According to a report by the European Railway Agency released on Friday, the safety of Czech railways meets the standards of other European countries. The results are a marked improvement over 2004, when the Czech Republic recorded many more railway accidents and ranked 11th out of 23 monitored EU member states. Although the Czech Republic's overall safety rating has improved, there remain a high number of suicides at railway crossings. In 2005 railway accidents claimed 254 lives and another 251 people were injured, these mostly the result of drivers who failed to observe traffic regulations at crossings.
The Social Democrats have withdrawn the candidacy of MP Lubomir Zaoralek
for the post of lower house chairman. As Mr. Zaoralek was the only nominee
for the post, the election, originally scheduled for Friday, has been
postponed until late next week. The Social Democrats say that they
withdrew their candidate because they were not able to secure enough
support for Mr. Zaoralek prior to the vote.
Meanwhile, the two largest Czech political parties, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, continue to try and negotiate a way out of the parliamentary deadlock. The Social Democrats, who came second in last month's election, have agreed to meet next week with coalition partners the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens to discuss policy priorities. Talks on the formation of a new government have been going on for some six weeks, since a national election resulted in a perfect split in the lower house of the Czech Parliament.
The Czech Foreign Ministry continues to warn Czech nationals in Lebanon to leave the country amid the continuing conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Czech citizens are being advised not to travel to Lebanon. A group of Czechs returned to Prague in the early hours of Friday, and another group is traveling to the Czech Republic via Syria and Cyprus. In addition to organizing these evacuations, the Czech government has decided to allocate 5 million crowns for humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
Police in the south Moravian region of Brno have seized 118 rare birds from a private collector in the small town of Ujezd. Among the animals were species listed as internationally endangered, and others which are protected by Czech law. The owner of the property faces up to three years in prison, or a monetary fine. The rescued birds have found temporary shelter at the Brno zoo.
The European Commission announced in Brussels on Friday that Italy has opened its labour market to citizens of the newest European Union member states, including the Czech Republic. Italy is the second country in quick succession to open its labour market to citizens of the new EU-member countries; Denmark also relaxed its requirements on July 1, 2006. Meanwhile, the closest neighbours of the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria, have not opened their labour markets to Czech citizens. Czechs can work without restrictions in Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland.
The Social Democrat candidate for lower house speaker, Lubomir Zaoralek, has said he is prepared to offer the post of prime minister to a Civic Democrat member. In case there is a third attempt at forming a new government, it is the lower house speaker who proposes the future prime minister. Mr Zaoralek said on Thursday, in such a case he would offer the post to a Civic Democrat member as a last possibility of preventing early elections.
The daily Mlada fronta Dnes writes that its reporters saw the police president Vladislav Husak drive his car at the speed of 190 km/hour on a road between the town of Karlovy Vary and Prague, substantially breaking the speed limit. Under the new transport law, Mr Husak should receive 13 penalty points, a 22,500-crown fine and his driver's licence should be taken away, the paper says. Mr Husak said he regretted what had happened and in a statement on Thursday, he said he was going to give up his driver's licence for three months and donate 10,000 crowns to charity.
The leader of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek and Social Democrat chairman Jiri Paroubek said after a meeting on Thursday that the election of the lower house speaker, originally scheduled for Friday, would most likely be postponed until next week. Meanwhile, talks will continue on ways to remove the political deadlock produced by the June parliamentary election.
The Czech and Slovak armies have started preparing a joint unit within the European Union forces, Czech Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl said on Thursday after a meeting with his Slovak counterpart Frantisek Kasicky in Prague. Mr Kuehnl said the joint unit with 1,500 soldiers is expected to be ready to operate in peace-keeping missions anywhere in the world as of 2009. The two ministers agreed that the Czech-Slovak military cooperation remained on a high and above-standard level, citing the joint operation of both armies in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina and exchange of experience with the military reform.
The chairman of the Communist Party Vojtech Filip said on Thursday that the Social Democrat candidate for lower house chairman Lubomir Zaoralek cannot fully rely on the support of all Communist deputies in the vote, originally scheduled for Friday. The Communist Party's objection to Mr Zaoralek's candidacy is that he had initiated a resolution at the latest Social Democrat national conference that bans the Social Democrats from cooperating with the Communists.