Borussia Dortmund striker Jan Koller, out of action since sustaining a
knee injury last September, has said he is keeping his hopes up for
this year's football World Cup in neighbouring Germany. Koller has told
the media his recovery is going well and that he hopes to be fit when
the World Cup finals begin on June 9th. The 32-year-old striker is the
Czech Republic's best ever goal scorer: he has netted 44 times in 66
Koller was part of the Czech team which reached the Euro semi-finals in Portugal in 2004.
Czech Social Democrat and chairman of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek met with the president of the European Parliament Josep Borrel on Friday, discussing issues of European integration. After their meeting Mr Zaoralek revealed that the EU Parliament's president indicated that the current text of the European Constitution treaty - rejected in two referenda last year - would have to be scrapped; this, in favour of a new treaty following new negotiations. The view stands in contrast to the stance taken by the majority of EU leaders, until now unwilling to bury the proposed constitution, opting for a freeze on ratification and renewed public debate instead. The Czech Republic is expected to take a stance on the treaty by 2007.
Seven people in Prague have been charged in a state administration corruption case. Two of them are Transport Ministry officials, charged with accepting bribes. Five others, business and lobbying figures, with offering them. The arrest of the seven came on Thursday following a five-month sting operation by Czech police. It is not yet known whether the suspects will remain in custody or be released to await trial.
The lower house of Parliament has rejected a Penal Code amendment that would have explicitly banned promotion of communism or Nazism in the Czech Republic. The amendment, drafted by the country's Senate, was rejected in a reading with 135 deputies present. 68 voted against. All Communist MPs and a majority of Social Democrat deputies voted in favour of rejecting the bill. However, authors of the proposal say they will submit the amendment again - following supposed changes in the balance of power in the lower house, following national elections in June.
According to the Justice ministry, Czech businessman Dalibor Kopp, suspected of illegally exporting weapons to several countries including Iraq, will be extradited to the Czech Republic from Belgium. Mr Kopp, who is 43, was arrested in Brussels in January after a tip off from Prague. He had been wanted on an international arrest warrant since 2004. Mr Kopp and an accomplice have been charged with illegal trade in military materials and illegal arms possession. A search of Mr Kopp's company premises in the Czech Republic revealed an illegal production line for ammunition. Czech police said in January in a statement that if found guilty the suspect could face up to ten years in prison.
British Prime Minister and Labour Party head Tony Blair has met with his
Czech counterpart, Jiri Paroubek, in Prague. On Friday Mr Blair arrived in
the Czech capital ahead of a meeting of European Social Democrats. He
offered Mr Paroubek - and Czech Social Democrats - his support in upcoming
national elections. Following talks, Mr Blair praised the Czech Republic,
saying Britain saw the country as a "strong" and
"reliable" member of the European Union and NATO. Mr Blair also
praised strong Czech economic results.
In addition, the British prime minister donated an English double-decker bus for the Social Democrats for use in their pre-election campaign.
Spain will lift a curb on workers from the European Union's former
communist states on May 1, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
said on Thursday. The only countries of the EU fifteen that have their
labour markets open so far are Britain, Ireland, and Sweden. In a
telephone call to his Spanish counterpart on Thursday, Czech Foreign
Minister Cyril Svoboda welcomed the decision.
Finland and Portugal are also expected to open their doors to labourers when a two-year transition period ends in May. Germany, Austria, and France will most likely uphold their restrictions on foreign workers.
Police say they have arrested seven people on suspicion of bribery; two of them Transport Ministry officials. They are believed to have tried to influence state decision-making at the ministries of transport and agriculture. Under operation Anthropoid, the suspects were monitored by the organised crime department for five months. No charges have been brought against them so far.
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