The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized a decision by the European Commission to postpone by one year the expansion of its border free Schengen zone to the Czech Republic and nine other EU newcomers who joined the alliance in 2004. In a statement published on Tuesday the Foreign Ministry says that the Czech Republic is thus being denied one of the fundamental EU rights - the right to freedom of movement. The European Commission said on Monday that due to technical and legal problems in building a new police database it would be impossible to meet the original expansion date - October 2007.
Czech defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, last season's top scoring defender for Stanley Cup champion Carolina, will be sidelined for at least four months after undergoing shoulder surgery. The National Hockey League club announced Monday that Kaberle will not return until January at the earliest. Kaberle, 32, scored six goals and a career-best 38 assists in 77 games and was crucial to the Hurricanes' title run, scoring four goals and adding nine assists in 25 playoff games.
Cigarette prices should rise less steeply than previously expected, after the new finance minister ordered a proposed sales tax increase to be reviewed. According to the original budget proposal cigarette prices were to go up by 12 to 15 crowns a pack. If the new government does not raise the sales tax more than the EU requires, the price will only go up by 8 to 12 crowns a pack. Finance Minister Tlusty has said that the tax rate should correspond to the lowest level set by the EU.
The Constitutional Court has invalidated the dismissal of Iva Brozova as head of the Supreme Court by President Vaclav Klaus in February of this year. The Court ruled that the dismissal was in violation of the Constitution and was not properly justified. President Klaus dismissed Ms Brozova at the request of then- justice minister Pavel Nemec who said the Supreme Court needed stronger and more authoritative leadership. President Klaus who was not present at the hearing, said the court's ruling was wrong and set a dangerous precedent.
Prague Zoo has announced that it expects the birth of another baby gorilla early next year. It will be the second gorilla born in captivity in the Czech Republic. The first arrived in 2004 shortly after the gorillas were moved to a spacious new enclosure. The mother to be is thirty-four-year old Kamba, one of the last remaining gorillas in captivity who was born in the wild. She spent most of her life at a zoo in Leipzig and has never bred in captivity.
The opposition Social Democratic Party has said it is ready to discuss a state budget for 2007 which would respect its policy priorities and whose deficit would not exceed 4 percent of GDP. Due to time pressure the minority Civic Democrat government has decided to amend a state budget proposal put forward by the outgoing Social Democrat Cabinet, rather than present its own. The new finance minister, Vlastimil Tlusty, said that next year's budget deficit should be set at somewhere between 101 and 127.6 billion crowns (up to 5.6 billion US dollars).
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has called for more factual debates and fewer personal attacks in Czech politics. Speaking on Czech public television Mr. Havel said that especially as regards foreign policy issues the governing party and the opposition should put aside their resentments and stick to the facts. The three months of political deadlock which followed the June general elections strained relations between all parliamentary parties, in particular between the Civic and Social Democrats.
Plans to expand the Schengen zone to include the Czech Republic and the other nine states which joined the EU two years ago will definitely not be fulfilled in 2007. A spokesman for the European Commission confirmed the news in Brussels on Monday, saying that technical difficulties with establishing a central database are to blame for the delay. The Schengen Information System II will store biometric data, including digital files and finger prints, but the database is experiencing difficulties that will stall its implementation. EU foreign ministers are due to discuss the issue at their October meeting. The EU Commission expects that borders should be opened to the newest members in October 2008 or later - not October 2007 as originally planned.
Anti-corruption police have proposed that a state attorney bring charges against persons prosecuted for embezzling millions of crowns from European Union subsidies, Czech state attorney Boris Havel, head of the department for the protection of EU interests, told CTK today. Ten people, including former civil servants, are being prosecuted on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. The accused former civil servants are suspected of siphoning money from the Foundation for the Development of Regions, established in 1994 to help business development in the Czech Republic. The investigation is being monitored by the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF. The suspects face between five and 12 years in prison if found guilty.
A Czech woman wanted for the abduction of her three children from Canada has been arrested by the Ukrainian branch of Interpol, Pravo reported on Monday. Romana Dittrichova, 38, disappeared with the children shortly before a court in Canada awarded custody to their Czech father Emil Dittrich. She was tracked down by Prague-based private investigators who informed Interpol of her whereabouts in Ukraine.
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