Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda who is on a three-day visit to the Palestinian territories met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss the role of the European Union in the Middle East and the path towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The two officials also discussed the situation around the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt which the EU wants to monitor, an option Mr Svoboda does not support. Mr Svoboda also told Mr Abbas the Czech Republic was ready to participate in the training of Palestinian police officers.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said he still sees no reason why the European Union flag should fly at Prague Castle, the seat of Czech heads of state. In a televised interview on Sunday, President Klaus said he believed the Czech Republic was not a province of the European Union and that the Czech national flag should not be substituted or overshadowed by any other one. Earlier this week two activists attempted to raise the European flag at Prague Castle but their effort was thwarted by the castle guards.
The commercial TV station Prima has announced that its prime-time reality show VyVoleni will be broadcast from a different location. The reason is a legal dispute with the owner of the plot on which TV Prima had built the house in which the contestants live. At 5 am on Sunday, around 40 security guards with dogs surrounded the house in a Prague suburb and ordered TV Prima employees to leave. The five remaining participants of the successful TV show will move to Slovakia where the commercial TV station JOJ is running a similar show under the same licence.
Almost no working people in the Czech Republic and Hungary are poor unlike in Spain or Luxembourg, according to data released by the European Union statistical office Eurostat. According to Czech analysts the low figures for the Czech Republic are indicative of certain egalitarianism in society. Differences between salaries in the Czech Republic remain among the smallest in Europe. The average net monthly salary is 13,700 crowns (570 US dollars). The poverty line calculated by Eurostat is around 6,500 crowns (270 dollars); the net minimum monthly wage in the Czech Republic is 5,800 crowns (241 dollars).
The chairman of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek has said that the director of the state run health insurance company VZP, Jirina Musilkova, has faced criminal prosecution because of a disadvantageous 1999 sale of shares of a jewellery making company owned by the VZP. The lawsuit was filed by then president of the Czech medical chamber, now Health Minister David Rath. Mr Zaoralek added Jirina Musilkova was still on the supervisory board of the jewellery making company. According to Mr Zaoralek the lawsuit was suspended because of an expired statute of limitations. Last week Health Minister David Rath put the heavily indebted state health insurer VZP under forced administration and called on Mrs Musilkova to step down. So far she has refused to resign.
The European Commission launched an initiative in Prague on Friday to draw ordinary citizens into the debate about the future of the European Union. Following the No-votes on the European constitution in the Netherlands and France this year, the so-called "Plan D", standing for democracy, dialogue and discussion, is the EU executive's attempt to stir up discussion which can help decide the future of the union. At a news conference with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the Czech capital on Friday, Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom said this was the first of a number of visits to member states to try and stimulate discussion.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who is on a visit to the West Bank, has expressed support for the Middle East peace process. After talks with his Palestinian counterpart, Nasser al-Kidwa in Ramallah on Saturday, Mr Svoboda said that there should be two stable and prosperous states at the end of the peace process and that political dialogue was the only way forward. Minister Svoboda had arrived in the Palestinian territories from Pakistan where he had brought part of Czech humanitarian aid onboard his special flight on Wednesday.
According to Saturday's edition of the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, the number of abused children has increased in the Czech Republic. In the first three quarters of this year, police have investigated almost 1,800 cases of torture and sexual abuse of children, which is more than the total number in 2004. This figure is considered to be only a tip of the iceberg, the number of abused children is estimated at 20,000 every year in the Czech Republic. Seven children have died this year as a result of domestic violence.
During his Prague visit, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met the Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Friday. According to the CTK news agency they failed to agree on the scope of EU integration and the status of a European constitution. Mr Barroso urged further EU integration. President Klaus, who is strongly anti-federalist, said he particularly welcomed the new EU initiative since he felt that there was a lack of open debate on problems of European integration, particularly following the rejection of the European Constitution by Dutch and French voters.
The strongest coalition party, the Social Democrats, say they plan to pass 51 bills by the national elections in mid-next year. The party's acting head Bohuslav Sobotka said their aim was to push the bills through at any cost, if possible with the coalition, or even with the help of the opposition Communists. Mr Sobotka made his statement in response to an article in the daily Hospodarske noviny saying the Social Democrats will not manage to fulfil their election promises, for example the bills on conflict of interests, bankruptcy or rent deregulation. Mr Sobotka said that these particular bills will definitely be discussed. If it becomes evident that the lower house is not able to pass them due to lack of time, the Social Democrats are ready to convoke extraordinary sessions.
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