The Czech Republic has said it will support Croatian ambitions to join the European Union if Zagreb cooperates with the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. On a working visit to Zagreb, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that the Czech Republic was willing to help Croatia as a friendly country in the negotiating process for EU membership, but he said Croatia must meet all conditions for membership. One of the key conditions is cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal, which means that Croatia must extradite its soldiers, including generals, who are charged with war crimes to the ICTY. Croatia is seen as having been reluctant to cooperate in the past, having failed to arrest its prime war crimes suspect, army general Ante Gotovina.
More than half of all primary and secondary schools in the country intend to join the one day token strike in protest of low wages on Monday. The Education Ministry said on Friday that it could make no more concessions, and that it had done its utmost for teachers within the government proposed cuts in spending. The Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka likewise confirmed that there could be no question of allotting extra finances for teachers' pay. Tax officials, employees of land registry and social welfare offices also intend to join the one day protest strike. Meanwhile, the leaders of the governing coalition parties are to meet with officials of the Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions on Monday to discuss the public finance reform and trade unions' suggestions for its modification. The Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has warned trade unions however not to expect any major concessions.
The price of natural gas is to go down from October, the Czech Energy Regulation Office announced on Wednesday. Gas will be 3.1 percent cheaper for households and an average of 3.6 percent cheaper for other customers. The cuts are a result of the favourable exchange rate of the Czech crown to the US dollar, which makes importing natural gas cheaper.
Police have arrested animal rights activists who blocked the Chotebuz crossing on the Czech-Polish border in north Moravia in protest at a truck carrying live horses. Around two dozen activists demanded on Wednesday that vets inspect the animals, which they said were not being transported humanely. A spokesperson for the animal rights campaigners said they would continue their protests in the future.
Sparta Prague football club have succeeded in qualifying for the biggest event in club football, the Champions League. Sparta reached the prestigious and lucrative competition after drawing 2:2 with Macedonian club Vardar Skopje on Tuesday; that result was enough to put them through after a 3:2 win in the first leg.
The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft has strongly criticised statements made by the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, on a visit to Prague on Tuesday. Mr Fischer praised recent conciliatory statements about the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia's German minority by Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the prime minister, Vladimir Spidla. The leader of the Landsmannschaft, Bernd Posselt, said on Wednesday that Mr Fischer's comments distorted historical truth and undermined Czechs who were trying to honestly come to terms with their country's past.
It appears that the former head of the Czech Bar Association, Karel Cermak, will be appointed as justice minister. Mr Cermak confirmed on Wednesday that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla had asked him to take the post and said he would be willing to accept. It is expected that the prime minister will announce his choice to succeed Pavel Rychetsky on Friday. Mr Spidla has had a great deal of trouble finding a replacement for Mr Rychetsky, who stepped down last month; the prime minister is currently himself acting as caretaker justice minister.
Police have arrested a woman suspected of murdering two men. The woman, who is 38 and comes from north Bohemia, was arrested on Friday in the town of Decin. Police say she robbed and killed two men in Prague in May and August and met both of her victims in restaurants in the city. A police spokesperson said on Wednesday that they had never come across such a case before. The woman was previously convicted for murder in 1983.
The commander of the British-led international division in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has requested that Czech military police in the city remain there next year, the Czech defence minister, Miroslav Kostelka, said on Wednesday. Mr Kostelka said it was likely his ministry would ask the cabinet to extend the police's stay in Basra as requested. There are currently 79 Czech military police officers in Iraq. A spokesman for the Defence Ministry said the Czechs were not viewed as negatively by Iraqis as their American and British counterparts.
The dispute between President Vaclav Klaus and the Senate over filling vacant posts on the Constitutional Court has continued, with the head of the president's press office saying the court might never be complete. Spokesman Petr Hajek made the statement on Saturday in reaction to an alleged comment by Senator Edvard Outrata that none of Mr Klaus's candidates would have a chance of being accepted if he did not discuss them with the Senate first. The Senate has so far only approved five of nine candidates put forward by the president, leading Mr Klaus to describe its behaviour as "scandalous". Eight of the Constitutional Court's 15 judges retired in July.
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