The cabinet has approved a package of measures aimed at fighting corruption. They include a tougher conflict of interest law, allowing undercover agents to offer bribes and greater transparency in banking transactions. The measures - agreed on Wednesday evening - must now be approved in parliament. Meanwhile, the opposition Civic Democrats have described the measures as inadequate.
The Czech Republic is preparing to send six army doctors and nurses to Iraq, where they will reinforce medical staff at the Shaiba base near Basra. The move comes in response to a British request. Czech army doctors and nurses worked in Basra till the end of 2003 when the 7th field hospital ended its operation in southern Iraq and was replaced by a team of 80 military police officers. The medical team should be ready to depart in June.
Petr Johana scored six minutes from full time to give Sparta Prague a 2-1 win against league champions Ostrava in the Czech-Moravian Cup final on Tuesday. Jan Rezek also scored for the Prague side in the first ever cup final between teams placed first and second in the Czech league. It was Sparta's first cup win since 1996, and their 15th overall including results from the former Czechoslovakia. Ostrava, who trailed 1-0 until Mario Licka's 56th minute shot drew his team level, won the league title by five points over Sparta, who had won the title in 10 of the previous 11 seasons. Ostrava had been looking to become the first club to win a Cup-League double since Sparta accomplished the feat in 1989.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus swore in 44 new judges at Prague Castle on Tuesday. The judges will be working in district, regional and town courts across the country. According to the Justice Ministry, there were 2,696 active judges in the Czech Republic at the start of the year. Over 100 are currently on maternity leave and the ministry hopes to see the number of active judges rise to 3,054 by the end of the year to focus on improving procedures criticised by the Czech people and international organisations. While President Klaus said in January that several verdicts are inconsistent the European Human Rights Court has pointed out that courts are much slower in the Czech Republic than in other similar European states.
The Brno-based tractor manufacturer Zetor announced on Tuesday, it plans to increase production to reach a yearly output of 10,000 units within two to three years. Zetor, which is now owned by the Slovak company HTC Holding, after it was bought from the Czech state two years, used to be a thriving manufacturer under Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, when it exported tens of thousands of tractors to Africa and Asia. Today, its key markets are Poland, Britain, and the United States.
Several members of the Czech parliament's health committee have been warning Health Minister Jozef Kubinyi not to make personnel changes without a clear concept for a new health reform plan. In the month that Mr Kubinyi has been in the post of health minister, he has sacked the head of the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine, put pressure onto the director of the country's biggest health insurer, Vseobecna Zdravotni Pojistovna, to step down, and has fired his deputy Jaroslav Civin.
The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab says the Czech Republic's human rights record is improving but there is still much to be done. In his 2003 report, which the government is to debate on Wednesday, Mr. Jarab says that some progress has been made in fighting discrimination and racially motivated crimes but, the situation still varies in different regions. In particular, Mr. Jarab stresses the need to protect the rights of children and people receiving institutionalized care, who are not in a position to defend themselves or call attention to their suffering.
At a weekend conference of the Communist party Miroslav Grebenicek
successfully defended his position as party leader, withstanding pressure
for reform by his main rival Miloslav Ransdorf. Mr. Ransdorf advocated the
need for a radical transformation which would enable the party to come out
of isolation. Disappointed by his defeat, Mr. Ransdorf did not seek
re-election as deputy chairman. Four of the five newly elected deputy
chairmen are also in favour of retaining the status quo.
Political analysts say the outcome of the conference is not surprising since in recent years support for the party has grown. Although the communists are currently the second strongest party on the Czech political scene, their chances of entering government are nil since no other parliamentary party will cooperate with them on that level.
The 59th Prague Spring International Music Festival 2004 is underway in the Czech capital. This year's highlights include celebrations of the centenary of the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and performances by his great grandson Josef Suk and Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena. For the first time this year, the festival introduces a smaller series of late-night concerts called "concerts without a break and without a jacket" to take place in a more relaxed atmosphere. The Prague Spring Music Festival annually attracts thousands of visitors from both at home and abroad.
The Czech communist party is holding its annual conference in Ceske Budejovice this weekend with several senior party posts up for re-election. Miroslav Grebenicek, who is expected to retain his leadership of the party, said in his opening address on Saturday that the party was ready to enter government and "tame" what he described as "rampant capitalism" in the Czech Republic. He said present day capitalism had been "unleashed from the chain of the welfare state" and slammed the Social Democrats for allegedly deserting their election manifesto. Although the Communists are currently the second strongest party on the Czech political scene no other party is willing to cooperate with them in government.