One of the Czech Republic's most wealthy businessmen, Tomas Pitr, will serve five years in jail for financial crimes he committed twelve years ago. A Prague high court rendered the appeal verdict on Monday, reducing Pitr's original sentence by three and a half years. Pitr was found guilty of tax fraud that cost the state about 23.5 million crowns ($1.07 million USD).
Forty-five Czech soldiers—two of them women--from the 72nd mechanical battalion have left for a six-month mission in Bosnia Herzegovina. They will provide security services as part of the European Union's peacekeeping operations in the region. This is the first time that soldiers from the 72nd mechanical battalion are serving as part of an international mission. Another twenty soldiers are due to join the group in mid-June. Twenty-two European countries participate in EUFOR missions, and the Czech Republic joined this international team in July 2004.
President Vaclav Klaus has approved a new law that allows those caught dumping illegal waste in the Czech Republic to be fined up to 50 million crowns. Until now, the penalty was set at a maximum of 10 million crowns. In recent months, thousands of tonnes of illegal waste originating from Germany found its way across the border into the Czech Republic. The problem of illegal waste dumping also became part of the Czech election campaign, with members of the German Green Party supporting their Czech colleagues in efforts to draw attention to these environmental hazards.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Pavel Nemec has resigned as chairman of the Freedom Union Party after its poor showing in the elections. The Freedom Union Party failed to cross the five percent threshold required to enter the lower house. Prior to the elections, the Freedom Union had ten MPs in the lower house, and three of its members held ministerial posts. However, the recent general elections saw the Freedom Union win a mere 0.3% of votes, despite a campaign strategy that supported the legalization of marihuana, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. Freedom Union Deputy Chairman, Frantisek Pelc, and Minister of Defence, Karel Kuhnl, have also resigned their posts. Martin Stransky will take over temporary chairmanship of the Freedom Union Party.
Seventeen year old Czech tennis star Nicole Vaidisova has defeated world number-one ranked Amelie Mauresmo, and earned a place in the quarterfinals at the French Open. Vaidisova won her match against the French favourite in just over two hours of play, 6:7 (5:7), 6:1, 6:2. It is the first time that Nicole Vaidisova has reached the quarterfinals in a grand slam tournament. Vaidisova will now face American Venus Williams at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
According to the President of the Czech Association for Industry and Trade, Jaroslav Mil, the unclear outcome of the elections could have an impact on the flow of money from European Union Structural Funds. While the orientation of the new Czech government will not affect the flow of EU funds, the government will have to approve operational programs for structural funds projects in time to present them to the European Commission in September. The EU is due to release 100 billion crowns per year in structural funds to the Czech Republic in its next fiscal term which runs between 2007 and 2013.
The Czech national airline carrier, CSA, has announced a loss of 496 million crowns ($22.6 million USD) for 2005. This loss comes after a successful year in 2004, when the company registered a profit of 324 million crowns ($14.7 million USD). CSA says that shift comes as a result of record-high fuel prices and intense airline market competition. CSA President, Radomir Lasak, says that he is not expecting 2006 to be a profitable year either.
The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have decided that the chairman of the
party, Mirek Topolanek, and his two deputies, Petr Necas and Pavel Bem,
will head the negotiations about the formation of a new government. Mirek
Topolanek has said that his aim is to form a coalition with the Christian
Democrats and the Greens, and this in the quickest timeframe possible.
However, this will not be easy, given that such a coalition would have
exactly 100 seats in the 200-seat lower house.
On Monday morning President Vaclav Klaus formally entrusted the leader of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, with the task of forming a new government. The Civic Democrats won the largest share of the vote in the weekend's general elections, earning 81 seats.
The Social Democrats - the biggest party in the current government - won 74 seats, while the Communists have 26, the Christian Democrats 13 and the Greens 6 seats.
While no solution to the current stalemate has been put forward, the leaders of the elected parties have agreed that some changes need to be made to the election rules to prevent such draws in the future. While the Civic Democrats are in favour of a majority system, the Christian Democrats suggest changing the number of MPs in the chamber to 199 instead of the current 200. The remaining three parties favour a proportional representation system in a form which was in effect in this country until five years ago when certain modifications were added.