The interior ministers of six Central European countries, including the Czech Republic, agreed on Friday that they would not support the creation of special European Union police units meant to guard the external borders of the union. The Czech Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross, who chaired the meeting in the Austrian town of Fuschl am See, said none of the countries of the Salzburg Forum supported the idea of a European border police force. He added that the protection of the external borders should remain in the competence of individual states with a certain degree of solidarity in sharing expenses. The Salzburg Forum includes the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary. During their annual meetings the interior ministers of these countries seek, among other things, to find a common stance on security policies.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus is due to spend two nights as a guest in the Hotel Ruze in order to lend moral support to its owner, who has come under fire for erecting a bust of former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes in the hotel courtyard. Benes, who was president before and after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II, issued a set of decrees that led to the post-war expulsion of up to three million ethnic Germans, also known as Sudeten Germans. Cesky Krumlov, a town in southern Bohemia, is a popular destination for tourists from nearby Austria and Germany, some of whom have taken offence to a quote by Benes inscribed below the bust, which reads: "the guilty will be purifying themselves before themselves and before the world of what they have done these years." President Klaus will in Cesky Krumlov for the opening ceremony of the town's International Music Festival, which begins Friday and continues until August 28.
The outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla visited the multi-national KFOR unit in Kosovo on Thursday. Mr Spidla was accompanied by Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka. During the one-day visit to the Serbian province, they honoured members of the 500 member Czech-Slovak peace-keeping unit with medals, and passed on an ambulance provided by the Czech humanitarian organisation Stonozka to the village of Babin Most, where some 900 Serbians and 320 Albanians have been living together peacefully.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus says the current government crisis can be blamed on the electoral system and problematic conditions for early elections. In an article for Thursday's edition of the popular daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Mr Klaus wrote that the electoral system was dysfunctional and added the political crisis would continue if the system is not changed. He also urged the country's leading political parties on Thursday to form a new government capable of pushing through much needed reforms. "The public expects change from the government, not just a change of faces, it has to be a change of programme, maybe even the style of governing," Klaus wrote in daily Mlada Fronta Dnes. The government led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla resigned last month.
President Klaus has criticized the Czech health minister Josef Kubinyi for banning the use of caged beds in all health institutions in the Czech Republic without consulting doctors and experts on the matter. Minister Kubinyi issued the order following criticism in the British media and a protest letter from J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books. President Klaus, who has invited medical experts to Prague Castle to inform him about the situation, said that the issue was not something that "could be solved out of context, by a populist gesture". Mr. Kubinyi was called on to explain his decision on Wednesday morning and he assured the head of state that he had not meant to ignore or dismiss the views of Czech specialists in the field. Many Czech psychiatrists maintain that caged or netter beds are less cruel and traumatising to a patient that forced application of drugs or being strapped to a bed.
The outgoing government on Wednesday failed to reach agreement on next year's state budget. The finance ministry proposed a deficit of 94 billion crowns but the demands made by individual ministries were 14 billion crowns higher. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his proposal met with strong protests from all sides but he argued that a deficit 94 billion was the absolute limit. The ceiling is not set by the finance ministry - it is the result of a coalition agreement, Sobotka told the CTK press agency. The Cabinet is to meet again next week to try to reach agreement on the 2005 budget. Although the Czech Republic may have a new government by September, the three party coalition agreement on next year's budget deficit should remain valid.
A fake explosive devise found on a train travelling from the Czech Republic to Germany on Tuesday resulted in a three hour delay. The train was stopped at Rokycany train station and was completely evacuated along with the residents of ten nearby houses as bomb disposal experts went to work. They allegedly found a good imitation of an explosive device. Police are investigating the incident.
The new Czech government could seek a vote of confidence from the Lower House in mid-August, according to the acting head of the Social Democratic party Stanislav Gross. Mr. Gross met with the leaders of the other two parties of the emerging government coalition on Tuesday to discuss the situation within three parties, their respective views on personnel and policy programme matters and a timeframe for the formation of the new government. Mr. Gross has said he expects all deputies of the three parties to sign a commitment in writing pledging support for the new government, which would have a slim one-vote majority in Parliament. Some deputies have said that they want to know more about the future government's policy programme and who will be in the Cabinet before making such a commitment.
Customs officials in Ceske Budejovice have confiscated two million crowns worth of smuggled cigarettes. The smuggled goods were found after officials searched a lorry that was supposed to be carrying fibreglass insulation. The cigarettes were probably meant for the illegal market in the south Bohemia border areas. The state would have lost one million crowns in taxes through their sale and the perpetrators now face up to eight years in prison.
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