The U.S. defense secretary deputy assistant for coalition affairs, Debra Cagan, has come to Prague to discuss the participation of Czech soldiers in foreign missions with the Defence Ministry representatives. One of the topics on the agenda is the possibility of the United States donating light armoured vehicles to the Czech Republic. Czech soldiers are now deployed in several foreign missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq and Kosovo. They are also to continue operating in a field hospital in Kabul. A Czech special forces unit from Prostejov, south Moravia, that has already operated in Afghanistan twice, might return to the country at the Untied States' request.
The Czech daily Hospodarske Noviny came out in a special edition on
Thursday, with former Czech president Vaclav Havel assuming the role of its
editor-in-chief. Thursday's edition was published under the motto
Responsibility and Fate and its main theme chosen by Mr Havel is Russia and
its relations towards Central and Eastern Europe. Madeleine Albright, Garry
Kasparov or Timothy Garton Ash are among the people addressed by the guest
editor Vaclav Havel.
Hospodarske Noviny borrowed the idea of using a guest editor from the British daily The Independent, which featured the Irish rock band U2 singer Bono Vox as an editor for a day. Hospodarske Noviny has also invited the current Czech president Vaclav Klaus to be a guest editor in the future.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus has accepted the resignation of Education Minister Dana Kuchtova of the Green Party. The minister has stepped down after being accused of failing to draw sufficient money from European Union funds. Ms Kuchtova said at a press conference on Thursday that the ministry became more open under her management and cited the postponement of state unified school-leaving exams and the secondary school system reform as her biggest successes. The Green Party is entitled to the post of education minister under the coalition agreement but has not yet selected a candidate.
Police have started investigating the switching of two newborn girls at the hospital in Trebic nine months ago. The parents of one of the babies recently began to doubt whether the child was theirs and a DNA test confirmed their suspicion. The other parents have not yet been informed. Four girls were allegedly born at the hospital on the 9th December, so there are three families that may possibly be raising somebody else's child.
The passport and customs controls at the borders between the new and the old EU member states will be abolished on the 21st December, two weeks before the original date, the Portuguese EU presidency announced in Brussels on Thursday. The Shengen area will open to nine new EU states, including Czech Republic and Slovakia. According to the Interior Ministry, the Czech Republic is prepared for the upcoming integration into the Shengen area and doesn't have problems with the earlier date.
The Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has warned the country would be unable to adopt single European currency in 2010 without undertaking far-reaching reforms of the health insurance and pension systems. Mr Kalousek said on Thursday that the country's public deficit is expected to drop this year to 3.6 percent of GDP and it should reach below 3 percent in 2008. The country won't be able to maintain its public deficit under this level without the reforms, which is one of the criteria for euro adoption, the finance minister added.
An award ceremony has taken place on Thursday evening at the Senate to honour five women of Czech origin for their outstanding achievement in art, science, sports, charity work, business, and public life. Among those nominated this year are the Britain-based architect and designer Eva Jiricna and the oldest granddaughter of the late shoe-magnate Jan Antonin Bata, Dolores Bata Arambasic.
The Prague Town Hall has not allowed the neo-Nazi march through Prague's
Jewish quarter which was announced to take place on 17th November, because
the date and the venue has been already booked by the Jewish Liberal Union.
The neo-Nazis would have to choose a different route for their march.
The march was originally scheduled to take place on 10th November. That day marks the anniversary of the Kristallnacht, the Nazi-inspired pogrom on Jews that took place in Germany and Austria in 1938. It has been granted permission by Prague City Hall, whose officials claimed they couldn't ban it as it was officially announced as a protest against the Czech mission in Iraq.
Some members of the Green Party don't want Karel Schwarzenberg to continue
as foreign minister, as "he has not taken a single green step in his
post", according to the Internet server aktualne.cz. They have also
criticised Mr Schwarzenberg's support of the planned U.S. missile defence
radar on Czech territory.
Earlier this week, the heads of five regional branches of the Greens called for talks on whether the party should remain in the coalition government. They criticised the party's leadership for not supporting the Education Minister Dana Kuchtova. They want the conditions under which the Green Party would remain in government to be on the agenda at a forthcoming national conference. The Greens are the smallest party in the coalition, which also features the Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats.
Almost two-thirds of Czechs live in areas where the air quality is poor, according to a report presented to the cabinet by Environment Minister Martin Bursik. The worst affected areas are Prague and the industrial region of Moravia-Silesia. In 2006 levels of dust particles in the air exceeded EU limits for the second year in a row. The report does contain some positive news: the percentage of the country where air quality is poor has fallen; in 2005 it stood at 35 percent, while last year it was down to 29 percent.
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