The European Commission has said it is launching a multimillion- dollar programme to combat organised crime and corruption in central and eastern Europe.
The 2.5-million-dollar scheme, being launched jointly with the Council of Europe, will focus on training and assistance for civil servants, judges, prosecutors and police officers involved in fighting graft and crime.
The commission said in a statement released on Wednesday that corruption and organised crime had been identified in recent years as potentially major threats to the stability of democratic institutions, the rule of law, the market economy and social and economic progress in the candidate countries.
It said the programme would help the former communist nations to meet E.U. criteria in the field of justice and home affairs.
The Czech Catholic Primate, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, is to meet Prime Minister Milos Zeman within the next two weeks in a bid to improve the strained relations between the state and the church.
The cardinal spoke with the premier on the phone late on Wednesday and Czech Bishops Conference spokesman said afterwards that modalities may have been found.
President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday threw his weight solidly behind the property claims of the Roman Catholic Church.
Over a breakfast with Cardinal Vlk, Havel said the church's claims that its seized property be restituted to it, are legitimate and the Social Democrat government ought to follow the line assumed by its predecessors.
We will have more about the delicate problem of church-state relations in our current affairs programme right after the news.
The lower house of the Czech parliament on Wednesday defeated a motion to drop citizenship as a condition of restituting seized property to Czechs living abroad.
The Christian Democrat motion described the condition that only Czech citizens are eligible for restitutions as unlawful and unconstitutional.
But their initiative was defeated after most of the house, including half of the right-wing Civic Democrats, voted against.
Opponents of the Christian Democratic draft argue that the amendment would only replace old injustices with new ones.
The British secret service MI6 was forced to consider withdrawing its man in Prague after he was identified by the Czech counterintelligence agency BIS and his name and address were leaked to the media. It was also disclosed that the agent could be prone to blackmail because of his alleged homosexual orientation.
The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph believes the incident could be detrimental to Czech-British relations. But the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that the affair had impaired neither Prague's ties with London nor the Czech Republic's admission into NATO.
The number of people killed in Tuesday's bus collision on a highway a few kilometres west of Prague rose to nine after another passenger succumbed to his injuries in a Prague hospital on Wednesday.
Almost 30 people were injured, some of them seriously, when their commuter bus rammed into a lorry in the morning rush hour in what our correspondent describes as the most serious bus accident in the Czech Republic in 10 years.
The 40-year-old bus driver, who escaped unhurt, was taken into custody after being charged with criminal negligence.
Former prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz want the Czech government to declare January 27 a day of the victims of Nazism.
On this day back in 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army. An association of Auschwitz survivors said in Prague on Wednesday that the anniversary should serve as a warning against racial, ethnic and religious hatred and intolerance.
The Holocaust survivors also urged Germany to extend the deadline for submitting claims for compensation for the slave labour done by prisoners in German factories. The current deadline expires on 13 May this year.
Two mountaineers -- a Czech and a Croat -- have died while attempting to scale the 7,000-metre Aconcagua peak in Argentina.
The Czech climber died of lung edema early on Thursday. The body of the Croat, who had been missing for three days, was found late on Wednesday. No cause of his death was given.
The International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday it will continue its fight to overturn a lenient sentence on Petr Korda following his positive dope test by launching its own appeal in London.
Korda won an appeal in London's High Court last week after a judge ruled that the ITF, tennis' ruling body, was not entitled to go ahead with its challenge to a decision by its own appeals board. But the judge gave the ITF leave to take the case to the Court of Appeal and the ITF said on Wednesday it would be doing so.
Korda had told the board he had not knowingly taken the Nandrolone steroid at last year's Wimbledon championships.
Finally, the weather. On Friday, colder air will intrude from the northeast hot on the heels, so to say, of a cold front. It will be a wet and cold day with some scattered snow showers at higher elevations. Nighttime lows between one and five Celsius, daytime maxima about the same.
On Saturday, we expect daytime highs around freezing point and nighttime lows from zero to four degrees below.
I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.
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