The Iraqi Culture Minister Mufid al-Jazairi has said that the prolongation of the stay in Iraq of Czech military police officers would have political significance for his country. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Jazairi said that technically, the withdrawal of a hundred Czech soldiers is of no great importance but, as he said, the enemies of democracy are trying to threaten countries involved in Iraq and make them leave the country. Even the withdrawal of such a small group as the Czech unit would be seen as a political signal of support for the terrorists, the Iraqi official said. A Czech military police unit are helping to train local security forces in southern Iraq. The Czech Parliament is going to discuss whether their stay will be extended until the end of February 2005.
The Reuters news agency has reported that a Europe-wide study of anti-smoking policies due out on Tuesday will criticise Czech anti-smoking measures. The report ranks 28 European countries for their progress on a range of anti-smoking measures, including raising tax on cigarettes, smoke-free policies in offices, bars and restaurants, anti-tobacco advertising and clear warnings on cigarette packets. Among other things, the Czech Republic will be criticised for low prices of cigarettes in relation to wages. While a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes costs almost 7 euros in Britain, it is around 2 euros in the Czech Republic. Fifty people are believed to die of smoking-related diseases every day in the Czech Republic.
A referendum held this weekend in the country's second city of Brno on the relocation of the city's main railway station has ended in failure because of a low turnout. Only around 25 percent of all eligible voters took part in the poll. For the results to be legally binding for the city authorities the turnout would have had to exceed 50 percent. The authorities in Brno, which is an important railway hub, want to build a new station outside the city centre. Eighty-five percent of those who turned up for the referendum voted against the relocation.
The fresh Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, is expected to visit the Czech Republic in November. Ms Maathai is supposed to take part in an international conference on greenhouse gases in Prague. The organisers had invited Ms Maathai as a regular delegate but now after she has been awarded the Nobel Prize, she'll be asked to deliver a special speech on the eve of the conference.
The first round of the Senate by-election in the Prague 4 and Znojmo constituencies has not produced clear winners. In the second round next week, Civic Democrat Frantisek Prihoda will face Erazim Kohak, who is running for the Social Democrats, at Prague 4. In the Znojmo constituency the two contenders will be Jaroslav Parik, running for the Civic Democrats, and Milan Spacek, a candidate for the Christian Democrats. The two seats in the Senate were recently vacated after Senators Josef Zieleniec and Vladimir Zelezny became Euro-MPs in the Czech Republic's first ever European elections.
Health Minister Milada Emmerova and Ombudsman Otakar Motejl have decided to set up a special committee to look into allegations the Czech Republic has tolerated the coercive sterilisation of Roma women. The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre says it has evidence of several such cases, mostly during the 1990s.
The Czech Republic's football team are preparing for a qualifying game for the 2006 World Cup, against Romania in Prague on Saturday evening. Since reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2004, things have not been going well for the Czechs, who lost their first qualifier to Holland and saw captain Pavel Nedved retire. Furthermore, they have not scored a goal in almost five hours of play. On Wednesday they travel to Armenia for their third World Cup qualification match.
Meanwhile, an adviser to the education minister said on Friday after a discussion about the education of Romanies that some children might be legally required to go to kindergarten from the age of five, a year earlier than children normally start school in the Czech Republic. Martin Profant said the aim of the plan was to make Romany children better prepared for elementary school, and therefore less likely to end up in schools for children with learning difficulties.
The Czech Republic can expect to record its lowest balance of trade deficit since 1993, according to former Czech finance minister and Raiffeisenbank economist Pavel Mertlik. The positive development is attributed to the fact that Czech exports have increased significantly with EU membership. Mr Mertlik predicts this year's deficit to range from 50 to 60 billion crowns, as opposed to the 70 billion recorded in 2003 and 2002.
Midfielder Tomas Galasek has been selected as the new captain of the Czech Republic, following the retirement from international football of Pavel Nedved. Galasek, who is 31 and plays for Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam, was chosen as captain by his Czech teammates, who are in Prague preparing for World Cup qualifying games against Romania and Armenia.