The European Commission launched proceedings against eight members on Thursday for failing to say how many gas emissions permits they would give polluters under the EU's emission trading scheme. The EC said it was sending warning letters to Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain for ignoring an end June deadline to reveal their plans. The plans are supposed to set the total number of emissions allowances governments will give to industrial plants during the 2008-2012 period under the EU's innovative emissions trading scheme. The quotas are the cornerstone of the landmark trading scheme which was launched at the beginning of 2005 to help member states meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
The European Commission has issued a final warning to three countries, including the Czech Republic, over their failure to respect the EU's directive banning tobacco advertisements. The EC is taking Italy to the European Court of Justice in this matter, after the country failed to harmonise its legislation with EU rules. The Czech Republic could be taken to court, too, if it does not explain to the EC why it does not follow the common directives. Apart from the Czechs, a similar problem is faced by Spain and Hungary.
Police have proposed that former head of the prime minister's office Zdenek Dolezel charged with blackmail and corruption and two other persons accused in the same case should be taken into custody, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. A court is to decide within 24 hours whether Zdenek Dolezel, Ladislav Peta and Miloslav Rehulka will be taken into custody. The charges against Mr Dolezel, Mr Peta, mayor of the small south Moravian town of Budisov, and Mr Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, were brought on Wednesday in connection with suspected corruption in the handling of EU structural funds channelled via the Local Development Ministry and blackmail of architect Marek Ricar who reported the planned fraud to the police.
Delta Air Lines of the United States announced on Wednesday it would launch scheduled flights between Prague and its Atlanta, Georgia hub starting on May 2 next year. The airline said it would be the only service between the two cities. Delta expects around 40 percent of travellers arriving in Prague to transit to another destination in Central and Eastern Europe. Delta, the third biggest US carrier, will operate five scheduled flights a week on the new route, it added. The airline is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which also includes Czech state-controlled carrier, Czech Airlines.
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.
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.
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