The Czech government's fleet of planes is old and needs to be modernised, Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda announced on Tuesday. The fleet of seven aircraft used by the Army to transport senior government officials and material such as medicine also exceed permitted noise or emission levels. A complete modernisation of the fleet would cost some 4.2 billion Czech crowns. Next week, the State Security Council is to decide whether to go ahead with the modernisation or find a different solution. One such solution would be that state officials fly with commercial airlines.
The State Veterinary Authority says it may have uncovered yet another case of BSE, or "mad cow" disease. The Authority says that a five-year-old cow, from a herd close to the South Moravian town of Uherske Hradiste, may be the country's sixteenth case since 2001. According to spokesman Josef Duben, test results should be ready by the end of the week. If confirmed, several hundred cows will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure.
Some 3,000 foresters gathered in front of the Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday to protest against planned changes in the state company Czech Forests. The foresters fear changes to the company's business policy, proposed by the Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, could see every fifth person of the 25,000 now working in forestry laid off. Minister Palas unsuccessfully tried to calm down the protesters, who later pelted him with eggs and snow balls.
The Czech police say they have broken up an organised gang that was illegally transferring large amounts of money out of the Czech Republic. Property and money worth 36 million Czech crowns (1.5 million US dollars) was confiscated in the police action. Fifteen of the gang members have been charged with unauthorised entrepreneurship. All of them, with the exception of one, are from Asia.
A group of senators are preparing an amendment to the penal code, which would make the name of the Czech Communist Party illegal. The senators from the Club for Open Democracy hope naming a political party "Communist" would be considered a propagation of communism, which is prohibited by law. The Czech Communist Party has been criticized for refusing to follow party colleagues in neighbouring countries, who are reformed and changed their name since the fall of Communism.
A district state attorney in the town of Ostrava has extended by one month the deadline for a police investigation into an alleged attempt last year to bribe the government coalition MP Zdenek Koristka. The district attorney, Josef Blaha, said he wanted more time to look into certain aspects of the case, but said there was not enough evidence for re-opening criminal proceedings. The two former suspects in the case have close ties to Civic Democratic leader Mirek Topolanek. The two men were alleged by Mr Koristka to have offered him a large sum of money -- and a diplomatic posting to Bulgaria -- to vote against the government in a confidence vote held last year.
The Prague-Ruzyne international airport cleared a record-high 9.7 million passengers in 2004, a year-on-year growth of almost 30 percent. The Czech Airports Authority (CSL) said a new terminal would be opened next year to meet the added demand. This would increase Ruzyne's capacity to 10-15 million passengers annually, but in the meantime, more flights will have to be scheduled for off-peak hours.
The Czech Republic will probably take its first turn at the helm of the rotating European Union presidency in June 2008, but will share that responsibility with France and Sweden, the Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, announced on Monday after meeting with his French counterpart. Individual member states have traditionally held the EU presidency for a half year, but following the historic enlargement of the union from 15 to 25 member states last May, the system was considered impractical.
Police investigators have begun looking into how the senatorial campaign of former health minister Marie Souckova was financed. The investigation comes on the heels of abuse of office and breach of public trust charges filed against the former health minister last week, in connection with an ongoing arbitration case against the state. Ms Souckova is alleged to have contracted a lawyer to represent the state in its case against the blood plasma trading company Diag Human without holding a tender and at "disadvantageous terms". Ms Souckova has not made public the backers of her failed senatorial bid, or said how the money left over from the campaign was spent; but has rejected accusations that she profited in the Diag Human case or diverted any of the related legal fees to her campaign.
The Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostál, is the most popular Czech politician, according to the latest opinion poll taken in January by the STEM agency. Mr Dostal, who is battling cancer, displaces Petra Buzková, the Minister of Education, from the top spot. The least popular politicians are Health Minister Milada Emmerová and Regional Development Minister Ji"í Paroubek, according to the poll. The least-known cabinet member is the deputy minister for economic affairs, Martin Jahn, who is unaffiliated to any political party.
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