The minister of defence, Miroslav Kostelka, said on Wednesday that compulsory military service for young men could end as soon as next year. However, the minister said 2005 was more likely or, at the very latest, 2006. Mr Kostelka, who was appointed in June, on Wednesday presented his ideas for reform of the military to different ministries. On Thursday he is due to put the proposals before the Chamber of Deputies' defence and security committee.
The government has been meeting to debate next year's budget. The final draft of the budget proposal envisages a deficit of 118 billion crowns, a figure opposition parties say is too high. Budgets for individual ministries have already received provisional approval, though ministers are expected to put up a fight for an extra 11 billion crowns which have yet to be allotted.
A Prague taxi driver drove over a police officer's leg on Tuesday when the officer was carrying out a routine patrol, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. When the officer asked the taxi driver for his documents the latter drove at him and then drove over his leg. The incident is being investigated.
There has been another accident involving a Czech bus, this time in Italy. The bus carrying 22 students and their two professors was involved in a multiple collision on the motorway linking Brescia and Milan on Monday morning. A Czech lorry was also involved. None of the bus passengers was seriously hurt. On Saturday a bus driver was killed and 12 passengers seriously injured after their vehicle hit a railway viaduct in East Bohemia. On the same day a bus driver drowned when his empty bus veered off the road and plunged into the River Elbe. At least twenty people died in road accidents over the weekend, one of the blackest on Czech roads in recent months.
Former foreign minister Jan Kavan is ending his term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. The Czech presidency of the body comes to an end at midnight on Monday. Mr Kavan will address the UN on Monday to hand over the presidency to the island of Saint Lucia. Mr Kavan's contract with the Czech Foreign Ministry ends on September 18th. He remains an MP for the ruling Social Democrats, and has expressed interest in standing for the European Parliament.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has repeated that his government will not bow to pressure from trade unions to water down planned public finance reforms. Mr Spidla made the comments on Monday during a visit to Brno, two days after around 15,000 trade union members demonstrated in the centre of Prague against the planned reforms. The government says it is willing to listen to proposals put forward by "its social partners" before submitting the final draft to parliament, but will not abandon the reform package. The government insists the reforms are essential to prepare the Czech economy for eventual adoption of the euro.
A bus driver has been killed and 12 people seriously injured in a crash near the town of Svitavy. The accident happened at around 11.30 on Saturday night after a bus carrying 45 passengers collided with a railway viaduct. The driver was killed instantly, 24 passengers were taken to hospital, 12 of them with serious injuries. The remaining passengers - believed to be pensioners returning from a day trip - escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Police have launched an investigation to establish the cause of the crash. There have been a number of serious road accidents involving buses in recent years, the worst of which left seventeen passengers dead.
Union leaders say the reforms - which include plans to cut sickness benefit and pensions - will hit the poorest members of society. The government insists the reforms must go ahead, saying budget cuts are necessary to prepare the Czech economy for eventual adoption of the single European currency. Analysts, on the other hand, say they don't go far enough towards meeting the Maastrict criteria for adopting the euro. The Czech Republic joins the European Union in May 2004.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said the government is willing to make minor changes to the planned public finance reforms, but will not weaken them. His comments came one day after around 15,000 trade union members demonstrated in the centre of Prague against the planned reforms. Mr Spidla was speaking to reporters after a meeting on Sunday between the leaders of the three coalition parties in the centre-left cabinet. Mr Spidla has said repeatedly that he will not be blackmailed by the trade unions. However in an apparent softening of tone, he said the government would listen to proposals put forward by "its social partners" before submitting the final draft to parliament.
As the main opposition Civic Democrats continue preparations for a vote of confidence over the reforms, a rebel MP from the ruling coalition has said he believes the government will fall before the end of the year. Quoted in a newspaper interview, Social Democrat MP Josef Hojdar said he had still not decided whether or not to vote against the government in the confidence vote. The centre-left coalition has a majority of just one seat in the lower house, and Mr Hojdar's vote could be crucial to the government's survival. Mr Hojdar recently resigned from the Social Democrats' deputies' group, although he remains a member of the party.
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