The new Czech football season got underway on Saturday afternoon, with defending champions Banik Ostrava losing 2:1 at home to Teplice. The beginning of the season came against a backdrop of bribery allegations, with 16 referees and the chairman of Viktoria Zizkov being charged with corruption on Thursday.
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised the approach taken by the party he founded, the Civic Democrats, during the recent government crisis, according to Saturday's edition of the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes. The daily said the President believed the intransigence of party chairman, Mirek Topolanek, was to blame for allowing the three parties in the out-going coalition to form a new government. Mr Topolanek became leader of the Civic Democrats in December 2002, after Mr Klaus had been at the helm for 12 years. President Klaus is the party's honorary chairman.
The first 300 professional soldiers to sign up for the Czech Army took their oath of allegiance on T.G. Masaryk Square in the Moravian town of Prerov on Friday. Among the new recruits were 85 women. Compulsory military service has been phased out in the Czech Republic and the Army will be fully professional from the beginning of next year.
Around 1,000 Polish people arrived on a special train in Jesenik on Saturday to take part in a beer festival in the north Moravian town. A local official said it was the third time guests from Poland had been invited to the festival, adding that the event could lead to an increase in cross-border co-operation.
New avalanches are hampering efforts to find climbers, many of them Czechs, who remain trapped beneath snow on a mountainside in Kyrgyzstan, according to a local official. Five Czechs and one Russian were confirmed killed after avalanches on the 7,000-metre Khan-Tengri peak on Thursday. The accident is the worst to befall Czech mountaineers since 1970, when 14 members of a Czechoslovak expedition died in Peru.
The Czech Finance Ministry has ordered an audit into the system for approving European Union-related projects following the European Commission's suspension on Wednesday of some 2 billion crowns worth of payments earmarked for this country under the EU Phare programme. The European Commission suspended payments from the EU's pre-accession fund because the Czech system for approving projects did not adhere to EU rules. The international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers will carry out the audit and is due to publish its findings in late September.
With the official inauguration of Karel Kuehnl as Defence Minister on Friday, the entire Cabinet of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has now assumed office. The other new ministers in the Cabinet - Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan, Health Minister Milada Emmerova, Local Development Minister Jiri Paroubek, and Justice Minister Pavel Nemec - all officially assumed their posts on Thursday. Defence Minister Kuehnl replaced Miroslav Kostelka, who will now serve as an advisor to Prime Minister Gross. The other ministers in the 18-member Cabinet had served under former Prime Minsiter Vladimir Spidla.
Just days before the beginning of the new football season, police have charged 17 people in connection with allegations of match-fixing. Sixteen referees are being questioned, along with Ivan Hornik, the director of Viktoria Zizkov football club. Czech football has been dogged by corruption allegations since May, when police arrested the director of the club Synot (now known as Slovacko) and several referees.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, on Thursday rejected a bill stipulating that all high school students would have to pass a compulsory maths test as part of their school-leaving exams, the Czech "maturita". The bill was proposed by the lower house in June. The senators agreed on Thursday that students should be able to choose between maths and other subjects. Maths tests were compulsory for all students graduating from high schools until 1990.
The new Czech Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, inaugurated four new
government ministers to their posts on Thursday, a day after the new
cabinet was sworn in. Social Democrat Milada Emmerova has taken up the
post of Health Minister and her party colleague Jiri Paroubek has replaced
the chairman of the Freedom Union, Pavel Nemec, at the post of Local
Development Minister. Pavel Nemec has assumed the post of Justice
Minister. On Thursday, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross also inaugurated
Frantisek Bublan to the post of Interior Minister, which he himself had
held in the previous cabinet of the former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla.
The remaining new minister, Karel Kuehnl of the Freedom Union, is expected
to assume his post of Defence Minister on Friday.
The other ministers in the 18-member cabinet had served under Mr Spidla in the last government. The new coalition cabinet, with a majority of just one in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, faces a vote of confidence on August 24.
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