The Czech Minister for Defence Vlasta Parkanova has said that high-ranking defence ministry officials may be implicated in a corruption investigation concerning a number of public tenders. On Tuesday evening, police raided the premises of the Czech defence ministry to obtain evidence for the investigation, which also concerns a number of private firms. According to the head of the anti-corruption squad several defence ministry employees and a number of private companies are suspected of having been involved in large-scale fraud and corruption. One hundred and eighty officers are on the case. No one has yet been charged.
The Prague State Attorney's Office has announced that a corruption investigation into the financial dealings of former prime minister Stanislav Gross is to be re-opened. Mr Gross resigned as prime minister in 2005 after failing to satisfactorily name a source for money he received to buy a luxury flat in Prague. Although police have already shelved the case twice, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office said that other circumstances surrounding the case now needed to be investigated.
Austrian opponents of the Czech nuclear power plant in Temelin, south Bohemia have said that they will continue blockading Czech-Austrian borders, because they have been instrumental in forcing the Austrian government to take action on the matter. A spokesperson for the Atomstopp organisation, which blocked five border crossings for an hour on Wednesday, said that they would block six more in a fortnight's time. Critics of the Temelin power plant say that it uses outdated and dangerous Soviet-era technology, and Austrian anti-nuclear protesters have been holding border blockades in protest since the start of the year. Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik submitted an experts' report on Monday to her Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg, which listed a number of shortcomings concerning the Temelin facility.
President Vaclav Klaus and his German counterpart Horst Kohler met briefly in the north Bohemian town of Teplice. According to Mr Klaus, the two heads of state met for half and hour to discuss Czech-German relations as well as a number of European issues including the proposed EU constitution. Both agreed that the Czech Republic and Germany now enjoyed very good relations. They did not discuss the building of a proposed US radar base on Czech territory.
Czech minister for trade and industry Martin Riman has said he will urge the government to fight the European Commission's decision to slash the Czech Republic's greenhouse gas emission quotas in a European court. Mr. Riman said the Czech Republic could also lodge its challenge in tandem, with Poland which also had its quotas reduced. The European Commission said on Monday that the Czech Republic's carbon dioxide quotas should not exceed 86.8 million tonnes, which is 14.8 percent lower than what the Czechs requested. Poland's CO2 quotas were slashed by 26 percent. Minister Riman said this was particularly unfair in view of the EU newcomers' booming economies.
Secondary school students from the towns of Jaromer and Sternberk have organised a protest march in Prague, which should conclude in front of the Ministry of Education. The students are angry at the introduction of a new standardised national school-leaving certificate while they were in the middle of their school cycle. The students want the national leaving certificate to only apply to pupils who have started secondary school this year. They have also begun organising a petition in support of their cause. So far they have collected 11,000 signatures from secondary school students. An internet petition has also collected 30,000 signatures from secondary pupils. The protest march is scheduled to take place on 4 May.
A number of doctors' surgeries around the Czech Republic did not open on Wednesday in protest at a reduction in the amount of money insurance companies give GPs per patient. Doctors complain that the financial restrictions are having an adverse effect on the quality of healthcare provided. Support for the strike was strongest in Moravia, especially in the Zlin region where ninety percent of doctors closed their doors to patients.
Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek told reporters on Wednesday that he would not force deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek to resign. Mr Topolanek said that the "media witchunt" surrounding Mr Cunek who is accused of corruption exceeded the "boundaries of good taste." The coalition government's leaders met behind closed doors on Tuesday night to decide the fate of deputy prime minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek, who has been charged with taking a bribe when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek had previously said on Monday that Mr. Cunek's continued presence in government was untenable and that the door would be open for him to return if he was able to clear his name. The Green Party has also indicated that Jiri Cunek's presence in the cabinet is unwelcome. The Christian Democratic Party leadership has stood by its chairman throughout the crisis.
Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek announced on Wednesday that official negotiations have commenced between the government and the United States over the building of a US radar base in the Czech Republic, which should comprise part of an American missile defence system. Earlier, Czech deputy defence minister Martin Bartak said after meeting with US defence department officials that negotiations between the two countries will probably last until the end of the year. Meanwhile, a poll published today by the Factum Invenio agency indicates that 56 percent of Czech citizens are in favour of opening negotiations with the US on the radar base. Previous polls suggested that most Czechs were opposed to the facility being located on their territory.
The High Court in Olomouc has fined a night club operator in the north Moravian town of Ostrava because his establishment refused to serve some Roma customers. Jiri Ozdinec must now pay 5000 Czech crowns and send a written apology to each of three Romanies whom his staff would not serve when they entered his club six years ago. Mr Ozdinec had originally been ordered by a lower court to apologise and pay 50,000 crowns compensation but he appealed the verdict.
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