Meanwhile, there are indications that the proposed EU constitution - put on something of a hold on Thursday - would not be approved by the majority of Czechs if a referendum were held in the Czech Republic today. That news comes according to a poll freshly released by the STEM agency suggesting that on 42 percent of voters would decide in favour, while 58 percent would decide against. According to pollsters the number of those in favour has dropped following "No" votes in France and the Netherlands cast the future of the treaty in doubt. Previously, around 60 percent of Czechs supported the treaty.
Czech striker Milan Baros has decided to stay on at his club FC Liverpool, fresh champions of this year's Champions League. French club Lyon had offered 15 million euros for the player, who was the most successful forward at Euro 2004. But, the player's agent said Baros preferred stay on in the English league. Baros is not expected to have it easy: last season his relationship with Spanish head coach Rafael Benitez was strained, and the coach has already indicated a preference for two strikers up front, most likely Morientes and Cisse.
Leaders in negotiations at the European Union summit in Brussels have remained deadlocked at talks over the EU's long-term budget. At stake is the union's budget framework for the years 2007 - 2013. Outstanding issues that have come to the forefront include the future of the United Kingdom's budget rebate measured against farm subsidies. Diplomats have been saying that the prospect of a deal looks uncertain. Leaders have yet to decide whether it is worth continuing talks on Friday; some - like Sweden's prime minister - have recommended it would be better if a final decision on the budget were put off until 2006.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, also in Brussels, has also
reacted, saying that a failure to reach a deal on Friday could have a
negative impact on new EU member states.
"If there is no deal today it could be difficult for the new member states. But, still, I believe that we are 'sitting at the same table'. I believe we have to reach a consensus on the financial proposal. And, if the proposal is against the new member states, then well we will say 'No'."
The foreign minister said that the Visegrad countries, of which the Czech Republic is a part, were more or less sticking together on a number of issues:
"There are some slight, differences, definitely: from the macro-economic point of view agriculture is currently not as important, but politically yes, politically definitely. Generally speaking we stick together."
The Senate has approved a law allowing the issuing of more than 72 billion crowns, (the equivalent of over 3 billion U.S. dollars), in bonds to help cover this year's state budget deficit. Bonds are likely to be issued on both domestic and foreign markets, while the remainder of the deficit, some 11 billion crowns, is to be covered by long-term loans from the European Investment Bank. The law has yet to be signed by the president to come into effect.
European Union leaders are attending a summit on Thursday and Friday in
Brussels to discuss the fate of the EU constitution and try to reach an
agreement on the Union's contested budget for 2007-2013. Before the
meeting, Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, for whom this is the first
official visit to Brussels as prime minister, met with NATO Secretary
General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission President Jose
Manuel Barroso to reassure them of the continuity of the Czech Republic's
position in NATO and the EU.
Mr Paroubek also appealed that the ratification process of the European Union constitution continue but that the period be extended beyond 2006 to give the countries more time for reflection. With regards to the European budget, the Czech prime minister says he aims to achieve the best terms for the Czech Republic.
The Czech government has agreed to release an extra 634 million crowns (around 28 million US dollars) out of next year's state budget to help the Justice Ministry cover a wage increase for judges and state attorneys. From the beginning of this year, their salaries have increased by 18 percent with their average monthly wage at 50,400 crowns (around 2,200 US dollars) for judges and 45,400 crowns (around 2,000 US dollars) for state attorneys. Some 2,963 judges and 1,113 state attorneys are paid by the ministry.
Bohumil Kulinsky, the director of the prestigious Bambini di Praga girls choir, accused of sexually abusing underage girls is to stay in police custody for at least another three months. According to the State Attorney handling his case, Mr Kulinsky cannot be released as the chances that he would try and influence witnesses are high. The prestigious Bambini di Praga girls choir, made up of girls aged 12 to 19, performs nationally and internationally with leading Czech and foreign orchestras. Since Mr Kulinsky's arrest last year in November, over one hundred former choir members have come forward with accusations of sexual abuse.
Telefonica's acquisition of the majority stake in the Czech Republic's biggest fixed line operator, Cesky Telecom, is final. The Spanish telecommunications company won the privatisation tender with the highest bid - 82.6 billion crowns (a little over 3.5 billion US dollars). On Wednesday, it paid the National Property Fund a remaining 90 percent of the purchase price and is now the owner of the state's 51.1 percent stake in Cesky Telecom, which also owns the country's leading mobile operator Eurotel.