The lower house of Parliament has postponed until June a debate on a controversial bill on church restitutions. The bill came under fire from opposition Social Democrats who said they were ready to file a constitutional complaint against it if it was approved in its present form. Under the bill, the state would return some of the church property confiscated by the communist regime and compensate religious orders for the rest. The compensation money would be paid out over a period of 60 years and would amount to 270 billion crowns. The opposition, and even some coalition deputies say this sum is outrageous and are demanding to know how government and church representatives had arrived at that figure.
Czech pole vaulter Pavla Hamackova-Rybova, the 2001 world indoor champion, has pulled out of the Beijing Olympics because she is pregnant. The Czech athlete won bronze at the world championships in 2005. She qualified for Beijing in February with a jump of 4.53m at a meet in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is on a one-day visit to Estonia where he is holding a series of meetings with senior government officials. The two sides are discussing trade relations, missile-defense issues and visa-free travel to the United States. Both countries recently signed memoranda in Washington opening the way for visa-free travel to the US for their citizens. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said he would welcome the siting of a US radar base in the Czech Republic saying it would improve security on the whole European continent.
Education Minister Ondřej Liška’s promise of a 5-percent pay-rise for teachers this year has failed to avert the threat of a strike in the education sector. Minister Liška announced the increase on Monday, saying that teachers would get an extra 0.5 billion crowns from the 2008 state budget and another four billion crowns next year. Teachers who have been threatening strike action for months are demanding a bigger increase on the basis of rising inflation. They claim that with inflation of 7.5 percent in the first quarter their real incomes have dropped significantly. The minister says he wants to engage in further negotiations with teachers’ trade unions.
Doctors have reported a fourth case of meningitis in South Bohemia since the start of the year. The latest case is reported to be a seven year old girl who is in critical condition. A fifteen year old boy died of the infection earlier this year. Early signs of meningitis are similar to flu symptoms and doctors have warned parents not to underestimate their children’s health complaints and get them checked up by doctor since a delay in treating meningitis can result in death.
British mobile phone giant Vodafone announced on Tuesday that it will distribute Apple's iPhone in 10 new countries including the Czech Republic. The phones, which are to appear on the market later this year, will be compatible with the Vodafone network. The company did not specify what iPhone model would be made available or at what price. Launched one year ago, officially the iPhone is only available in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and Austria.
The Supreme Court of Ireland on Tuesday upheld a 2007 verdict saying Czech Tomáš Půta and Slovak Maroš Šulej, alleged members of the infamous Berdych crime ring, may be extradited to the Czech Republic. Půta and Šulej were detained in Ireland on an Interpol arrest warrant in August 2006. They have been in Irish custody since then. Last year, a lower-level Irish court decided there were no obstacles to their extradition to the Czech Republic, but both men appealed the verdict. Půta and Šulej, a former member of a Slovak riot police unit, have been prosecuted in the largest organised crime case in the Czech Republic in which elite policemen were involved. The Berdych gang is suspected of murders, robberies and extortion of rich entrepreneurs.
A nation-wide search is on for a missing nine-year-old boy from the town of Havlíčkův Brod in South Moravia. Jakub Šimánek went missing on Sunday afternoon and the police have been unable to find any trace of him. Hundreds of officers have been combing the park where he was last seen playing as well as nearby woods and the banks of Sázava River. The police has appealed to the public for help.
The Unites States is considering hiring a private security agency to protect the planned US radar base on Czech soil, according to Tuesday’s edition of Pravo. The paper cites well informed sources who are engaged in Czech-American talks which should specify the conditions under which some 250 US soldiers would operate the radar base on Czech territory. Czech Deputy Defense Minister Martin Barták said previously that the Czechs would be responsible for the outer security of the base which would be protected by the country’s military police. The bilateral agreement also stipulates that in emergency situations – such as a fire – Czechs would have immediate access to the base. However such emergency crews would need to have security vetting.
Prague and Washington have concluded talks on the main agreement under which the Czech Republic would host a US radar base and the two sides are now finalizing the details of the so-called SOFA agreement stipulating the conditions under which around 250 US soldiers would operate in the country. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Rood confirmed on Monday that the date on which the two agreements would be signed had not yet been determined. There is speculation that the signing ceremony will take place sometime in early June. In any case both agreements will still have to be approved by the Czech Parliament.
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