Czech and US experts have launched a new round of negotiations aimed at paving the way for a US radar to be installed in the Czech Republic. The talks are revolving around the legal status of US military personnel and Czech access to the proposed base. Talks covering the technical aspects of the base last week resulted in agreement on around half the issues being covered. The two sides are pushing ahead with talks in the hope of seeing an agreement signed by the end of the year. The Czech parliament is to make a final decision on the base early next year.
A random check at the Interior Ministry has revealed that two employees in managerial posts cooperated with the former communist secret police. It is not yet clear how they managed to gain clean screening certificates which enabled them to hold such posts. A law, passed in 1991, bans former communist leaders, secret police aides and members of the People's Militia, communist paramilitary units, from high posts in state administration. All applicants aged over 35 are automatically screened upon entry. Nevertheless, on taking office in 2006 Interior Minister Ivan Langer initiated a series of random checks in order to eliminate possible errors and uphold the ministry's reputation.
The Constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that Jaroslav Bures, deputy chairman of the Supreme Court, was to leave his post. Bures was appointed to the post by President Vaclav Klaus, but the appointment was not counter-signed by the Chairwoman of the Supreme Court Iva Brozova, who said she did not consider Bures a suitable candidate. She took the matter to court and won her case against the president.
The head of the Czech Green Party Martin Bursik has criticized President Klaus' intention to make a strong anti-environmentalist speech at the United Nations. Mr. Bursik, who is the country's environment minister, said that the Czech president's intention to re-launch his attacks on environmentalists could seriously jeopardize Czech chances of winning a non-permanent seat on the United Nation's Security Council in 2008 and 2009. He said the Czech president's views on climate change were so singular they could not be taken seriously and shamed the Czech Republic in diplomatic circles. President Klaus said earlier that he would hold his own council on this matter and make an "energetic" speech at the UN-organized conference on climate change which is to take place at the end of September.
A young woman who killed her baby shortly after secretly giving birth has received a ten year prison sentence. An autopsy revealed that the baby boy had been born fully developed and healthy and had been strangled shortly after birth. The woman, who was on drugs at the time, wrapped him up in a blanket and disposed of the body. She told the court the baby had shown no signs of life and she had thought it to be stillborn. A medical expert disproved this saying that the baby had managed to take a few deep breaths and had most likely cried before being strangled.
Around four hundred teachers demonstrated outside the Office of the Government on Wednesday in demand of higher wages. The protesters said the cost cutting measures outlined by the government were excessive and pointed out that the projected wage growth for teachers would not even cover inflation. They warned the cabinet that if next year's budget were approved in its present form they would take to the streets and intensify their protests.
The European Commission has recommended that the Czech Republic's deficit in public finances in 2008 should not exceed three percent of the GDP. If that is met, the European Commission could terminate proceedings with the Czech Republic over its excessive deficit. Finance ministry experts say this is a realistic target. The Czech budget gap is expected to reach 4 percent this year but the government's reform plan recently approved by Parliament should bring next year's deficit down to 2.95 percent of the GDP.
The Czech Republic has discovered its first case of mad cow disease so far this year, the country's State Veterinary Office reported on Wednesday. An 11-year-old cow was found infected with BSE, the 27th case in total for the Czech Republic. Eight infected animals were found in 2005, three more in 2006, while the first case occurred in 2001. "This corresponds to the trend in other European Union countries where the number of diagnosed BSE cases is also on the decline," the office said. Obligatory BSE testing in the Czech Republic is made on the brains of slaughtered animals 30 months old or more.
The Czech government is considering nominating former agriculture minister Milena Vicenova to the post of Czech ambassador to the EU. The current ambassador Jan Kohout is to be replaced by the end of the year, although his official term expires only in May 2008. The government says a new ambassador needs more time to prepare for the Czech EU presidency in 2009. The name of the new ambassador will be announced by next week.