Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has succeeded in passing a package of eleven bills aimed at reducing the Czech Republic's record budget deficit and preparing the country for the adoption of the euro currency in 2010. On Friday the Chamber of Deputies voted to increase consumer tax, raise the pension age, reduce illness benefits and lower state support for building savings. Mr Spidla, who had staked his future on the reforms being pushed through, said he was optimistic next year's budget would also be approved. The bills must now be passed by the Senate and signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
The Czech defence minister, Miroslav Kostelka, and the United States ambassador to Prague, Craig Stapleton, have visited the Czech military field hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. During Saturday's visit both men thanked the soldiers for their work. The Czech parliament has to decide by the end of the year whether to extend the field hospital's mandate.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Spidla said on Saturday that the Czech secret service, the BIS, had not kept Mr Hojdar under surveillance. However, according to the head of the lower house committee which monitors the BIS, Civic Democrat MP Jan Klas, the license numbers of two cars Mr Hojdar says followed him are those of secret service vehicles. The chief of the BIS, Jiri Lang, denies that the agency shadowed Mr Hojdar.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, discussed the future of the European Union and the planned EU constitution during talks with his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski in the Czech spa town of Jesenik on Friday. Mr Klaus said afterwards that they had been in almost complete agreement on the need to maintain an inter-governmental system and to resist federalism.
Vladimir Spidla's centre-left coalition has, as expected, survived a vote of no confidence tabled by the opposition Civic Democrats. All but one of the government's 101 deputies voted against the motion in Friday's vote, with rebel Social Democrat Josef Hojdar, who is opposed to planned financial reforms, abstaining. Prime Minister Spidla faces perhaps a sterner test in voting on those reforms, which he wants parliament to approve by Tuesday. The reforms are designed to reverse a record budget deficit and qualify the Czech Republic for the euro currency by 2010. The country is to join the European Union next May.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has begun a two-day session leading up to a vote of no confidence on Friday morning testing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's coalition government. The vote was initiated by the senior opposition Civic Democrats, who say that the current government is damaging the country. However, the opposition - which also includes the junior Communist Party - lacks three votes to bring the government down. The government is therefore confident it will survive Friday's test.
Representatives of the European Investment Bank and the City of Prague on Wednesday signed a 75 million euro loan for the construction of the extension of Prague's metro line C. Prague is investing massively in its public transport system with the goal to reduce congestion and pollution, and to modernise its system in line with European standards. The project will extend Prague's metro line C from Ladvi to Letnany, in the north-eastern part of the city, adding 4.6 km of tracks and 3 stations. The extended metro line will make the residential quarters in the served areas more attractive and will help the Czech Republic to implement EU environmental standards through a significant reduction of pollution due to usage of environmentally friendly transport.
It has been announced that this Friday shall see members of the Czech lower house take part in a vote of no-confidence - called for by the opposition Civic Democrats in an attempt to bring down the country's coalition government. Voting will begin at 9 a.m. In all, all 58 Civic Democrat MPs signed the appeal for a vote of no-confidence - eight more than the 50 signatures required. It will be the second such test faced by the government this year: earlier in March Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla called for a confidence vote that the government passed through its one-vote majority. Government officials believe that the coalition will hold this time around as well. The opposition currently has only 98 deputies - one MP is in hospital. That means the opposition would have to gain three renegade votes from within the ruling coalition itself.
The Czech government has approved the basic idea of a new law that is to protect the public against discrimination, government spokesperson Anna Veverkova said on Monday. The cabinet is yet to decide whether it is to be mediated by the public human rights protector or a special independent Centre for Equal Treatment.
Czech police are searching for a person who is threatening to set public places on fire unless he receives considerable sums of money. While putting out a fire at a forest near the north-western town of Most on Friday, fire fighters found an anonymous letter from a person admitting to having started the fire and calling for one million Czech crowns, to stop him from proceeding to light another forest. Police are investigating the case and have not released any further details.
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