All applicants for jobs in the Czech Armed Forces will in future have to undergo compulsory screening for drug abuse, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova told journalists on Friday. The decision comes shortly after it emerged that nine professional soldiers at the prestigious Caslav military air base - home to the country's Gripen fighter jets - use drugs. Tests were ordered at the base after the police arrested two soldiers on suspicion of drug-dealing. Minister Parkanova said that in future all soldiers would be subjected to random tests.
The Austrian government has asked lawyers to look into the possibility
of filing an international lawsuit against the Czech Republic over the
Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Chancellor Alfred
Gusenbauer said that the request did not imply that the Austrian
government had firmly decided to take court action. Austria remains
concerned over safety standards at the nuclear plant and anti-nuclear
activists question the Czech Republic's adherence to the so-called Melk
agreement, which binds the Czech Republic to informing its neighbors
about any problems at the plant within a set time limit.
The country's heads of government agreed last week to establish a joint parliamentary commission to monitor safety at Temelin, but Austrian anti-nuclear activists dismissed the talks and have continued to effect border blockades demanding the plant's closure.
Karel Bican, bishop of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, has not been excommunicated despite the sex scandal that surrounds him. The patriarch of the Hussite Church Tomas Butta said that Bican refuses to leave of his own accord and a vote by the Prague diocese had not gone against him. The 55 year old bishop recently admitted that he had demanded sex from a young man just released from prison in return for helping him find accommodation and work.
The Czech Catholic Church has agreed to hand over the administration of St. Vitus Cathedral to Prague Castle. The Catholic Church is thus adhering to the ruling of the Supreme Court according to which the cathedral belongs to the state. This is yet another twist in a thirteen year long legal battle between the Church and state over ownership rights. The Church won the Cathedral back only last June under a ruling by the Prague City Court but has now had to relinquish its right to it. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said the Church would consider taking the legal battle to a European court.
President Klaus is to travel to the United States on Sunday for a three
week visit which is expected to cover a number of outstanding issues in
bilateral relations. His talks with US top officials will focus
primarily on the US plan to build a US missile defense shield in the
Czech Republic and Poland and the lifting of visa requirements for
Czechs traveling to the United States. The Czech Republic has promised
to give Washington an official response within a month on whether the
country would be prepared to host a US radar base on its territory.
Although the final decision will be made by Parliament, the governing coalition is divided over the matter. The Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats support it, but the Green Party objects to the fact that the defense project does not involve the country's NATO allies.
Deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek has said that the Czech Republic may begin drawing from EU funds for the years 2007 - 2013 by this summer. Jiri Cunek said as much on Friday during a meeting in Brussels. In the years 2007 - 13 the Czech Republic will be able to draw from 780 billion crowns - the equivalent of around 36 billion US dollars - with about one fifth going towards transportation infrastructure. On Friday Mr Cunek provided the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hubner, with a national strategic plan for the country's drawing of funds over the next seven years.
A proposal by Czech-born architect Jan Kaplicky has been chosen by an international jury as the winning design for the new national library building to be built on Prague's Letna plain. The news was announced during a special press conference on Friday. Mr Kaplicky, the founder of the London-based studio Future Systems, has designed landmarks such as the space-age Selfridges building in Birmingham. Mr Kaplicky said on Friday that he was surprised by the decision, calling it "perhaps the most important moment of his life". Jan Kaplicky is widely-considered one of the most important architects working today.
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