The 2005 budget has been approved. All 101 coalition MPs were present for Wednesday's vote, ensuring it was passed by the 200-seat lower house. The budget envisages a deficit of over 80 billion Czech crowns (2,700 million euros). It now has to be signed by the president. The Civic Democrats criticized the budget, saying it would not foster growth and meant the country was living in ever more debt.
The Czech Republic has once again been fined by the European Court of Human Rights over the slowness of its courts, Hospodarske noviny reported on Wednesday. The Becvar family took the state to the Strasbourg court after a case they took in a property dispute lasted for almost six years. The Czech Republic has now lost over 35 such cases, and won only one, said the daily.
Premysl Sobotka of the opposition Civic Democrats has, as expected, been elected chairman of the Czech Senate. Mr Sobotka, who took 55 of the 80 votes cast on Wednesday, will replace Petr Pithart of the Christian Democrats. Premysl Sobotka is a doctor by profession and has been a member of the Senate since 1996.
The English Football Association is investigating comments made by the Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, after he appeared to criticize the referee of a game between his club Chelsea and Arsenal. But Chelsea say the player's statements, which appeared in Czech newspapers, were exaggerated and badly translated.
The majority of Czech members of the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Union opening accession talks with Turkey on Wednesday. But 'no' votes were cast on Wednesday by five of the 24 Czech MEPs, among them Vladimir Zelezny, whose Eurosceptic group came out strongly against Turkey joining, and called for referendums on the issue in all EU states. EU leaders are expected to give the green light to accession negotiations with Turkey later this week.
The Lower House of Parliament has passed an amendment to the energy law under which the Czech electricity and gas markets should be liberalised by 2007. As of next year large companies should be able to choose their supplier of natural gas. Deputies approved the proposal including the Senate's recommendation that the amendment take effect on the day it is published in the Collection of Laws. The bill as passed by the Chamber of Deputies was originally meant to come into force two weeks ago. The amendment is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
The Czech Republic and the United States have agreed on the need to sign a new agreement on the mutual extradition of citizens. The Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and the visiting US Attorney General John Aschcroft said in Prague on Tuesday that the existing agreement from 1925 is badly outdated and does not apply to certain crimes. The new agreement should be in line with the framework agreement between the European Union and the United States. During their meeting in Prague the two officials discussed the fight against terrorism, people trafficking and the fight against drugs.
The entire dramatic works of the former Czech President Vaclav Havel are to be presented at a New York Festival being staged to mark his 70 th birthday in 2006.The Prague agency Aura-Pont, which handles the copyrights for Havel's plays, has confirmed that New York's Untitled Theatre Company No. 61 would organize a festival showcasing all 17 of Havel's plays, including those he has co-written. It will be the biggest ever performance of Vaclav Havel's plays.
The Lower House of Parliament will vote on next year's state budget on Wednesday. The Chamber's Budget Committee has recommended that MPs should approve close to 600 proposed amendments. Three hundred proposals sent in by governors, mayors and organizations have already been rejected. The government's budget proposal puts revenues at 824 billion, spending at 908 billion and a deficit of 83 billion crowns. In Wednesday's vote the governing coalition will have to rely on its slim, one-vote majority in the Lower House.