On Thursday evening over half a million viewers watched the first ever "Vecernicek" children's programme to feature Romany characters. Public broadcaster Czech Television said almost 400,000 of the animated programme's viewers had been adults. It was part one of a six-part series partly funded by the European Union.
Employees in the state sector are to go on strike for one hour on the morning of Wednesday, April 21, the chairman of the Czech Medical Workers Union told reporters on Friday. The strike is in protest at government plans to give workers only ten percent of their "thirteenth month's" salary, a type of end-of-year bonus.
Controversial businessman Viktor Kozeny has registered his new political party at the Interior Ministry, party deputy chairman Pavel Matejka said on Friday. Mr Kozeny - who is now an Irish citizen and lives in the Bahamas - is wanted for large-scale fraud in the Czech Republic and the United States. His party is called "Viktor Kozeny - Civic Federal Democrats" and plans to field candidates in the first ever Czech elections to the European Parliament in June. Questions have been asked about how the man dubbed the "Pirate of Prague" plans to stand, given that he would be arrested if he entered the Czech Republic.
The Senate has approved the nomination of seven of the twenty-four provisional deputies, who will be representing the Czech Republic in the European Parliament in the period between the country's accession to the EU on May 1 and July 20 when regular deputies are scheduled to assume their posts. The twenty-four Czech MEPs will be elected in the June 11-12 elections, in which the Czech Republic will take part for the first time as a full-fledged EU member. The remaining seventeen provisional deputies are expected to be nominated by the Lower House next Tuesday.
More than twenty international banks have been asked to submit bids to lead manage the Czech Republic's debut sovereign euro bond issue, Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota told Reuters news agency on Thursday. The Czech Republic is looking to tap international markets for about one billion euros through a 10-year bond issue in June, about a month after it joins the European Union. According to Mr Janota, the ministry will make a short list and choose one or two lead managers by the end of this month at the latest. The Czech euro bond offering is expected to set a benchmark for sovereign debt of the country, which - unlike its central European peers - has no outstanding sovereign foreign bonds. Apart from this, the finance ministry also wants to open up a new borrowing channel and ease pressure on the domestic market, increasingly saturated by fast growing state debt. Czech government debt accounted for 37.6 percent of gross domestic product last year, under EU criteria, and is seen rising further in the years to come due to fiscal deficits.
Some thirty North Korean seamstresses disrupted a Czech TV crew on Thursday, which was filming outside their place of employment in the town of Skutec, near Chrudim, east Bohemia. The attack came in reaction to reports in the Czech media that the seamstresses were being mistreated by their own embassy. The crowd of women surrounded the crew members, who had been taping interviews with passers-by, pushing, scratching, and even throwing rocks at them. No one was seriously hurt but the cameraman did suffer light injuries. The crew's camera was damaged after being seized by the women who took it inside the company. It was only returned after the arrival of police; the videotape in the camera had been removed. Police are now investigating the incident and have arrested three of the seamstresses.
Some 2,500 students and professors marched through the centre of Prague on Thursday afternoon to protest against the lack of finances at Czech universities. The protest march is the last of a number of events staged by students this week named the "week of unrest", to pressure the government into releasing more funds for the education sector. The students from Prague were joined by their peers from the towns of Olomouc, Pilsen, Usti nad Labem, Hradec Kralove, and Liberec. The Chairman of Charles University's Academic Senate, Vaclav Hampl, argues that under the given conditions, Czech universities will not be able to compete with other European universities after the country's accession to the European Union, as the quality of education in the Czech Republic will suffer a serious setback.
Former Czech finance and education minister Ivan Pilip, has confirmed that he is to become one of the seven vice- presidents of the European Investment Bank (EIB) on May 1. According to EIB vice-president Wolfgang Roth, Mr Pilip will be in charge of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, which along with seven more countries become EIB shareholders as of May 1, when they join the European Union. Mr Roth, who has up-to-date been in charge of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland at the EIB, will cover other Central European countries such as Austria. The EIB is one of the biggest players on global financial markets. It is controlled by EU member countries, which means it can borrow cheaply and grant cheap loans, mostly to countries and regions.
During a conference on Afghanistan in Berlin on Wednesday Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda met American Secretary of State Colin Powell, discussing Czech military commitment in Afghanistan and the Czech Republic's role in the continuing war on terror. The Czech foreign minister assured Mr Powell that the Czechs would continue in Afghanistan with 109 Special Forces troops taking part in the U.S.-led operation "Enduring Freedom" and additional soldiers taking part in the ISAF peacekeeping operation. Mr Svoboda also told journalists on Wednesday that the Czech government was interested in finding funds to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, for instance in building and renewing the country's cement works. However, for now it remains unclear whether the Czech government will be able to find the necessary funds for the project.
The Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of raising TV and radio license fees to 100 crowns and 45 crowns a month respectively. This fee is to be paid by all households regardless of whether they do or do not own a television and radio receiver. The proposed amendment also envisages less advertising time for public broadcaster Czech TV - a reduction to 0.8 percent from the present 1 percent of overall broadcasting time. The bill was approved by a one vote majority and has been strongly criticized by the opposition. It must now pass through the Senate and then be signed by the president.