he was doing there to the Swedish authorities. A Swedish official said while Mr Kvapil had not requested political asylum or done anything illegal, he was being deported because he had no papers and refused to explain his case.
Around 9,000 civil cases have been in the Czech court system for a period of at least five years, according to new Justice Ministry figures quoted in Mlada fronta Dnes. In the last eight years the number of unresolved cases has risen by about 3,000. For their part judges complain they are too few in number, and say they get bogged down in paperwork. Most cases the Czech state loses at the European Court of Human Rights concern the excessively slow resolution of cases within the Czech court system.
Two new cases of bird flu have been discovered in the Czech Republic. Two dead swans were found near Breclav in south Moravia; at least one of them had the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, said a spokesperson for the state veterinary authority. Previously 12 cases of bird flu were detected in south Bohemia.
A report by the Interior Ministry says that last month the lowest number of people applied for asylum in the Czech Republic since 1999. Asylum applications were filed by 218 foreigners in April, most of them from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, followed by Belarus, Turkey and Russia. Since 1990, more than 82,000 foreigners have applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. Asylum was granted to almost 3,000.
A Czech government delegation has signed an agreement in South Korea with Hyundai Motor on the construction of the company's new car plant in Nosovice in North Moravia. The document was signed by the Czech Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban and the vice-president of Huyndai Motor Kim Dong-jin. Minister Urban said that he is not afraid that the current investigation into the financial scandal in the company could delay the construction. Hyundai is planning to invest some 800 million dollars in the Czech Republic.
Another poll by the STEM agency suggests that Culture Minister Vitezslav Jandak remains the most popular politician in the Czech Republic, with 70 percent of public support. He is followed by three Social Democrat politicians - Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Education Minister Petra Buzkova and PM and party chairman Jiri Paroubek. Prague Mayor and opposition Civic Democrat deputy chairman Pavel Bem came fifth in the poll. President Vaclav Klaus was not included in the poll.
According to a poll carried out by the SC&C agency, around fifty percent of Czechs would support a total ban on smoking in public areas, including restaurants, while 41 percent are against it. The poll suggests that supporters of the ban prevail among women, senior citizens and followers of the Christian Democrat Party, whose deputy Josef Janecek has repeatedly failed to push through the ban in the lower house of the Czech parliament.
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