Police are searching the premises of the Czech Defense Ministry and several private firms on suspicion of corruption in a number of public tenders. According to the head of the anti-corruption squad several Defense 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.
A grassroots Social Democrat organization in the Moravian Highlands, currently home-base of the former Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman, has announced its decision to disband. The head of the organization said the decision was approved unanimously as a show of support for Mr. Zeman who quit party ranks last week after being accused of having harmed his party financially when he was still its chairman. The decision was sparked by an ongoing row between Mr. Zeman, who led the Social Democrats for eight years and helped make the party one of the strongest forces in Czech politics, and the party's present leader Jiri Paroubek.
The father and coach of top ranked Czech tennis player Nicole Vaidisova, Ales Kodat, was named non-playing captain of the country's Fed Cup team on Tuesday, the Czech agency CTK reported. Kodat, 40, will lead the Czech team, likely to include his daughter who is ranked eighth worldwide, against neighbours Slovakia for their World Group II first round clash on April 21-22 in Bratislava. Kodat replaces Tomas Petera, who stepped down after two years to help Prague's bid to host the summer Olympic Games in 2016.
Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said after talks in Portugal on Tuesday that he firmly believed that the Czech Republic would join the Schengen border free zone at the end of this year. At a meeting in Lisbon the interior ministers of the EU newcomer states received from Portuguese representatives a package of information technologies necessary for the planned expansion. The SISone4all package is a software solution proposed by Portugal that will allow the new EU members to join Schengen by extending the existing EU police data base. Technical problems with setting up a new base threatened to postpone the process of expansion.
Overall confidence in the Czech economy grew both month-on-month and year-on-year in March reaching the highest level in history, according to a report published by the Czech Statistical office on Tuesday. The overall confidence indicator rose by one point against February and by 5.5 points against March. The business confidence indicator increased by 6.4 points year on year, while consumer confidence grew by 1.8 points.
Coalition leaders are to meet later today to decide the fate of Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek who is charged with corruption. The case has dragged on for weeks now and despite growing pressure on him to resign Mr. Cunek has refused to do so. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek 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, which has stood by its chairman throughout the crisis, said on Tuesday it would leave the decision in Mr. Cunek's hands. Mr Cunek is accused of taking a bribe when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago.
Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka has suggested that the Church should receive financial compensation for property confiscated by the communist regime that now remains in state or council ownership. Mr. Jehlicka told Tuesday's edition of Pravo that he would meet with Archbishop Jan Graubner to discuss the possibility. According to estimates the overall compensation sum would reach one billion crowns and the culture minister admitted that the state was not in a position to pay a lump sum. He suggested an annual settlement over a longer period of time.
The Czech government has called on Belarus to release some seventy
protesters who were arrested during a demonstration against President
Alexander Lukashenko's regime on Sunday. "We call for the immediate
release of all political prisoners and for the respect of human rights
and democratic values in Belarus," the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a
statement on Tuesday.
Police and paratroopers on Sunday prevented up to 1,500 Lukashenko opponents from protesting in the same Minsk square where unprecedented rallies shook the former Soviet republic a year ago. The Czech Foreign Ministry said that Sunday's crack down on protesters in Minsk Square had once again confirmed the non-democratic nature of Alexander Lukashenko's regime. The Belarussian president has been in power since 1994. He was re-elected last year but international observers said the vote was rigged.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said it is untenable for Jiri Cunek to
remain in the government. Mr Topolanek told the daily Hospodarske noviny
that an investigation into alleged bribe-taking by Mr Cunek was damaging
the whole government. The prime minister said he would offer to reinstate
Mr Cunek in the posts of deputy prime minister and regional development
minister if he proved his innocence.
On Tuesday the two men are due to discuss the situation with the leader of the third party in the coalition, the Greens.
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