The Czech Statistical Office has released figures showing the Czech Republic's GDP grew by 4.0 per cent in 2004, up from 3.7 percent the previous year. The growth was pulled by investment which added 9.1 percent on the year, and by foreign trade which had acted as a drag in 2003. Czech exporters also benefited from the country's accession to the European Union, the Statistical Office said. Meanwhile, Martin Jahn, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, has said the Czech economy is at its strongest in ten years, leaving room for further government reforms in the social and tax spheres.
The minister for regional development has said that districts and towns should be allowed to raise regulated rent from between 6 to 12 percent per year for a period of five or six years. He added tenants whose rent exceeded 30 percent of their net income would be eligible for social support. The minister is confident his plan could gain support in Parliament, though coalition partner the Christian Democrats, and the country's largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, are calling for a quicker increase. Around 750, 000 apartments in the Czech Republic are subject to regulated rent, of which roughly 300, 000 are privately owned.
The Czech Supreme Court has overturned a previous conviction of a man who published a Czech language translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf", ruling he had not aimed to propagate the book's racist ideas. Publisher Michal Zitko was originally convicted in January 2004 for having translated and published Hitler's book, a document which foreshadowed the dictator's intentions leading to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Previously Michal Zitko was given a three year suspended sentence for promoting "a movement aimed at suppressing human rights". But, the Supreme Court said on Thursday the publisher's actions had not been an active attempt to support those who followed Hitler's book.
The Skoda Auto car manufacturer plans to double production at its plant in the Indian town of Aurangabad and export to Bangladesh this year. Skoda Auto is based in the central Bohemian town of Mlada Boleslav but is now owned by Germany's Volkswagen Group. Skoda has already invested 100 million euros in the Indian plant. It is the manufacturer's only plant outside Europe and currently produces some 15,000 vehicles a year.
The Czech government has approved a proposal for a new constitutional law that would allow ordinary citizens hold referendums on important internal and foreign state policy. Under the bill, a referendum could not be held on issues that question constitutional principles and fail to respect the country's international obligations. Citizens would, however, be able to vote on the European constitution, which has to be ratified by all EU member states before October 2006. In order to be passed, the bill has to be supported by 120 of the 200 deputies in the lower house and three fifths of Senators.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said he sees no reason for the government to initiate a vote of confidence in Parliament following the protracted government crisis. After a meeting with senior party officials, Mr. Gross told journalists that his Cabinet was fully functional and capable of meeting the challenges ahead. The Prime Minister also reiterated his intention to run for the post of party chairman at the upcoming party conference in March. Mr. Gross told journalists he was not considering leaving either of his posts - party chairman or prime minister. The ruling Social Democrats have been under pressure to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence and to choose a new party leader at their March conference.
President Vaclav Klaus met with the US President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday. The meeting lasted around thirty-five minutes and President Klaus later described it as "friendly and positive". The two leaders discussed transatlantic priorities, the situation in the Middle East, security issues as well as bilateral ties and the Czech government crisis. It was President Klaus' first bilateral meeting with the US leader since taking office two years ago. Commentators say it marks the end of a period of distinctly cool relations between the two statesmen widely attributed to Mr. Klaus' opposition to the war in Iraq. President Klaus is on a working visit to the United States, promoting his book on the Czech Republic's journey from communism to a free society.
The largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, have
said they expect the coalition government of Prime Minister Stanislav
Gross to ask the lower house of parliament for confidence. Otherwise
they said they will call a no-confidence vote in the government after
the Easter national congress of the ruling Social Democratic Party at
which Prime Minister Gross will seek election as party chairman. The
Civic Democrats have been critical of the recent row within the
governing coalition and suggested early elections as the only way out
The government crisis had been caused by Prime Minister Gross's failure to provide a plausible explanation of how he financed a Prague apartment five years ago and how his wife funds her business. The controversies triggered a row between the two biggest coalition parties: the Christian Democrats called on the Social Democrat Prime Minister to step down and Prime Minister Gross in turn threatened to ask the President to sack the three Christian Democrat ministers. The Social Democrats now consider the government crisis to be over, after they gave the strong backing to Prime Minister Gross on Saturday and after he made a public apology for his statements in connection with the row.
President Vaclav Klaus is expected to meet the US President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday. The meeting is expected to last around thirty minutes, according to the Czech Republic's Ambassador to the United States, Martin Palous. Mr Palous did not comment on the topics to be discussed by the two presidents but called the visit a "positive signal for Czech-US relations". President Klaus is currently on a private visit to the United States, promoting his book on the Czech Republic's journey from communism to a free society.
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