The Senate has passed a package of legislative changes that are needed for the country's entry to the Schengen system. The bill that simultaneously amends fourteen laws was smoothly passed by the lower house a few weeks ago. It has yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus. The Czech Republic is to join the Schengen border free zone on January 1, 2008 when checks will be lifted all along its border.
A government-proposed package of public finance reforms has been passed by the lower house in the first reading. The legislation will be discussed by individual parliamentary committees in the coming weeks and the lower house should hold a vote on it the summer. In Thursday's first reading of the bill, the reform package was rejected by 97 Social Democrat and Communist MPs. The main critic of the reform package from the coalition ranks, Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlusty, abstained.
Czech car manufacturer Skoda Auto has raised its production target for this year by 6.2 percent to 616,000 cars, board member and personnel manager Martin Jahn said in an interview with Czech economic weekly, Ekonom. Skoda Auto, part of the German-based Volkswagen Group, will have to increase car production capacity at its main Mlada Boleslav plant in Central Bohemia, including engine production, and reconstruction of its Vrchlabi plant in the north of the country, Mr Jahn said. Skoda Auto is the biggest car producer in central Europe.
The Interior Minister's Inspection Office has cleared former police chief Vladislav Husak of committing a criminal offence. The office investigated Mr Husak on suspicion of disclosing classified information. However, it did not prove allegations that Mr Husak revealed the contacts of his subordinate with a Russian intelligence agent, speculation which appeared in the Czech media. Vladislav Husak resigned from his post in March, stating media pressure as the main reason.
Czech economic growth for 2006 was revised upward to 6.4 percent from 6.1 percent, the Czech Statistical Office and the Czech National Bank announced in a joint news release on Thursday. At the same time, the growth figure for 2005 was increased to 6.5 percent from 6.1 percent and for 2004 from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent.
The Gripen International consortium which supplied 14 fighter jets to the Czech military says it launched offset projects worth 8.7 billion crowns (414 million US dollars) by the end of 2006 in the Czech Republic. Gripen's investment in the Czech economy is supposed to reach 25.5 billion crowns (1.21 billion USD) between 2004 and 2014, under a contract between the company and the Czech state. The offset programme includes 31 individual investment projects.
Thursday's Pravo writes that Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is
considering resignation if Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek is accused of
corruption but remains in government. According to the daily, Mr
Schwarzenberg informed Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of his decision and
notified also Environment Minister Martin Bursik, chairman of the Green
Party, which nominated Mr Schwarzenberg for the cabinet post. The Prime
Minister confirmed on Thursday he had known about Mr Schwarzenberg's
intention for a few weeks. He said he expected Mr Cunek to step down if he
The police suspect Mr Cunek of taking a bribe of half a million crowns five years ago when he was mayor of the eastern town of Vsetin. Jiri Cunek denies any wrongdoing.
The internet news server Aktualne.cz reports that MPs Michal Pohanka and Milos Melcak, who have left the opposition Social Democrats and side with the government in crucial votes in parliament, have received letters containing death threats. Mr Melcak and Mr Pohanka supported the coalition government in a confidence vote in January, thus helping it narrowly survive. On Thursday they supported the government's draft public finance reform in its first reading in the lower house. Aktualne.cz writes that Mr Melcak and Mr Pohanka admitted previously that an anonymous campaign has been led against them since last year and they and their families have received death threats.
Czech Airlines have filed a criminal lawsuit against an American man who travelled with a rare form of tuberculosis on one of their flights and may have infected other passengers. The suit charges the man, Andrew Speaker, with spreading an infectious disease. Mr Speaker, who has been infected with a contagious "super TB" bug, had been ordered by American authorities not to go on long-distance flights, but ignored these instructions. Doctors say he may have infected four Czechs with the virus on a Czech Airlines flight from Prague to Montreal on 24 May.
Meanwhile, in related news, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has dismissed the government's argument that the proposed reforms are needed to rein in public spending and said that they would plunge the Czech Republic into darkness. He said that the reforms will only benefit the rich and will increase poverty in the country. Reacting to Mr Topolanek's assertion that they were an emergency brake for public spending, he said that applying the emergency brake when the road was slippery may cause the car to crash disastrously.