An election survey conducted by the STEM agency suggests that the ruling Social Democrats are catching up on their main rival - the opposition Civic Democratic Party, with a mere 1,5 percent difference in their public support rating. The gap was 5,5 percent in April. If elections were held today the centre-right Civic Democrats would get 26,7 percent of the vote, the Social Democrats 25,2 percent. The Communists would come third with 13 percent, followed by the Greens with 7,1 and the Christian Democrats with 5.4 percent. No other party would cross the five percent margin needed to get seats in Parliament.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has slammed President Klaus for saying that the Czech Republic no longer had any advantages from EU membership. The prime minister said the Czech president's views on the EU were erroneous and many European politicians considered them dangerous. Speaking at a seminar at Prague's Charles University on Monday, President Klaus said the Czech Republic had "consumed" most of the advantages of EU membership before joining the EU and that in the last two years related expenditures had outweighed the benefits. He criticized Brussels for excessive centralization and bureaucracy. The prime minister said the president was ignoring statistical data which clearly showed the benefits of EU membership.
German authorities have launched an investigation after a man tried to import Nazi soldiers' helmets and other banned memorabilia in his car from the Czech Republic, police said on Tuesday. A spokesman for the German border police said the 62-year-old man was stopped at the border on Sunday and Nazi items he had bought at a Czech flea market were found in the boot of his car. The man, who was briefly detained, may face charges under Germany's anti-Nazi laws which ban possession of items with Nazi symbols.
The Iraqi government says it has reached a bilateral agreement with the Czech Republic cancelling over 200 million dollars in debt. That amounts to 80 percent of Iraq's debt to the Czech Republic. Czech Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the move would help develop long-term and close relations between the two states.
The results of an opinion poll just out indicate that half of all Czechs would be in favour of legalizing euthanasia. Thirty percent of respondents were strictly against it, the remaining twenty percent said they did not have a firm view on the matter. Under present legislation euthanasia amounts to murder and only one party - the Freedom Union - is in favour of its legalization. The Christian Democrats, Communists and the Green Party are strictly against it. The Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party are divided over the matter. A single previous attempt to get it legalized was blocked by the Senate.
Doctors who are planning a week of protest actions against the policy of health minister David Rath, starting this Saturday, say that the planned events will be largely symbolic and will not restrict care or in any way damage patients. The week-long protests against the minister's reforms will involve demonstrations in the three largest cities Prague, Brno and Ostrava, the distribution of leaflets and debates with the public. The protesters say that the minister's reforms are harming both medical staff and patients and have worsened the quality of health care afforded in many areas.
The South Korean car-maker Hyundai has put off indefinitely the beginning of construction work on a huge new plant in Moravia, the Seoul-based Jonhap news agency reported. It said the decision was connected to an investigation into corruption allegations against some senior representatives of the company. However the Czech minister of industry and trade, Milan Urban, has strongly denied the claim, while the head of the state agency CzechInvest said he had been assured by a Hyundai official that building work would begin as planned. A Czech delegation headed by Mr Urban is going ahead with plans to travel to South Korea for a signing ceremony on Thursday.
The police have started investigating the circumstances surrounding the purchase of high speed Pendolino trains by Czech Railways on suspicion of breach of trust in property administration. No charges have been brought as yet. A recent audit revealed that the contracts signed with the Italian company Alstom were disadvantageous for Czech Railways and the company's management has requested a police investigation.
The Czech Republic already "consumed" most of the advantages that membership in the European Union brings before it joined the EU, President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday. Speaking at a seminar at Prague's Carolinum, Mr Klaus said the country's expenses have been outweighing the benefits of EU membership ever since EU accession two years ago. The union has moved from a phase of liberalisation to one of centralisation; as a result, Czech citizens are now struggling with excessive paper work, and abundance in legislation, the president said.
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