The foreign trade surplus for last year was over 41 billion crowns (1.7 billion US dollars), an increase of around 70 billion crowns on the previous financial year. This was the first time in history that exports exceeded imports. According to figures just released this was mainly due to car sales abroad. Market analysts say that exports have continued to rise, in spite of increasing energy costs and a strong Czech crown, resulting in a trade deficit for December amounting to nearly 4 billion crowns (160 million US dollars), the worst figure for that month since 1993.
A 12-year old boy was seriously injured on Friday, when a tram struck him at a stop in Prague 4. A spokeswoman for the emergency services said that the boy was taken to hospital with head injuries. This is the latest in a series of recent accidents at tram stops, which have led to concern over safety.
Pakistan has begun testing the Czech military anti-radar system Vera, with a view to a possible purchase. A Czech trade and industry ministry spokesman said that trials began at the end of December and that Pakistan would return the system in March. He added that a further export licence would be required before a final sale could be agreed, and that it would also need the approval of the foreign and interior ministries. The Vera system can detect enemy radar, without being detected itself. In the past Amnesty International has warned against exporting the system to Pakistan.
The sacked president of the Czech Supreme Court Iva Brozova has filed an official complaint to a Prague court, saying that her dismissal was illegal. The complaint is directed against President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. Ms Brozova said that the President had not given an explanation for her sacking as was required by law. The justice ministry spokesman defended the decision, saying that the Supreme Court needed stronger and more authoritative leadership.
The Czech Republic is sending another anti-terrorist unit to Afghanistan. Over three quarters of members of parliament present voted in favour of the proposal, with only the Communists voting against. Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl said that the mission was needed because there were still terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan that posed a threat to other countries. As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, 120 Czech soldiers will be sent into the Afghan mountains to serve alongside American troops. Currently, the Czech Republic has only 43 soldiers in Afghanistan, serving with a German reconstruction team.
The lower house has passed a bill under which foreigners would be able to apply for permanent residence after five years spent in the Czech Republic. Currently the waiting period for application is ten years. The new law on foreigners would also allow people from European Union countries to use any form of identification proving they are EU citizens while in the Czech Republic.
President Vaclav Klaus has dismissed the chairwoman of the Supreme Court, Iva Brozova, a Presidential Office spokesman said on Thursday. Ms Brozova's dismissal was discussed by the government on Wednesday and co-signed by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. President Klaus dismissed Ms Brozova at the request of Justice Minister Pavel Nemec who had repeatedly complained about the current state of the Supreme Court. According to speculation, Ms Brozova might be replaced by ex-justice minister and 2003 presidential candidate Jaroslav Bures.
Four people died in a fire in an 11th floor flat in a high-rise building in the south of Prague on Wednesday night. Fire fighters said three people burnt to death in the building and a fourth person who suffered severe burns of the head and hands died after he jumped down from the 11th floor. Another eight people were taken to hospital for treatment after inhaling smoke. Police say the cause of the fire is not yet known.
Extradition proceedings against fugitive Czech businessman Viktor Kozeny have begun in the Bahamas. The United States has filed for his extradition on charges of large scale fraud and money laundering in connection to a privatisation deal in Azerbaijan. Mr Kozeny, dubbed the Pirate of Prague, is also wanted in the Czech Republic on fraud charges. Now an Irish citizen, he has been living in the Bahamas for ten years.
The Senate has approved sending a Czech Army anti-terrorism unit to Afghanistan to join US forces there for six months. The government approved the Defence Ministry's proposal last month and it has yet to be passed by the lower house. The opposition Communists say they will vote against it. A similar contingent was sent to Afghanistan two years ago. Now the 120-strong unit should leave for Afghanistan in April.
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