Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, on an official visit to Kosovo, met with President Ibrahim Rugova on Monday to discuss the future status of the province. The Czech prime minister extended an offer for Czech diplomats to help with negotiations between representatives in Pristina and Belgrade. On Sunday, Mr Paroubek made much the same offer in the Serbian capital. Mr Rugova said he could envision, for example, someone like former Czech president Vaclav Havel playing a role as mediator. Meanwhile, the Czech prime minister said any initiative will have to include the European Union. One of the goals of Mr Paroubek's four-day visit is to get a sense of opinions in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo on the region's future; the Czech Republic is seeking to play a more dominant role in the region.
Two Dutch national detained in the Czech Republic on Saturday are under investigation for allegedly promoting racist ideology. The men were detained en route to a Neo-Nazi concert held in the Czech town of Zlata Olesnice, about 160 kilometres north of Prague. Police shut down the concert, which had been booked as a private birthday party, and was attended by some 140 skinheads and far-right extremists. Police made several arrests and seized clothing and electronic media promoting racist ideals. Along with the two Dutch nationals, at least one Czech will likely face charges of inciting racial hatred.
Former Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman is writing a book on the recent history of the Social Democratic Party - which he plans to publish ahead of next year's parliamentary elections. Early this year, Mr Zeman published his memoirs, entitled, "The Mistakes I Made in Politics," in which he pulled few punches in judging other politicians; for example, labeling his onetime protégée Stanislav Gross an "ignoramus" with "no ideas of his own". Mr Zeman's often vulgar accounts of behind-the-scenes dealings were a hit with the general public. His next book, "The Rise and Fall of the Social Democrats," is to be a "political horror." He also plans a chapter on the way forward for the party of which he was long-time chairman, leading to speculation that Mr Zeman, who lost to Civic Democrat Vaclav Klaus in the presidential elections, plans a comeback.
A new poll by the CVVM agency has suggested that among the five parties in Parliament the Communists have the highest percentage of 'core' supporters, at 24 percent, while the ruling Social Democrats, enjoy a core base of just 4 percent. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have a core of 11 percent. The study found that the number of Czech voters who consider themselves core supporters of any political party is considerably lower than nine years ago. According to analysts, some 27 percent are not happy with any of the parties in Parliament.
City councillors from the district of Prague 1 have cancelled a tender on the renting of a villa by Prague's lucrative Kampa Park. The villa that once belonged to Jan Werich, the famous Czech actor; Werich died in 1980. The tender was won by the firm Colly, which beat out Meda Mladkova of the Kampa Museum. City councillors based their decision to cancel the decision based on the new law on public tenders. A new tender on the villa will consequently be called.
On Wednesday the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, will name MP Jan Mladek, a member of Parliament's budget committee, the new agriculture minister. Mr Mladek is to fill the post following Petr Zgarba's decision to resign over the Land Fund property scandal. A member of the Social Democrats, the incoming minister is regarded as liberal in terms of economic policy. Once named, he plans to implement reforms in the Land Fund to prevent a repeat scandal. In the case, allegations have been made that state officials - including the former minister - passed on inside information to speculators who cheaply bought-up property now worth millions more than the original price.
The head of the Czech Social Security Administration Jiri Hoidekr has revealed that 354 Czechs are 100 or more years of age, with the oldest, a woman, 108. In the group of 'one hundred year-olds' women far outnumber men. Of the 354, 292 are women. According to the Czech Social Security Administration, the majority of one hundred year olds are Prague residents. The oldest living Czech - at 108 - has been receiving a pension for 43 years.
The new Health Minister David Rath has said he will turn to the Interior
Minister for help after a Health Ministry inspector controlling the
administration of the country's largest health insurer, the VZP, received
an anonymous threat. An employee in charge of checking the firm's finances
received an anonymous call in which a male voice warned her of danger to
her person (telling her she'd have to watch herself to make it home). She
has not contacted police. The head of the forced administration team,
Antonin Pecenka, has also said his team was under external pressure.
Last week the VZP came under forced administration under the new health minister: the health insurer's debt has exceeded more than 12 billion crowns, around 480 million US dollars. Tensions between the company and the Health Ministry have continued to intensify.
The health minister, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking support from among the VZP's administration board against current VZP head Jirina Musilkova. Last week Mr Rath called on Mrs Musilkova to resign, a call she has ignored.
Doing business in the Czech Republic poses few risks for the foreign investor, but corruption and bureaucracy remain problematic, the British analytical firm Control Risks says in its annual flagship publication RiskMap 2006. The report predicts that the main opposition Civic Democrats will win the June 2006 parliamentary elections but will fail to secure a majority in the 200-member lower house. RiskMap therefore expects the ruling Social Democrats to remain in power as part of a coalition. Whatever the outcome of the elections, the Control Risks firm expects no major reforms before June and a stable economic and business climate.
An auditor's investigation into claims of bribery and kickbacks at the German carmaker Volkswagen Group has detailed more than $1 million in company money that two former executives spent on luxury trips and parties. AP reports that an audit by KPMG International says Helmuth Schuster, a board member of Volkswagen's Czech subsidiary Skoda, and a high-ranking member of the personnel department, took luxury trips, hosted private parties and used VW money to pay for it, the automaker said. Volkswagen called in prosecutors earlier this year to clear up allegations that former managers set up fake companies in the Czech Republic and India, to defraud local authorities seeking business with the carmaker.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
Czech Republic bracing for wind storm Sabine
Ron Perlman: Cinema is a much bigger art-form than superhero movies represent
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery