Extensive renovation and reconstruction work at Prague's main train station is to be launched on December 14. With the aim of attracting more travellers but also Prague residents, the station is to be transformed into a modern centre with shops, restaurants, and banks, within the next five years. With some 100,000 passengers a day, it is the country's biggest station. It was last renovated in 1979.
President Vaclav Klaus has held an unexpected meeting with the leader
of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek. Mr Paroubek officially informed
the president about his party's stance on the current political
situation and presented him with the Social Democrats' Agenda 2010
While the Christian Democrats are prepared to give Agenda 2010 a chance, the Civic Democrats have been sceptical, saying it is too "social democratic".
The Czech Republic has blocked the EU's plans to raise the minimum level of taxes on beer, finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty told reporters on Tuesday. With the minimum duty on most wines zero percent, a tax hike on beer would raise competition levels between brewers and winemakers, he said, adding that the changes are unacceptable in a country where beer is a national product. Last month the European Commission proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum duty on beer and spirits.
The Czech Republic is considering filing a complaint with the European Commission against the Austrian authorities. Czech Ambassador to Vienna, Jan Koukal, says the Austrians had violated a bilateral agreement when they approved a blockade of a Czech-Austrian border crossing in protest at the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Based on the Melk agreement of December 2000, Austria should not object to the Temelin plant going into full operation as it has passed an environmental assessment study.
The leaders of the two strongest parties, Civic Democrat Mirek Topolanek
and Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek, have agreed to start talks on a joint
government policy programme. The politicians met for over an hour on
Tuesday after the Social Democrats rejected the idea of a four party
coalition including the Greens and the Christian Democrats but excluding
the Communists that would serve until early elections in 2008.
In almost six months since the elections in June, the five parties in parliament have not been able to agree on the make-up of a new government. Under what they call Agenda 2010, the Social Democrats see a three-party coalition government with the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats - with a mandate until 2010 - as the best way out of political deadlock.
The Czech economy will enjoy more growth but could suffer if the country's political stalemate continues, a new OECD report warns. While GDP rose by 6.1 percent last year, it is expected to rise by 6.2 percent this year and 4.8 percent in 2007. But the OECD warns that the country's lack of a stable government is slowing down reform, which could in turn slow down growth.
Czechs could be able to travel to the United States without a visa within the next two years, says foreign minister Alexander Vondra. Mr Vondra was reacting to Tuesday's pledge by US President George Bush to work with Congress to make it easier for some countries to be included in the visa-waiver programme. Mr Vondra says it is probable that the Czech Republic will be among the countries that will benefit as President Bush is warming up to the European Union's requests to include all EU states in the visa-waiver programme.
In related news, Senator Jiri Cunek - a strong contender to become the next leader of the Christian Democratic Party - has told the Czech newspaper Pravo he will not support a centre-right government made up of the Civic Democrats, the Greens, and his own party - a government that by definition would have to rely on votes from rogue MPs. Instead, Mr Cunek is backing the same proposal being favoured by the Social Democrats - a coalition excluding the Greens and the Communists - that would run the country until at least 2009. Mr Cunek came under criticism last week from his party's acting leader Jan Kasal for having met privately with Social Democrat chairman Jiri Paroubek.
The value of counterfeit goods confiscated on Sunday by customs officers in the Czech Republic's second largest city of Brno has been estimated at 105 million crowns - the equivalent of around 5 million US dollars. Most of the products confiscated at warehouses were imitation brand-name goods: perfumes, textiles, shoes, and entertainment goods, weighing in at a total of around 50 tonnes. A spokesman said the raid was part of a nationwide operation, code named Marie, targeted at counterfeited products.
President Vaclav Klaus has cancelled a meeting with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek scheduled for Monday during which Mr Topolanek was to inform the president about the ongoing talks about the formation of a government. A spokesman said the president cancelled the planned meeting with the prime minister after their morning phone call revealed that there had been no progress so far in the negotiations about the formation of a new government. Prime Minister Topolanek wanted to form a coalition of his Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens that would rule the country until early elections in 2008.