The Finance Ministry has revealed that the Czech state budget has shown a surplus for the first half of 2005, a total of 3.7 billion crowns. The result was unexpected, the first time the state budget has been in H1 surplus since 1998. The Finance Ministry has attributed the result to fast growing revenues and lower spending.
The president's spokesman Petr Hajek has revealed that in a letter President Vaclav Klaus has called on other top constitutional officials and the heads of all five parties in Parliament to conduct a "serious" discussion on the European Union and its future. Mr Klaus has made clear he would welcome a meeting with the prime minister, the heads of both houses of Parliament, and party chairmen, as soon as possible - during the summer months. The impetus behind Mr Klaus' initiative are apparently the recent "No" votes in the French and Dutch referendums, as well as a breakdown in negotiations on the EU's future budget at the union's most recent summit in Brussels.
Four Czech university students have received recognition for their work in an essay competition on the subject of Turkey and the European Union. Prizes were awarded at the Turkish ambassador's residence in Prague by the Turkish ambassador, Sabri Cenk Duatepe and by euro MP Jan Zahradil. The first prize in the competition went to Petr Preclik, a student of international relations at Brno's Masaryk University, who is said to have addressed questions of identity and cultural shift towards Turkey and the Balkan states.
Bohumil Kulinsky, the choirmaster of the Bambini di Praga children's choir, charged with the alleged sexual abuse of under-aged girls has been released from custody. Mr Kulinsky left Prague's Pankrac prison on Friday after being held for over half a year. Originally he was remanded in custody for fear he might influence witnesses before his trial. But, last week the Constitutional Court struck down a district court's decision, saying he should be released. Mr Kulinsky was first charged last autumn; the number of girls he is suspected of having sexually-abused - all members of the children's choir - has reached forty-nine.
Thee government ministers and former prime minister Stanislav Gross are among politicians who have so far failed to declare auxiliary income and donations for 2004. The deadline, set by legislation on conflict of interest, is set for July 1st. The government ministers who failed to hand in declarations on Friday include Education Minister Petra Buzkova, Trade Minister Milan Urban, and Health Minister Milada Emmerova. There are no sanctions for the failure to meet the deadline: the Constitutional Court recently struck down a fine for those who failed to declare additional earnings in time, of around 30, 000 crowns, the equivalent of about 1,200 dollars US.
Two out of six new Swedish Gripen jets, patrolling Czech air space,
were used in training flights on Friday. In May the Gripens replaced
the Czech military's Soviet-made MiG-21s, in use in the Czech Republic
(and former Czechoslovakia) since the early 1970s. The Air Force has
said two Gripen jets will routinely alternate on 24-hour alert: either
on the airfield or in training flights. Momentarily the Czech air force
has eight trained pilots capable of operatating the Gripens. There will
be an additional thirteen.
Over the next ten years the Czech Republic will pay 19.6 billion crowns, around 800 million US dollars, for the lease of a total of fourteen Gripen jets. The Czech air force is due to receive additional planes next month.
Almost one and a half million school pupils around the Czech Republic began their summer holidays on Thursday afternoon. Their two-month break ends on September 1st. As every year, psychologists have warned of the dangers of parents being excessively critical of their children's end-of-term grades, and help lines for worried kids have been advertised.
Franz Ulrich Kinsky says he wants to take property disputes against the Czech state to the courts in another European Union country, after years of failure in the Czech courts to win back for property confiscated from his aristocratic family after World War II. Mr Kinsky has made over 150 property claims in the Czech Republic. The Czech authorities say his father was a Nazi sympathiser, a suggestion strenuously denied by Mr Kinsky.
A new opinion poll suggests the governing Social Democrats are slowly
winning back support, after hitting a low-point earlier in the year. In a
poll by Factum Invenio this month, almost 23 percent of respondents said
they would vote Social Democrat. Meanwhile, the right-of-centre Civic
Democrats remain ahead in the polls, with 34 percent. Third are the
Communists, with just under 20 percent.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said on Thursday he did not want to take polls too seriously, but said he believed the Social Democrats would form the next government. Elections are set for June next year.
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Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott