Seven people in Prague have been charged in a state administration corruption case. Two of them are Transport Ministry officials, charged with accepting bribes. Five others, business and lobbying figures, with offering them. The arrest of the seven came on Thursday following a five-month sting operation by Czech police. It is not yet known whether the suspects will remain in custody or be released to await trial.
The lower house of Parliament has rejected a Penal Code amendment that would have explicitly banned promotion of communism or Nazism in the Czech Republic. The amendment, drafted by the country's Senate, was rejected in a reading with 135 deputies present. 68 voted against. All Communist MPs and a majority of Social Democrat deputies voted in favour of rejecting the bill. However, authors of the proposal say they will submit the amendment again - following supposed changes in the balance of power in the lower house, following national elections in June.
According to the Justice ministry, Czech businessman Dalibor Kopp, suspected of illegally exporting weapons to several countries including Iraq, will be extradited to the Czech Republic from Belgium. Mr Kopp, who is 43, was arrested in Brussels in January after a tip off from Prague. He had been wanted on an international arrest warrant since 2004. Mr Kopp and an accomplice have been charged with illegal trade in military materials and illegal arms possession. A search of Mr Kopp's company premises in the Czech Republic revealed an illegal production line for ammunition. Czech police said in January in a statement that if found guilty the suspect could face up to ten years in prison.
Borussia Dortmund striker Jan Koller, out of action since sustaining a
knee injury last September, has said he is keeping his hopes up for
this year's football World Cup in neighbouring Germany. Koller has told
the media his recovery is going well and that he hopes to be fit when
the World Cup finals begin on June 9th. The 32-year-old striker is the
Czech Republic's best ever goal scorer: he has netted 44 times in 66
Koller was part of the Czech team which reached the Euro semi-finals in Portugal in 2004.
British Prime Minister and Labour Party head Tony Blair has met with his
Czech counterpart, Jiri Paroubek, in Prague. On Friday Mr Blair arrived in
the Czech capital ahead of a meeting of European Social Democrats. He
offered Mr Paroubek - and Czech Social Democrats - his support in upcoming
national elections. Following talks, Mr Blair praised the Czech Republic,
saying Britain saw the country as a "strong" and
"reliable" member of the European Union and NATO. Mr Blair also
praised strong Czech economic results.
In addition, the British prime minister donated an English double-decker bus for the Social Democrats for use in their pre-election campaign.
Czech Social Democrat and chairman of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek met with the president of the European Parliament Josep Borrel on Friday, discussing issues of European integration. After their meeting Mr Zaoralek revealed that the EU Parliament's president indicated that the current text of the European Constitution treaty - rejected in two referenda last year - would have to be scrapped; this, in favour of a new treaty following new negotiations. The view stands in contrast to the stance taken by the majority of EU leaders, until now unwilling to bury the proposed constitution, opting for a freeze on ratification and renewed public debate instead. The Czech Republic is expected to take a stance on the treaty by 2007.
Police say they have arrested seven people on suspicion of bribery; two of them Transport Ministry officials. They are believed to have tried to influence state decision-making at the ministries of transport and agriculture. Under operation Anthropoid, the suspects were monitored by the organised crime department for five months. No charges have been brought against them so far.
The free movement of labour is much more important than many other
freedoms within the EU, the European Commissioner for Employment,
Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities Vladimir Spidla said on
Thursday. Mr Spidla was speaking at a conference hosted by the
permanent representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union in
Brussels. Mr Spidla, a former Czech prime minister, said the EU was on
the right track to have all of its labour markets open by 2011.
Using the example of the Czech Republic, where the average hourly wage is over a third higher than in neighbouring Slovakia, Mr Spidla tried to refute claims that an open labour market will lead to an influx of cheap labour. The number of workers from Slovakia seeking better paid jobs in the Czech Republic has remained at a constant 60,000, Mr Spidla argued.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has criticised the former government of
current president Vaclav Klaus for withdrawing from the Russian market
in the 1990s. Speaking at a meeting with entrepreneurs in Moravia, Mr
Paroubek said the country's economic growth was hindered as a
consequence. With exports to Russia raised by 46 percent in 2005 and
plans underway to export agricultural surpluses and cooperate in the
field of science and research, Czech-Russian economic relations are
picking up, the prime minister said.
President Klaus, who was prime minister in the 1990s, is currently on an official trip to Luxembourg and has not reacted to Mr Paroubek's accusations.
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