Daily news summary News

04-03-2004

President Klaus discusses future of Europe with EU officials in Brussels

The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has said he is satisfied with the outcome of Thursday's talks he held with senior European Union officials during his brief visit to Brussels. Mr Klaus told reporters that he had discussed the risks of speedy European integration and the future and financing of the EU with European Commission President Romano Prodi, the head of the European Parliament Pat Cox and the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Thursday's trip was Mr Klaus's first visit to EU institutions in his capacity as Czech president.

Vrbik leaves Freedom Union, government majority uncertain

MP Tomas Vrbik has left the ranks of the junior governing party, the Freedom Union. Mr Vrbik made the decision late on Wednesday after coming under criticism from fellow party members. However, Mr Vrbik said he would remain a member of the Freedom Union parliamentary party. In the past Mr Vrbik has been critical of the Freedom Union's role within the Social Democrat-led coalition. He also criticised the government's current fiscal reforms. The leadership of the Freedom Union has said Tomas Vrbik's decision to leave the Freedom Union will not threaten the functioning of the ruling coalition. The coalition has just 101 votes in the 200-member lower house.

Some Social Democrats for minority government with opposition support

The departure of MP Tomas Vrbik from the junior coalition Freedom Union has led some members of the senior Social Democrats to call for a minority Social Democrat government with the support of the opposition Civic Democrats and Communists. The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Zdenek Skromach said the Social Democrats would have to react if a crisis in the Freedom Union influences the party's voting in the lower house. Mr Skromach also said that a minority Social Democrat government would be preferable. He said if the present coalition loses its majority, it will always need a form of support or tolerance from either of the two major opposition parties. The chairman of the north Bohemia branch of the Social Democrats, Jaroslav Foldyna, recommended throwing the Freedom Union out of the government.

Czech, German police break up Czech-Asian gang of people traffickers

Czech and German police say they have arrested a gang of Czechs and Asians suspected of organising illegal migration of Chinese and Vietnamese citizens through the Czech Republic to Western Europe. In an operation code-named "Twister," police detained nine suspects on Wednesday. A Czech police spokeswoman said the group of people-smugglers was linked to similar organisations active in Germany. The organisation is believed to have smuggled at least 400 people across the German border, and earned roughly 320,000 euros for its activities.

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel receives Order of Canada

Former president Vaclav Havel received the Order of Canada in Prague on Wednesday from Canadian ambassador Bruce Jutzi. Of the 109 people awarded the highest Canadian decoration this year Mr Havel is the only foreign national, and only the third after the Queen Mother and former South African president Nelson Mandela to receive the decoration. The Order of Canada of the Highest Degree was given to Mr Havel for life-time merit. Speaking on Wednesday, the Canadian ambassador to Prague, Bruce Jutzi, stressed that Mr Havel was a major symbol of democracy for Canadians, as an advocate of human rights.

Homeless man bypasses Prague airport security and boards plane

Security at Prague's Ruzyne Airport has been tightened after a homeless man managed to slip past customs officials and boarded a plane, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. The 56-year-old man was only discovered by handling staff during final checks just before take-off last Friday. The man was arrested and handed over to Czech police. He was fined and released. The airport's spokeswoman said measures had been taken to raise the standard of checks. In 2002 a Czech Television reporter with a hidden camera managed to board an empty plane at Ruzyne, exposing flawed safety checks. Last year the airport handled a record 7.5 million passengers.

Weather

Friday is expected to be partly cloudy with daytime temperatures between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius.

04-03-2004