Following the departure of two of its members of parliament, the leadership of the junior government Freedom Union has decided to call an extraordinary meeting of the party's national committee. The chairman of the Freedom Union, Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares said that the party leadership would ask for confidence at the extraordinary meeting on Sunday but he declined to speculate on what would happen if the result of the vote was negative.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said that he is not considering the option of forming a minority Social Democrat government. The prime minister, who is also the chairman of the senior coalition Social Democratic Party, made the statement after a second MP left the smallest party in the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union, on Friday. MP Marian Bielesz announced his decision only a few days after Tomas Vrbik quit the Freedom Union in protest at its participation in the Social Democrat-led government. Both MPs, however, decided to remain members of the Freedom Union parliamentary party, which means that the ruling coalition retains its slim 101-vote majority in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.
A second MP from the smallest grouping in the governing coalition, the Freedom Union, has resigned from the party. Marian Bielesz announced his decision on Friday, just a few days after Tomas Vrbik quit the Freedom Union in protest at its participation in the Social Democrat-led government. This second resignation will be seen as more bad news for the coalition, which has a majority of just one in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has said he is satisfied with the outcome of Thursday's talks he held with senior European Union officials during his brief visit to Brussels. Mr Klaus told reporters that he had discussed the risks of speedy European integration and the future and financing of the EU with European Commission President Romano Prodi, the head of the European Parliament Pat Cox and the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Thursday's trip was Mr Klaus's first visit to EU institutions in his capacity as Czech president.
Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka has said he wants the Czech military to retain its current balance with regards to army units, while seeing a strengthening of specialisation fields. Speaking in the Senate on Wednesday on army reforms and defence policy, the defence minister stressed that smaller, well-equipped and more flexible and mobile units were desired over less wieldy forces. The minister also spoke about the role of NATO allies in case of emergency, stressing that each NATO country still had to be able to rely on its own abilities. Speaking of the necessary military reforms Mr Kostelka said it was essential to find necessary funds for modernisation and training by lowering expenditures for wages for soldiers and civilian employees, as well as reducing the number of garrisons in the Czech Republic.
Czech businessman Karel Komarek, majority owner of Fischer Travel, the firm originally founded by entrepreneur Vaclav Fischer, has gained firm control of the company for now. At a meeting of company shareholders Wednesday Mr Komarek pushed through a raise in Fischer Travel's share capital from 1 million to 11 million crowns. Vaclav Fischer, who did not take part in the share raise, loses influence over company operation for the time being. In the future minority shareholders Vaclav Fischer and Karel Komarek's capital group K & K will be able to raise the company's share level to increase their stakes to the level prior to Wednesday's general meeting, but Vaclav Fischer will be left without influence unless he raises far higher sums than he would have needed on Wednesday. New shareholder the K & K group has plans to still raise the company's share capital to 500 million crowns in 2004, while securing financing worth 500 million for the company's development.
The internet server Euro OnLine and the country's news agency CTK reported on Wednesday that the government had stopped the sale of the brown-coal mining company Severoceske doly, or North Bohemian Mines, even though Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had proposed launching talks with the J & T company. As a result Severoceske doly will remain state-owned. Meanwhile, another brown-coal mining company Sokolovska uhelna, will be sold off: the government is in negotiations with one company, Sokolovaska tezebni, over the final bid.
The Roma Civic Initiative in the region of Moravia and Silesia may be faced with a heavy fine for failing to officially register humanitarian collections organised to help the Roma community in Slovakia. The Roma initiative has been collecting food, clothing, sanitary material, and money without the consent of the local authorities. Czech law requires that any collection of money has to have their permission. The Roma initiative may now have to pay a fine of up to half a million Czech crowns.
The world famous singer and songwriter Sir Paul McCartney, will be giving a concert in Prague within the framework of his O4 Summer Tour, during which he will be performing in 13 cities. The one time Beatles idol has not performed live in the Czech capital before. His Prague concert has been scheduled for June 6th. His summer tour also includes Lisbon, Madrid, Zurich, Leipzig, several concerts in Scandinavia and one in Russia's St. Petersburg.
The leading Czech beer brewer Pilsner Urquell has announced an increase in the price of Pilsner beer. This should send the price of bottled beer and beer on tap up by one crown per half a litre as of Monday. Pilsner Urquell controls 50 percent of the market and its decision is expected to set off a wave of price increases by other beer producers in the country.
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