Talks between the parties in the new government on a joint policy
programme will probably continue at the beginning of next week, Prime
Minister Stanislav Gross told reporters on Friday. Though a draft policy
agenda was revealed earlier this week, the Social Democrats, the Christian
Democrats and the Freedom Union have yet to reach a final coalition
Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek said the government had to be sure it had the money to meet all the priorities outlined in its policy programme, and said a break of a few days could help the parties reach agreement.
However, Social Democrat Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach said his party would not agree to any significant changes to the outline policy programme. Mr Skromach was speaking after talks with senior Social Democrat officials in Prague on Friday.
Swimmer Kvetoslav Svoboda was due to carry the Czech flag at the
opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in Athens on Friday evening. The
Czech Republic's team of some 140 athletes is the biggest the country
has ever sent to the games. Earlier on Friday, President Vaclav Klaus
officially opened the "Czech House" in the Olympic village.
On Saturday, the Czechs could be in the running for their first medal, when shooter Katerina Kurkova takes part in the women's 10-metre air rifle event. Kurkova became European champion in the discipline earlier this year, and two years ago was crowned world champion.
Meanwhile, the tennis draw in Athens has not been kind to the Czechs: Jiri Novak has drawn fourth-seed Tim Henman of Great Britain in the first round, while Barbora Strycova will play women's number one Justine Henin-Hardenne from Belgium.
Two miners died on Thursday night, when ventilators in the Doubrava mine in the Karvina district of north Moravia stopped working due to a power cut. Police said, however, that a siren had alerted miners to the cut and the two men, aged 34 and 35, should not have entered the shaft. An investigation into the accident has been launched. Twelve miners have died in mines in Ostrava and Karvina so far this year, according to operators OKD.
Two Czech women were arrested by soldiers in Mexico City on Thursday in a raid on a laboratory producing illegal drugs. Local authorities said the drug gang were processing up to 50 kilogrammes of South American cocaine a day. A Czech consular official said a large amount of money had also been found during the raid.
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 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 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.
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.
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