The 10 newest members of the European Union stand to receive a huge cash injection from non-member Switzerland this weekend if Swiss voters approve controversial government plans for a one billion Swiss franc (630 million euro) grant. About half of the 10-year development package would go to Poland, ahead of Hungary and the Czech Republic, but the plan is opposed by right-wing isolationists in Switzerland who sought the referendum. The grant would be spent on chosen projects, ranging from fighting corruption, health care, cleaning up the environment, to promoting private enterprise including investment in small and medium sized companies.
Police in the city of Brno say they caught Civic Democrat MP David Seich drunk driving on Wednesday but Mr Seich has dismissed the accusation. The police stopped Mr Seich's car that was driving along an opposition direction stripe. A breathalyser test showed he had been drinking alcohol. David Seich, 30, faces proceedings before a commission for misdemeanours or before the lower house mandate and immunity committee. If an ordinary citizen had a similar incident, they would face a fine up to 50,000 crowns and could be stripped of their driving licence for up to two years.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has urged the Czech Republic to take a more resolute approach to cross-border corruption. A report the OECD released in Paris says that if it wants to meet the OECD requirements in this area, the Czech Republic has to immediately introduce legal entities' liability for corruption abroad and apply effective, adequate and deterring sanctions for it. The report has been completed by a working group that examined how the Czech Republic fulfils the OECD convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions.
The Civic Democrats are to start talks with the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Green Party on forming a four-party coalition government with a mandate until early elections in May or June 2008. Prime Minister designate Mirek Topolanek announced the plan after a meeting with representatives of the Greens on Thursday. Mr Topolanek said he was going to inform President Vaclav Klaus on Monday about the outcome of the talks. Next week will be devoted to negotiations about the government's programme. PM Topolanek also said a four-party cabinet is unlikely to be able to push through thorough reforms and that is why, he said, early elections should be held in eighteen months time.
Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra received a special "ambassador"
on Thursday - a barrel of beer. The barrel, delivered by a horse-drawn
carriage from the country's brewing capital, Pilsen, was given the red
carpet treatment at the foreign ministry. Signed by Czech President,
Vaclav Klaus, sporting personalities and citizens from the West Czech
city, the "ambassador at large" will be dispatched on a special mission
to Brussels next Tuesday to help the Czech Republic fight an EU
proposal to increase excise taxes on beer.
EU finance ministers are due to debate the issue with the Finnish EU Presidency trying to win backing for a compromise proposal that can be swallowed by Europe's traditional beer drinking giants, such as the Czech Republic and Germany.
The Christian Democrats have said they are prepared to join a cabinet of four non-communist parties which would lead the country to early elections in 2008. The Green Party, the fourth partner in the project, have also approved the plan. The coalition would have 174 votes in the 200-member lower house. The Communists would be the only opposition party.
The Prague High Court has sentenced David Lubina, found guilty of the murder of a TV technician, to 25 years in prison. A lower instance court sentenced Mr Lubina to 23 years in jail earlier this year but the state prosecutor demanded a tougher sentence. In September 2005, David Lubina shot dead TV Nova editor Michal Velisek in Prague after Mr Velisek tried to defend a woman that David Lubina was threatening.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has launched a new round of talks on forming a government that would end a five-month parliamentary stalemate and move the country towards early elections. After appointed PM for a second time, Mr Topolanek, chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, is now looking to form a broad coalition with his party's rivals the Social Democrats, the centrist Christian Democrats, and possibly the Green Party. The Social Democrats, who have lost ground in opinion polls, do not want elections until 2008 at the earliest. The Greens, on the other hand, support a spring 2007 vote.
The Czech Republic plans to send a barrel of beer to Brussels as an "extraordinary ambassador" to show its opposition to a proposed rise in EU alcohol taxes. The Czech Republic, the world's biggest beer-drinking nation per capita, is opposed to a 31 percent rise in the minimum EU duty on beer and spirits proposed last month by the European Commission. The rise, which needs the unanimous approval of the EU's 25 member states, would add one euro cent to the price of a half litre of beer. According to Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty, who will head to Brussels alongside the barrel for a meeting of EU finance ministers, the Czech Republic is prepared to veto the proposed tax rise.
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