Newly-released statistics from Eurostat show that of all the new EU member countries, the Czech Republic received the most direct foreign investment in 2005. Foreign investors brought 8.8 billion euros (nearly 250 billion Czech crowns) to the country last year. The figures also show a steady rise in foreign investment from year-to-year, as the Czech Republic surpassed neighbouring Poland in 2005; Poland has nearly four times as many inhabitants as the Czech Republic.
Reacting to Tuesday's arrest of three men suspected of corruption and
illegally siphoning monies from European Structural Funds projects, the
Minister for Regional Development, Petr Gandalovic, has temporarily
suspended all projects that fall under the category of the Joint
Regional Operation Program (SROP). The announcement came Wednesday
afternoon, and Mr. Gandalovic told reporters that the ministry wants to
conduct an audit on all projects which started in December 2004 or
later, and that this should happen as quickly as possible.
On Tuesday the unit investigating organized crime in the Czech Republic arrested Zdenek Dolezel, Ladislav Peta and Miloslav Rehulka on suspicion of illegal practices concerning EU Structural Funds. The Social Democratic ex-minister for regional development, Radek Martinek, told the press that there are additional cases of suspected fraud. The Social Democratic leadership has distanced itself from the affair, saying it's a question of individuals failing, and has no reflection on the party.
The complete collection of songs from Jaromir Nohavica's new CD, Prazska palena, have surfaced as part of the Communist Party's promotional CD in the north Moravian district of Ostrava-south. The popular folk singer did not give permission for his music to be part of the Communist Party's senate and regional election campaign, and is upset by the development. In a statement for the media, Mr. Nohavica said that "the communists always nationalized property and stole. But it surprised me that they are handing out songs that were written against their policies." Ten thousand CDs have been produced as part of the Communist Party's campaign. A representative from the Ostrava Communists says that his party did not know about the content of the promotional material, which was the responsibility of an agency, and therefore the party need not apologize to Mr. Nohavica.
The minority cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, which failed to win a vote of confidence in the lower house last week, has made additional last-minute personnel changes before submitting its resignation on Wednesday. The outgoing government has replaced five members of the executive committee at Czech Railways. The changes were proposed by the Minister of Transport, Ales Rebicek.
The trial of two German nationals, Johan Reinhold Weise (60) and Kurt Schmitz (48), both accused of sexually abusing underage children, is underway in the west Bohemian city of Plzen. The two men are accused of acts of pedophilia, which allegedly took place during the past two years in the Klatovsko region of west Bohemia. Lawyers for the prosecution say that the accused chose children from socially disadvantaged families, paid the children money in exchange for sexual favours, and that the youngest victim was a seven year-old boy. The common scene of the crimes is said to have been Mr. Weise's mobile home trailer, which was often parked in the small village of Radkovice. An investigation by Czech and German police led to the men's arrest in June 2006. The accused admit to sexual activity, but say that it was initiated by the children. If found guilty, Weise and Schmitz face up to eight years in jail; a verdict in the case is expect this week.
The Civic Democratic minority cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek
has submitted its resignation to President Vaclav Klaus. Mr. Topolanek met
with Mr. Klaus at Prague Castle on Wednesday afternoon at 13:30, after the
cabinet's morning session where the expected step was approved. The
minority Civic Democratic cabinet failed to win a vote of confidence in
the lower house last week, triggering the fall of the first attempt at a
government in the Czech Republic since the June elections. President Klaus
has requested that the outgoing government remain in place until after the
October 21st local and senate elections.
During Wednesday afternoon's meeting at Prague Castle, Mr. Klaus said that four governments have resigned during his three-an-a-half years in office—only one as a result of an election—and that this high number of politically-inspired resignations says something about the situation in the Czech Republic.
On Thursday, President Klaus plans to begin meetings concerning the formation of a new government. Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek says that he should be entrusted with the second attempt at forming a government. It remains unclear who President Klaus will choose to entrust with the task.
The Dalai Lama has called for more effective communication between the world's religious leaders as a means of preventing conflicts. Speaking at Forum 2,000 in Prague, the Tibetan spiritual leader said that religion made people better human beings but it was also at the heart of much suffering, bloodshed and conflict and that a clash of civilizations could be prevented by greater mutual respect and open dialogue. The role of religion in the present day was one of the main topics of the Forum 2,000 conference, a gathering of former politicians and cultural leaders in Prague.
Some twenty young Georgians living in Prague gathered outside the Russian embassy on Tuesday to protest against violation of human rights in Russia and Moscow's support for the separatist Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The demonstrators said that Russia's military support for the separatist regions could lead to a civil war that would claim thousands of lives. Relations between Russia and Georgia started to deteriorate three years ago when a new leadership adopted a pro-Western policy and strove to weaken Moscow's influence on Georgian affairs.
According to a poll conducted by the Median agency, the Civic Democratic Party would win the country's general elections if they were held today. The poll indicates that the strongest right wing party would gain 39.1 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats would come second with 29.4 percent, while the Communists would finish third with 13 percent. The only other parties which would cross the 5 percent margin needed to win seats in parliament would be the Greens and Christian Democrats with 7.8 and 6.1 percent respectively.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have issued a joint statement criticizing the possible postponement of their entry to the Schengen border-free zone. The statement says that a year long postponement of their admission to the Schengen region would incur considerable expenses in maintaining border security and would threaten the credibility of EU institutions in the newcomer states. The four central European leaders met in the Hungarian town of Visegrad on Tuesday to celebrate 15 years of regional cooperation within the Visegrad Four Group but political instability and upheavals in all four countries have thrown a damper on celebrations by the four leaders whose countries joined the EU in 2004 and who have been pooling their strength since in order to bolster their position as newcomers in the alliance.