The leaders of the governing coalition are to meet on Monday for some last-minute fine-tuning of the government-proposed reform package. The fiscal reforms aim to reduce the deficit in public finances to below three percent of GDP and have been rejected outright by the opposition for being "too radical". Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has linked his cabinet's future to the reform package and is determined to push it through. However given the ruling coalition's slim majority in the lower house, it is essential for the three governing parties to iron out their differences on the proposal and support it as one man. Parliament is to open debate on the proposed reforms next Tuesday.
The key witness in the corruption investigation involving the deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek, his former secretary Marcela Urbanova, is to be charged with giving false testimony. Petr Coufal, the head of an inspection team from the Brno State Attorney's Office who reviewed the case said on Czech Television on Sunday that he was convinced that Urbanova had lied in order to damage the deputy prime minister. Jihlava state attorney Arif Salichov halted the case last week on the grounds of lack of evidence and dubious witnesses. Coufal said that he was convinced that Salichov had made the right decision, adding that if Urbanova was telling the truth then fifteen other witnesses, one of them an Evangelical priest, were lying. The Jihlava state attorney himself allegedly received a death threat, warning him not to halt the investigation.
Radek Stepanek lost his Montreal Masters semi-final to Roger Federer on Saturday and then revealed he was also a loser in love as his engagement to Martina Hingis hit the rocks. The Czech, who was beaten 7-6 8-6, 6-2 by Federer, had become engaged to the former women's world number one at the end of last year, but an ATP spokesman said that two were no longer an item. "Radek asked me to pass on a message announcing that he and Martina Hingis have split up, they will remain good friends, and that is all I have to say," said the spokesman.
A team of American experts are expected to arrive in the Czech Republic on Monday to examine the conditions for stationing a possible US radar base close to the village of Misov, some 90 kilometres southwest of Prague, which has been selected as the most suitable location. Municipalities near the Brdy military area, where the radar base is to be located, are against the plan, fearing the radar could adversely affect the environment or the health of local residents. They have repeatedly rejected the base in locally- held referenda.
Over 200 young people protested in the streets of Jablonec nad Nisou on Saturday accusing the police of having stood by idly while their friend drowned. The incident took place late at night when a group of secondary school students were returning from a night out. One of them jumped into the local dam on a dare and tried to swim across. When his friends saw that he was in trouble they called the police hot line and despite the fact that a police car was on the spot in five minutes the officers allegedly made no attempt to dive in and try to find him. The police claim that it was pitch dark when they arrived and they couldn't see anyone on the waters surface. The boy's friends say they should have dived in anyway and tried to save him. The incident is being investigated.
Czech cathode tubes maker Multidisplay will sack about 570 staff because of a switch to LCD production, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes said in a regional supplement on Saturday. Almost 1,000 Multidisplay staff are now at home on 70 percent of their wages due to a shutdown at the company. Michal Langos, head of the employment office in Prerov, northern Moravia said the dismissals would have no major impact on unemployment in the region. "Unemployment in our region has fallen below 9 percent and demand for workforce is high," he said. CTP Invest, which bought Multidisplay for EUR40 million in February, expects most of the sacked staff to find jobs in the local industrial park.
The Communist Party says it may join the Social Democrats in filing a complaint with the Constitutional Court regarding the government proposed reforms should they make it through Parliament. Deputy party leader Jiri Dolejs has criticized the plan to introduce fees for medical services saying it violates that article of the Constitution which guarantees free medical care on the basis of insurance. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek has promised to strike down what he called "bad fiscal reforms" as soon as his party returned to power. He said that the centre right government's reform plan would lower the living standard of 90 percent of Czechs.
The highly controversial corruption investigation, involving the deputy prime minister has resulted in a war of words between two groups of state attorneys. The Prerov office which originally dealt with the case has filed a complaint against the Jihlava office, to which the case was later transferred on the order of the chief state attorney. The dispute erupted when Jihlava State Attorney Arif Salichov accused his Prerov colleagues of having conducted a biased investigation aimed at finding the deputy prime minister guilty at any cost. Six attorneys at the Prerov office subsequently left the Czech Association of State Attorneys angered that the union had not spoken out in their defense. The Brno State Attorney's Office which is to deal with the complaint said it would asses the matter by the end of August.
The weekend techno party near Havirov is reported to have passed without incident. Around 800 young people took part in the weekend event and police were on standby in the event of trouble. The party took place on private property and aside from isolated complaints about noise pollution there appear to have been no problems. Police say the organizers are now cleaning up the site.
Cabinet minister Cyril Svoboda, who heads the government's legislative council, has proposed that all Catholics in the country should send one percent of their monthly income to the Czech Catholic Church which would help it to become independent from the state. The minister outlined the proposal in an interview for Saturday's edition of Mlada Fronta Dnes. It comes in reaction to drawn-out disputes about the restitution of church property that was confiscated by the Communists after 1948. Several church-restitution bills have been debated in Parliament since the early 1990's but none was approved. The restitution of church property and the role of the Church in the Czech Republic remains a sensitive issue.
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