In related news, the German cabinet has approved a draft law aimed at preventing cheap labour from Eastern Europe from undercutting wages. The draft law sets minimum wages for foreigners working in certain professions and would make it more expensive to hire Czech brick-layers or butchers, for example. Berlin is also looking to crack down on independent contractors based in the Czech border regions from circumventing the seven-year restrictions on the free movement of labour that Germany imposed on new European Union members states.
Four Chinese nationals have been taken into custody on suspicion of having illegally imported and sold some $30 million worth of textiles and other goods, on which customs duties and VAT was not paid. The Chinese nationals were arrested following an eight-month-long investigation. The arrests themselves took place over two days during an action codenamed "List". Police searched 15 homes and several storage facilities during the raid. They seized over $4 million in cash. The Chinese nationals each face up to 12 years in prison.
The newly appointed Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has asked for a confidence vote in his government to be taken on May 13. The date was reportedly chosen to coincide with an official visit to the Czech Republic by the German chancellor, Gerhard Shroder, who will arrive in Prague the week beginning May 15. The news paper Mlada fronta Dnes reported that the chancellor Shroeder was originally due to visit Prague this week, but his visit had to be postponed due to delays in choosing a new Czech prime minister.
Several prominent Social Democrat deputies have said they intend to found a left faction within the ruling party on May 14, one day after the confidence vote in Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's government. The MPs include former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who is pushing for the party to have greater influence at the ministry, starting with the appointment of a Social Democrat to the position of deputy foreign minister. MPs Vladimir Lastuvka, Ivan David and Josef Hojdar are among those involved in forming the new faction.
The majority of Czechs are in favour of reinstating the death penalty, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency. Some 28 percent said they were "definitely" in favour of capital punishment; 38 percent said they were "inclined" towards it. Only nine percent of those polled said they were "definitely" against bringing back the death penalty, which was abolished exactly 15 years ago, by the government that took over after the fall of communism. The CVVM agency found that pensioners, non-religious people, and those without formal education tend to favour the death penalty, as do
Czech Television, the Czech public service broadcaster, is launching a news channel on Monday. The channel, called CT24, will be available on satellite and cable TV 18 hours a day in its trial operation. Round the clock broadcasting is expected to start in the autumn. The channel will also broadcast online at www.ct24.cz. News will be broadcast every hour, other programmes will focus for example on business, sport and science and technology.
DNA tests have confirmed the identity of another Czech national who was killed by the tsunami wave in Thailand at the end of last year. The woman is the sixth confirmed Czech victim of the disaster; five people were killed in Thailand, one in Sri Lanka. Two Czechs still remain unaccounted for. They went missing in the Thai island of Phi Phi are also believed to have died.
The leadership of the opposition Communist Party has decided to recommend to the party's deputies not to support the government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats in the upcoming vote of confidence. Mr Paroubek is expected to ask the lower house for confidence in his cabinet in two weeks time. A number of Social Democrat MPs have not yet confirmed whether they will give confidence to the current governing coalition which relies on a one-vote majority in the lower house.
The Czech ice hockey team have left for Vienna, where they are hoping to win the sport's World Championships for the first time in four years. The Czechs were beaten 2:1 by Canada in their last warm up game in Prague on Thursday evening. Their first match at the World Championships is against Switzerland on Sunday.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the removal of a pig farm from the site of a Nazi concentration camp near the south Bohemian village of Lety. Over 1,200 Czech Romanies were interned there in 1942 before being sent to Auschwitz. Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said on Friday he would be in favour of removing the pig farm, while President Vaclav Klaus said it was a matter for the Czech Republic, not the EU. Mr Klaus said most MEPs did not have enough information about the issue.