The Green Party Minister for the Environment Martin Bursik has announced that a new environmental tax reform should be in place by January 2008, which would see an increase of around ten percent in coal prices. The January deadline for the reform has been set by the European Union, which hopes to gradually introduce a series of environmental taxes over the next decade aimed at encouraging companies and individuals to be more eco-friendly. Mr Bursik added that the introduction of this tax would only have a slight impact on the price of gas and electricity. New laws will have to be adopted this year in order for the reform to be implemented on time.
Six Vietnamese traders have been arrested and illegal goods worth thirty million Czech crowns (roughly 1.4 million US dollars) have been seized by police at a market in the border town of Stráný in South Bohemia. The goods seized consisted of counterfeit CDs, DVDs and clothing. Sixty customs police took part in the operation along with representatives of the Czech and German Anti-Piracy Union.
Czech Social Democrat chairman and former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has accused the party's ex-leader Milos Zeman of being "at least ideologically responsible" for the fact that two Social Democrat deputies had not opposed the centre-right government of Mirek Topolanek in a recent confidence vote. In January, Social Democrat MPs Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka defied the party whip by not participating in a vote of confidence in the Civic-Democrat-led coalition, which enabled it to remain in power. Mr Paroubek told the Pravo daily on Saturday that people close to Mr Zeman were behind their defection. Mr Zeman, for his part described the Social Democrat leadership in Lidove noviny as being "very unprofessional" for kicking the rebel MPs out of the party and for calling them "traitors" who had accepted bribes to support the government. Mr Zeman also criticised Mr Paroubek and other party leaders for being more interested in power and lucrative posts than a coherent programme for government. This latest spat is being seen as a sign of how relations have soured between the former political allies in recent months.
Deputy prime minister and Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek said on Czech TV today that his lawyer was going to file a complaint with police regarding bribery charges that have been made against him. Speaking on a political discussion show, Mr Cunek - who is accused of taking a bribe from a real estate developer when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago - claimed that police had ignored documents he gave them, which proved his innocence. Mr Cunek also said he would not even consider resigning until the state prosecutor's office decided whether or not to proceed with the case. He also refused to answer questions on how he came to have savings of two and a half million crowns (115,000 USD), simply saying that it was his money and he would prove this in due course. Meanwhile, in a separate development, Petr Hurta, the head of the real estate company at the centre of the bribery allegations was arrested in connection with the case on Saturday.
Officials in the Moravian town of Prerov have halted demolition work on a historical building in the city. A local building firm had begun work on demolishing the building on Saturday despite protests from architectural experts and the Ministry of Culture. The early twentieth-century Travnik building had been removed from the list of cultural monuments by the Ministry of Culture six months ago. Following an appeal, it officially reversed this decision on Friday, but the owner of the building firm has not yet officially received word of the new ruling and so is legally entitled to carry on with the demolition. The building was quickly cleared on Friday and demolition work began early on Saturday morning. Town officials eventually managed to suspend the work after finding violations of the demolition permit. Most of the roof of the building had been demolished by the time wrecking work was halted.
A new survey has indicated that almost three quarters of the Czech population don't think that today's political representatives are any more respectable or honest than communist functionaries were before the Velvet Revolution. The survey was conducted by the STEM research agency and it found that 72 percent of respondents didn't think current politicians were any more honest or respectable than their counterparts were in the communist era. A majority of 56 percent, however, were convinced that contemporary politicians had a higher level of expertise and were more capable than their communist predecessors. A large majority of 83 percent didn't think Czech politicians paid enough attention to people's opinions.
Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg has dismissed Russian President
Vladimír Putin's criticism of American plans to build a missile defence
system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking at an international
security summit in Munich, Mr Putin had said that the United State's
defence plans were unnecessary and would only precipitate a new arms race
and breed insecurity. Mr Schwarzenberg ironically thanked the Russian
president for his remarks, saying they helped publicise the conference. He
described Mr Putin's speech as harsh and said that the Russian president
was now adopting a position similar to that of the former Soviet Union.
The foreign minister added that Mr Putin's remarks only served to
underline the need for NATO to continue expanding.
If the American missile defence plans are approved by the Czech parliament, it will see the construction of a radar base in the Brdy region south of Prague as part of a new missile defence system in Europe.
Czech tennis player Lucie Safarova has lost to Nadia Petrova in the final of the Paris Open. The unseeded twenty-year-old, who reached the quarter finals of last month's Australian Open, lost to the Russian fourth seed in three sets - 6:4, 1:6, 6:4. Safarova's run to the final sees her rise to 26 in the world rankings, her highest-ever placing. Meanwhile the Czech Davis Cup team will have to go through a play-off to see if they remain in the World Group after losing their first-round Davis Cup match 3:1 to the United States
A boat on the Vltava River in Prague - which has been refurbished to act as shelter for the city's homeless - had to be evacuated on Saturday night after it received an anonymous phone call saying there was a bomb on board. 120 people staying at the facility had to spend a large part of the night on the street while police conducted a search. No explosive devices were found. Police now believe the call was probably placed from a nearby phone booth by a disgruntled homeless man who had been refused accommodation on the boat because he was drunk. The forty-four-year-old cargo boat, which is called the Hermes, was refurbished by city authorities and opened as a homeless shelter with 250 beds at the start of this month.
The Social Democrat's central executive committee has also confirmed that it is against the building of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. The shadow minister for foreign affairs Lubomir Zaoralek told the press that the party would only change its position on the base if the base were to become part of a NATO defence system. He also said that the Social Democrats would be pushing for a national referendum on the issue.