The Opocno chateau in east Bohemia, which was previously awarded in a restitution process to Countess Kristina Colleredo-Mansfeld must be returned to the Czech state by Tuesday following a ruling by the Regional Court in Hradec Kralove, according to reports on the commercial Nova and Prima television stations. Countess Colleredo-Mansfeld's lawyer has already indicated that he will take the case to the European courts. The chateau, which is one of the most visited attractions in the Hradec Kralove region, was first confiscated in 1942 by the Nazis and was then subsequently transferred to the Czechoslovak state in 1945 under decrees issued by then president Edvard Benes. The Colleredo-Mansfeld family took the case to court, but then fled to Austria after the communist putsch in 1948. The chateau and its estate are valued at one billion Czech crowns or forty eight million US dollars
Roma activists from the Athinganoi civic association have held a ceremony on Prague's Letna Pplain as part of the celebrations surrounding International Roma Day. With the Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Dzamila Stehlikova in attendance, they watered a lime tree that had been planted there three years ago as a symbol of the deep roots of minorities like the Roma in Czech society. The event was one of many organised for International Roma Day, which takes place on Sunday and is intended as a celebration of Romany history and culture.
A twenty-year-old man is in intensive care after jumping from a bridge in Pilsen onto a train's coal wagon early on Saturday morning. The man leapt onto the train wagon but subsequently fell onto the tracks when he was electrocuted after standing up and touching a live overhead wire. He was flown to a special unit in Prague where doctors are treating him for burns on 50% of his body. His condition has been described as very serious but stable.
A former top officer from the Czech police's organised crime unit is now working for controversial entrepreneur Tomas Pitr, a man he previously investigated, Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. Previously, while working for the police, Ludek Zakovec had participated in the investigation of the murder of Tomas Pitr's former business partner Frantisek Mrazek and the paper points out that he could now have sensitive information relating to the case. Deputy police president Frantisek Snopek described the news as "serious" but declined to comment further. Tomas Pitr was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for serious tax fraud two years ago, but is currently appealing the decision.
Speaking in the same interview with Mlada fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Topolanek said that dismissing Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek is the least desirable option open to him. Mr Topolanek said that he would prefer if Mr Cunek's own Christian Democrat party would accept that his presence in government was destabilising the coalition administration and would persuade him to step down. The prime minister added, however, that if he was forced to choose between saving the government or retaining Mr Cunek, then he would choose the first option. Mr Cunek has been under pressure to resign for some time now over a corruption scandal and offensive remarks he made about Romanies.
A man has died following a crash between two heavy goods lorries on the D5 motorway to Pilsen late on Friday night. The forty-five year old driver of one of the trucks died after crashing into the back of another lorry which had braked to avoid hitting a stationary car. The drivers of the other vehicles were treated for shock and light injuries. The D5 motorway was closed for several hours on Saturday morning to allow for clearing operations.
Dutch Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner has said that his government intends in May to begin allowing Czechs and other nationals from countries who joined the EU in 2004 to work in the Netherlands without a work permit. The move would also entitle Czechs and other EU nationals in Holland to receive the same pay as their Dutch counterparts. At the moment, many construction firms in Holland use east European workers as a source of cheap labour. Of the 15 EU states before the 2004 round of new accessions, only Germany, Austria, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Denmark continue to place restrictions on workers from states who joined the Union three years ago.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that if parliament fails to pass the coalition government's new package of public finance reforms in the coming months, then his administration will collapse. Speaking in an interview with Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes on Saturday, Mr Topolanek told the paper that his government had promised reforms and could not continue governing if these reforms were not implemented. He added that if the government does fall then it would lead to early elections as he sees no point in further protracted negotiations to try and form a new administration. Mr Topolanek also announced that his government would present a major package of healthcare reforms next week.
Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Saturday that one and a quarter million Czech drivers have a licence that is due to expire by the end of this year and that transport authorities are probably not going to be able to issue all of them with new licences by January 31st. If this happens, drivers will not be allowed behind the wheel until new driving permits are issued. The paper estimates that several hundred thousand drivers could be affected. The Czech Ministry of Transport has been criticised in some quarters for not coordinating a nationwide campaign to highlight the problem so as to avoid a situation whereby local authorities are inundated with "last-minute" licence applications near the end of the year.
The city of Prague will provide housing to three Cuban families who were granted asylum in the Czech Republic recently, Prague councillor Jiri Janecek told the Czech Press Agency on Friday. The families were granted asylum here last month after fleeing religious and political persecution in Cuba. Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer had asked the Prague City Hall to provide flats for the refugees. Prague has already provided housing to 131 asylum holders in the past 4 years.
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