Leaders of Czech political parties and the heads of both chambers of Parliament agreed on Sunday on a means of holding early general elections. The plan calls for the passage of a constitutional amendment that would allow the Chamber of Deputies to dissolve itself. Experts nominated by the parties are to finalize the details on Monday and agree on a date when the elections can be held. Most parties believe the early elections could be held in early November. The Constitutional Court decided last week to postpone elections due to a complaint from unaffiliated MP Miloš Melčák. He claims the constitutional amendment by which the Chamber of Deputies shortened its term violated his right to execute his mandate for four years.
The State Health Institute has recorded eight cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus since September 4, bringing the number of infections in the country to 277. Most of the cases have occurred in Prague, the eastern region around Ostrava and in the central highlands region. None of those infected have been in serious condition, with most waiting out the illness in home isolation without antiviral treatment.
Customs police near the South Moravian town of Znojmo have confiscated more than 500 sacks of imitation goods and roughly 50 million crowns worth of hazardous fireworks. Over 100 police are currently involved in the raid, which is still underway and focuses on three marketplaces on the Czech/Austrian border. A fire caused by illegal fireworks at one of the marketplaces in 2006 left 150 million crowns in damages and most of the marketplace burnt to the ground. A June raid on the same marketplaces also uncovered 27 million crowns in imitation goods.
The Romani civic association Sdružení has endorsed the re-election of Chomutov mayor Ivana Řápková. The association’s chairman, František Kolář, said that as a Romani himself and someone who has been dealing with Romani issues his whole life, he identifies completely with the mayor’s objectives. Ms Řápková, a member of the Civic Democratic Party, sparked a high-profile row with Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb earlier this year after implementing a controversial system of debt reclamation, sending collectors after defaulters immediately after they receive state benefits. The Sdružení association’s chairman has also appeared on billboards reading “Less Kocábs and more Řápákovás”.
The Czech Statistical Office reported Monday that Czech foreign trade figures for July show a profit margin of 12.3 billion crowns, marking a year-on-year improvement of almost six billion. The standard prices of exports during the period declined by nearly 18% compared with last year, while import prices were down by 21.3%. The result was put down primarily to a lower deficit in mineral fuels, while a decline in machinery and transport vehicles had a negative impact on foreign trade.
Further elimination of environmental damage to land used by the Soviet Army during the 1970s and 1980s will cost the state another 200 million crowns and last until 2016, the Ministry of the Environment announced today. As of the end of last year, the Czech Republic had spent 1.4 billion crowns on the effort. The Soviet Army used 110 locations in the Czech Republic, 60 of which suffered serious environmental damage.
The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes has reported that the two Russian diplomats recently deported from the Czech Republic for espionage were not primarily interested in the proposed American radar base, but in the local energy industry. Citing unnamed economists, security experts and diplomats, the paper wrote that the alleged “sleeper cells” were focusing on increasing Russian influence over the natural gas and atomic energy industries in the Czech Republic. Official sources have not commented on the matter.
Traffic fatalities over this year’s summer holidays reached a record low this year, the Czech traffic police have reported. 150 died in traffic-related accidents, two less than in the year 2006, when the penalty point system was introduced. With the exception of these two years, the number of fatalities over summer holidays has never been below 200. The worst summer for traffic fatalities was in 2003, when the number rose to 286.
Representatives of the eight Czech Airlines unions meeting with the company management and Finance Minister Eduard Janota have rejected wage decreases. The unions will now have one week to submit their own proposal for the company to save one billion crowns annually. Tensions have run high recently between the airline unions, which have threatened to go on unlimited strike, and the company management, some of whom have offered their own resignation in exchange for blanket wage reductions across the company.
In related news, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetský, told Czech TV on Sunday that it was not certain that the Court decides on Thursday on whether early general elections can be held as planned. The court is set to hold a public hearing on Thursday about Mr Melčák’s complaint. Justice Rychetský said that the court is acting unusually fast and it might therefore take longer to decide on the complaint. If the complaint is rejected, the elections would be held as originally planned.
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