The incoming European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday unveiled the line-up of the new EU executive, which will take office in November. The former Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will be responsible for the employment, social affairs and equal opportunities portfolio. Aside from Mr Vladimir Spidla himself, the new commission will include two other figures who have served as prime minister, Jose Manuel Barroso himself and Estonia's Siim Kallas. The full team will need to be approved by the European Parliament in October before it can take office on November 1.
According to reports by mobile phone operators, the number of active mobile phones in the Czech Republic has exceeded 10 million in the first half of 2004. Since last year, the number of mobile phones has increased by one million. Currently, there are 99 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants in the Czech Republic. In the first six months of this year, Czech customers spent almost 34 billion crowns (1 billion euros) for mobile phone services. Experts say the market has been almost saturated and by the end of this year there will be one mobile phone per every citizen. According to estimates, the actual number of users is by some 20 percent lower, as some people own more than one SIM card.
The Czech mission has officially become part of the Olympic village in Athens. At 5:20 pm local time, the Czech flag was raised in the international zone of the village to the sound of the Czech national anthem. Present at the ceremony were President Vaclav Klaus and Education Minister Petra Buzkova, as well as the Czech athletes about to compete in the games. The last time a Czech head of state visited the Olympics was in 1980.
The Prague High Court has sentenced a 31-year-old man to five years in prison for having threatened to inject a former colleague's daughter with an AIDS-infected syringe and cause environmental damage to the company Cepro, their former employer, unless he received 120 million crowns. The court consequently lessened the original sentence issued by the Prague City Court by three and one-half years, on the grounds that the sum demanded was unrealistic, and that the aggressor "did not undertake any further steps towards the fulfilment of his threats."
The new coalition government is reviewing its policy agenda with regard to excessive spending. At a meeting of economic ministers on Wednesday, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka urged his colleagues to slash a number of proposals which would lead to further spending. Disputes are allegedly underway over eight points in the government's agenda. The deputy Prime Minister in charge of the economy Martin Jahn told the media that the government intended to finance many of the measures stemming from its policy agenda from the off-budget Housing Development Fund. In this way, ministers could spend more than one billion crowns without increasing the budget deficit. The new coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, is expected to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence on August 24th.
The new Health Minister Milada Emmerova wants to introduce a reliable registration system which would provide a complete record of treatment received for every patient over 18. The documentation would register each visit to a GP or specialist with details of treatment received and medicaments prescribed. The minister claims that this should prevent, among other things, patients being prescribed medicaments which should not be used together. Such a system is already being used in the case of child patients, giving doctors instant access to the childhood ailments, vaccinations and illnesses of individual patients.
The first unit of the Temelin nuclear power station is now back in operation after getting shut down by a false signal from a sensor. According to Temelin's spokesman Milan Nebesar one of the sensors monitoring air temperature sent a false signal which automatically shut down the unit early on Wednesday morning. The sensor was repaired and power supply to the grid was fully restored by 11 am, following a four hour break. Nebesar said the second unit had run without interruption, on full output.
Some 100 days after the "big bang" expansion of the European Union on the first of May from 15 to 25 member states, British and Irish officials have released data confirming that fears of an onslaught of jobseekers from the relatively poor accession countries were unfounded. Along with Sweden, the U.K. and Ireland were the only old EU members fully open to jobseekers from the new member states. Fewer than 8,200 people from countries joined Britain's work registry in May and June, according to government figures, and 14,000 people from the accession states already living there legalised their status. Ireland saw a far greater per-capita increase with almost 23,000 people from the member states seeking employment there in the past three months, or around 10 times the number of work permits issued to people from the same countries in the first four months of 2004, reports Ireland online.
Czech police have confirmed that a wig, pistol and hand grenade believed to have been discarded by the man responsible for last week's casino bombing in Prague — or an accomplice — were recovered from an empty building near the scene of the attack, which left 18 bystanders wounded. Police now say at least two men carried out the August 1st attack, the intended target of which, Israeli casino owner Assaf Abutbul, escaped unharmed. Mr Abutbul's father, an alleged underworld boss in Israel, was shot dead after leaving the same Prague casino in August 2002, and police say the attack stems from an unresolved dispute between rival Israeli business groups.
Finance Ministry spokesman Marek Zeman has said that the results of an
audit of the Czech Republic's readiness to draw money from EU funds
will be available in October. On the basis of the results the Finance
Ministry will then check each programme separately and decide whether
the application for the funds can be sent. Some sources said last week
that the Czech Republic was threatened with the suspension of payments
from EU funds, if the results of the audit were as bad as interim
results had suggested.
On August 4th the European Commission suspended the payment of some 2 billion crowns to the Czech Republic from the pre-accession Phare fund.
Spokeswoman for the EC representation in the Czech Republic Katharina von Schnurbein said the Czech Republic failed to supply all required information.
If the results of the audit prove poor, Brussels could react by suspending advance and further payments, some sources have told the country's news agency CTK. However, the Finance Ministry has denied this.
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