The Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik resigned on Tuesday. Mr Mertlik said he was finding it increasingly difficult to influence key government decisions. Some sources quoted by the CTK news agency say Mr. Mertlik's decision to quit stemmed from his long-term disputes with some of his colleagues in the cabinet, namely industry and trade minister Miroslav Gregr whose economic concepts have on many occasions been given priority over Mr Mertlik's.
Opposition politicians as well as economic analysts see Mr. Mertlik's resignation as potentially harmful to the whole economy, although this may depend upon how long it will take to appoint a new finance minister.
An environmental impact assessment conducted by an international team of experts has described the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power station as safe, and its impact on the environment minimal. The study rules out negative impact both on Czech and Austrian citizens even in case of an accident. However the study foresees a potential danger in contamination of both underground and surface water sources. The expert commission recommends resolving the problem of storage of nuclear waste from the plant in a reasonable time perspective.
The Lower House has passed a new law on the media. The amendment makes it possible for licence holders to have their broadcasting licences prolonged for one term. The law will relieve the conditions for mergers of large broadcasting organisations. However, it will be impossible for two nation-wide television or radio stations to merge. The law also harmonizes Czech legislation in the broadcasting sector with European directives. The law is yet to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president.
The Albanian president Rexhep Meidani is visiting Prague this week. This is the first ever official visit of an Albanian president to the Czech Republic. Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, has, according to Meidani, many things to learn from the Czech Republic, especially regarding integration into European structures. Official relations between the Czech Republic and Albania cooled in the 1960's but improved again after the fall of Communist regimes in both countries.
The Czech National Bank has changed the system of inflation targeting. It switched from the net inflation to the overall inflation rate. This should make it easier for the Central Bank to adapt its policies to meet inflation targets. The bank has also set the inflation target for next year within the range from 3 to 5 percent with a goal to cut inflation to 2 to 4 percent in 2005. The Central Bank has been using inflation targeting since 1998 but has usually failed to hit the mark.
Czech police say they have broken up a criminal gang which organised the transport of illegal immigrants from the East through the Czech Republic to EU countries. The police arrested 12 members of the gang, including four foreign nationals who they say masterminded the criminal activities. The police estimate that the gang organised the illegal immigration of 2,500 people in return for more than a million USD. The immigrants came mainly from Arab countries, but also hailed from Romania and India.
And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a cloudy day with scattered showers, with afternoon highs ranging from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius. Thursday and Friday should be also cloudy with occasional rain or snow showers. Night-time lows are expected to drop to zero, and the highest daytime temperatures should not exceed 7 degrees Celsius.
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