The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek faced a question-and-answer session in the lower house of parliament on Thursday ahead of Friday's confidence vote in Mr Paroubek's new coalition government. Among the topics that Mr Paroubek had to defend his position on were the privatisation of Czech Telecom and the future leadership of the government's anti-drug commission. Mr Paroubek was named prime minister last month, after his predecessor Stanislav Gross resigned.
While both opposition parties, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats and the Communists, have said they would not support the new coalition in Friday's no-confidence vote, Mr Paroubek is confident that all 101 government deputies in the 200-seat lower house will unanimously vote in favour of the coalition.
The Czech Anti-Monopoly Office has launched administrative proceedings against three of the country's biggest banks. Ceska Sporitelna, Komercni Banka, and CSOB are suspected of concluding a cartel agreement on bank charges. The three banks charge much higher fees than in most other EU member states. If the banks are proven guilty, they can face a fine of up to ten million Czech crowns (some 420,000 US dollars) or amounting to ten percent of profits recorded in 2004.
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus has signed an amendment to the employment law prohibiting what is called the Schwarz System, where companies employ people with trade licenses to do work that regular staff members are capable of doing. The amendment is to help define illegal outsourcing more clearly. President Klaus also signed a bill into law on Thursday that provides compensation to victims of the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia. Depending on how badly they were affected, victims or their surviving relatives will receive between 30,000 and 150,000 crowns (1,300-6,300 US dollars) from the state.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has proposed to stop the activities or dissolve some 54 political parties and movements. They are said to have broken the law by failing to forward the entire or part of their business management reports for 2004 to the lower house. The lower house has therefore asked the government to propose to the Supreme Administrative Court to end the activities of 38 of the political groupings and dissolve 16 of them, which are no longer active. The parties and movements involved - some took part in the last elections - include the ultra-right Republicans of Miroslav Sladek and the Roma Civic Initiative.
The 60th Prague Spring music festival is underway in the Czech capital. It was opened by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, with a cycle of symphonic poems by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, who died 120 twenty years ago. The festival will come to a close on June 4.
The Czech Republic's ice hockey team have made it to the semi-finals of the World Championships in Vienna after beating the United States 3:2 on Thursday. The teams battled to a 2-2 tie after regulation time and a 10 minute overtime period, before heading into penalty shots at which Martin Rucinsky was the only one of 10 shooters to score. The Czech Republic will face the winner of Thursday's Sweden-Switzerland quarter final in the semi-finals on Saturday.
The next few days should remain cloudy with occasional showers. Day-time temperatures are expected to rise steadily to reach 20 degrees Celsius by the end of the weekend.
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