Toyota of Japan and French carmaker PSA Peugot Citroen officially launched commercial production at their joint-venture plant in the Czech Republic on Monday. The TPCA plant, located near the town of Kolin, is said likely to become the most efficient in the world. The plant will eventually be able to produce 300,000 cars a year; two thirds of them under the Peugeot and Citroen brands, the other third for Toyota. The TPCA joint-venture is the biggest new company in the Czech Republic. The cars should be available on the Czech market in June.
Every second Czech would welcome the resignation of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross and almost one in three is in favour of holding early elections, according to a new poll by the SC&C agency. The poll of 908 people was conducted for the leading Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes following calls for the prime minister to step down over the unclear financing of his apartment and his wife's controversial business activities. Of those surveyed, roughly one in five had no opinion as to how the current crisis in the governing coalition should be resolved, while only one in ten said they were in favour of Mr Gross's party, the Social Democrats, forming a minority government. Roughly one in four persons polled said they would prefer that Mr Gross resign but have the coalition remain in power.
The country's leading commercial station, TV Nova has reported that police officers are on substantially lower pensions than they are entitled to. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that, for the past thirteen years, the Interior Ministry has been using an existing loophole in the law to pay its retired police officers some 4,000 crowns (around 170 US dollars) less a month. TV Nova reports that last year alone, the ministry managed to save close to 9 million crowns (around 375,000 US dollars).
Sunday is the last day of Prague's seventh Czech music theatre festival, Opera 2005. Due to illness, the festival will not be closing with a performance of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades but with Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, at Prague's State Opera. Since January 7, visitors were able to see opera groups from around the country perform at various venues in Prague. The festival will officially come to a close on Saturday with an award ceremony for best performance and best performers at a gala concert at Prague's Estates Theatre.
Czech Dentists are threatening to leave health insurance companies and plan to ask patients to pay for every service directly by the middle of next year. The president of the Czech Dentists' Association, which held a general meeting on Saturday, said the dentists' contracts with insurers expire in mid-2006. If the government fails to introduce changes to its health insurance policy that would set more favourable conditions, the country's dentists, who are every year decreasing in number, will stop co-operating and will take direct payments from patients instead.
The People in Need branch in the northern Caucasus town of Nazran, Ingushetia, has been accused of violating Russian law. The ITAR-TASS news agency reported on Saturday that the Czech humanitarian organisation was employing people who are in close contact with armed militant groups. People in Need rejects the allegations, saying it is all part of a campaign in the region to oust humanitarian organisations.
A Czech student won the Miss Tourism World 2005 title at a ceremony in the Zimbabwean capital Harare on Saturday. Zuzana Putnarova, who turns nineteen on Monday, beat 93 contestants from 82 countries. The pageant, organised by the Britain-based Miss Tourism World Organisation, aims at promoting tourism in parts of the world in dire need of promotion. The ceremony, which was held at the Harare International Conference Centre, was attended by some 2,000 people, including Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe.
Neither the Social Democrat presidium nor the ruling coalition partners will hold formal meetings this weekend to discuss the future of the government. The governing coalition has been threatening to break up following calls from the junior Christian Democrats for the prime minister to resign from office. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross and his wife have been under heavy criticism for failing to clear up open questions regarding their personal finances. On Friday, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus said it would be wise to hold early elections, should the coalition partners, who have a slim majority of one seat in Parliament, fail to come to an agreement soon.
A twenty-year old Czech snowboarder died in an avalanche in the High Tatra Mountains in Slovakia on Saturday. Another Czech snowboarder survived the avalanche, the Tatra Rescue Service reported. Although it snowed heavily in previous days, the area the two Czechs went snowboarding in is usually safe from life-threatening avalanches.
The leader of the centre-right opposition Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has said his party would only support a solution to the political crisis that leads to early elections. The party called onto cabinet to ask for a vote of confidence in parliament, if the crisis ends in anything other than early elections. Should it fail to do so, then the Civic Democrats would initiate a vote of no-confidence. Public opinion polls suggest the opposition Civic Democrats would win if parliamentary elections were held today.
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