The lower house has passed a bill on public tenders aimed at curbing
corruption and increasing transparency. Under the legislation it would no
longer be possible to "direct" a public tender towards one
company. The bill's authors also hope that announcing tenders on the
internet will lead to a decrease in corruption levels.
Deputies have also voted to strip Civic Democrat Vladimir Dolezal of his immunity. Police accuse Mr Dolezal of acting as a go-between in a bribery affair involving a Prague councillor who is also a member of the Civic Democrats.
A court in the Bahamas has refused to release Viktor Kozeny from custody. Mr Kozeny will remain on remand until January 30th, when a hearing begins into whether or not he will face extradition to the United States. The Pirate of Prague, as he is known, is wanted in both the US and the Czech Republic on charges of large-scale fraud.
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk has said that Pope Benedict XVI might visit the Czech Republic in September next year when he is due to travel to his native German state of Bavaria. Cardinal Vlk had invited the Pope during his last month's trip to the Vatican. The Pope's visit was also discussed by President Vaclav Klaus and the Papal Nuncio to the Czech Republic Diego Causero during their meeting on Tuesday.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, met senior officials,
including his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
Plans for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to visit Prague were
one of the main items on the agenda. However, speculation that
President Putin, who has not visited the Czech Republic in his post,
would come to Prague at the beginning of next year was not confirmed.
Minister Svoboda and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov agreed that
relations between the Czech Republic and Russia were good.
On Monday Foreign Minister Svoboda opened a new embassy in the capital of Moldova, Chisenau. Previously, the Czech Embassy in the neighbouring state of Romania was responsible for Czech diplomatic relations in the former Soviet state.
The lower house has passed a bill under which state-controlled rent should increase by 14.2 percent annually between 2007 and 2010. Some 750,000 flats in the Czech Republic have controlled rent, which is about one fifth of all apartments in the country. At present, a dual system exists with the market rent of an identical flat in the same apartment building being several times higher than that of one subject to control. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.
The lower house has approved an amendment to the law on university education introducing scholarships for students from low-income families. Under the law, some 13,000 students could be paid 1,600 crowns (65 dollars) a month. The amendment had been passed by the Senate earlier and it only remains to be signed by the President.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed a law reducing income tax rates on low and medium incomes. As of next year, people who earn less than 20,000 crowns (830 dollars) a month will save some 4,000 crowns a year. For people with salaries below 30,000 crowns a month, taxes will be reduced by almost 3,000 crowns a year.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that some claims for the return of property confiscated under communism can be made after the end of this year. Both direct restituents and their heirs will be able to make restitution claims after December 31st, which had been set as the final cut-off date. Last month the Social Democrats and the Communist Party voted against a bill to extend the date until the end of 2009.
Czech MPs have also approved a bill on compulsory purchase of land for projects in the public interest. This should give the state an instrument to speed up construction of major infrastructure projects, such as roads and railways. The bill has to go before the Senate and be signed by the President.
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