The Czech ambassador to Kuwait has been sacked after criticising a decision to withdraw the Czech Army field hospital from Iraq. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said Jana Hybaskova would be removed from the post after persistent criticism of her government's policy in Iraq. She will remain an employee of the Foreign Ministry. Mrs Hybaskova has said she accepts the decision. Her dismissal, however, must still be approved by President Vaclav Klaus. Earlier this week Mrs Hybaskova wrote a newspaper article criticising the government over its decision to withdraw the field hospital from the Iraqi city of Basra by the end of the year. The government says it does not have enough staff to continue the mission. The Czech Republic will send 80 military policemen to Iraq instead.
The president's office has revealed that President Vaclav Klaus has signed a bill amendment which will allow remaining property in the country's now defunct Children's Fund, to be redistributed among various youth organisations. The bill was passed by the lower house on Thursday, overruling an earlier decision by the Czech Senate, which turned down the amendment on the grounds that many of the buildings were in ill-repair. Properties that will be redistributed include addresses on Senovazne namesti, or Senovazne Square in Prague, and Ceska Street in the country's second-largest city Brno.
The Lower House has chosen to support a government plan reducing the number of customs offices in the Czech Republic from the current 91 to just 54, in line with the country's preparations to join the EU. The number of customs officers will also be reduced by more than 2, 300 from the current 9,440. It is also expected that around 80 percent of current customs officials will be made redundant by the end of 2004. The Czech Republic is slated to join the European Union on May 1st: the newly streamlined Czech customs will gain new powers following EU accession including the right to gather information on trade and the movement of goods between the Czech Republic and other EU countries.
Investment house Patria Finance has indicated on its internet server that out of ten accession countries slated to join the European Union next year, Czechs have the highest wages, second only to Slovenia. According to a survey conducted by Patria Online the Czechs moved ahead of Poland where wage growth has slowed. The analysis showed that differences between incoming members and current EU countries remain high. Even the most well off in Slovenia, for example, make less than half of what is earned in neighbouring Austria, or Germany.
Police say some 200 in the skinhead movement are planning an illegal march in the town of Liberec Friday evening to commemorate the death of one of their own in the town a year ago, killed in an auto accident. Both Czech, as well as German and Polish members of the far-right movement are expected to attend. Local police have beefed up their forces to some 200 men at the scene to keep an eye on the situation, among them officers specially trained for riot situations, and members of a special response unit. Police are prepared to either step in to prevent the march, or, at the very least, to intervene, should it get out of hand.
The 69th congress of the International PEN Club, held in Mexico City, elected Czech writer Jiri Grusa as its new president by a vote of 54 to 7 on Thursday. Mr Grusa was the only candidate in the running. The 65-year-old poet takes over from Mexican writer and poet Homero Aridjis, who was president of the International PEN Club for two consecutive terms. Jiri Grusa is currently the Czech Republic's ambassador to Austria but will resign from his post to take up his new role at the head of the influential writers' organization. Mr Grusa was an active opponent of the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia, expelled in 1981 for taking part in the so- called "Prague Spring" protests. He writes in German as well as in Czech.
Saturday should see light drizzle throughout the day with daytime temperatures ranging between a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 9 degrees Celsius.
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