The speakers of parliament of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have urged their governments to push more for the liberalisation of the labour market in the European Union. Citizens of all four countries, known as the Visegrad Four, are subject to labour restrictions in 12 EU member states. The representatives of parliament discussed the issues at a summit in Prague on Friday and Saturday, where they were also joined by European Social Policy and Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla.
This Saturday is designated as World Cancer Day. An estimated ten million people are diagnosed with cancer globally every year. Statistics show that every third Czech is diagnosed with a malignant tumour, of whom every fourth loses the battle against the disease. February 4 was proclaimed World Cancer Day at the first World Summit Against Cancer in Paris six years ago. Since then, cancer organisations worldwide have been using this day as a platform to highlight the plight of people affected by cancer and to put cancer on the agendas of governments, policy makers, the media and communities around the world.
Police are investigating the death of a counter-intelligence service agent, who was a good friend of the recently murdered businessman Frantisek Mrazka. The newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Saturday that the body of 40-year old Jaroslav Pospisil was found in a car two days after the businessman's murder. Police say they do not know whether Mr Pospisil was also murdered or whether he committed suicide. He suffered gunshots to his head but an autopsy has yet to determine the actual cause of death. According to Mlada Fronta Dnes, a connection between the two deaths cannot be ruled out.
A poster made by Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha was auctioned off for a record 9,150 euros on Friday at a Drouot-Richelieu salesroom in Paris. The 1898 poster, an ad for the cigarette paper Job, is one of a series of posters from the Francois Champenois printing house in Paris. Mucha is also known for other works, including portraits, sculptures, and even jewellery, but he first shot to fame with his posters when he lived in the French capital at the end of the 19th century.
The Czech Republic is sending another anti-terrorist unit to Afghanistan. Over three quarters of members of parliament present voted in favour of the proposal, with only the Communists voting against. Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl said that the mission was needed because there were still terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan that posed a threat to other countries. As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, 120 Czech soldiers will be sent into the Afghan mountains to serve alongside American troops. Currently, the Czech Republic has only 43 soldiers in Afghanistan, serving with a German reconstruction team.
The foreign trade surplus for last year was over 41 billion crowns (1.7 billion US dollars), an increase of around 70 billion crowns on the previous financial year. This was the first time in history that exports exceeded imports. According to figures just released this was mainly due to car sales abroad. Market analysts say that exports have continued to rise, in spite of increasing energy costs and a strong Czech crown, resulting in a trade deficit for December amounting to nearly 4 billion crowns (160 million US dollars), the worst figure for that month since 1993.
A 12-year old boy was seriously injured on Friday, when a tram struck him at a stop in Prague 4. A spokeswoman for the emergency services said that the boy was taken to hospital with head injuries. This is the latest in a series of recent accidents at tram stops, which have led to concern over safety.
Pakistan has begun testing the Czech military anti-radar system Vera, with a view to a possible purchase. A Czech trade and industry ministry spokesman said that trials began at the end of December and that Pakistan would return the system in March. He added that a further export licence would be required before a final sale could be agreed, and that it would also need the approval of the foreign and interior ministries. The Vera system can detect enemy radar, without being detected itself. In the past Amnesty International has warned against exporting the system to Pakistan.
The sacked president of the Czech Supreme Court Iva Brozova has filed an official complaint to a Prague court, saying that her dismissal was illegal. The complaint is directed against President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. Ms Brozova said that the President had not given an explanation for her sacking as was required by law. The justice ministry spokesman defended the decision, saying that the Supreme Court needed stronger and more authoritative leadership.