Police have detained eleven foreign nationals suspected of people smuggling. The detainees, who include three women, are from five states and have been long term residents of the Czech Republic. Police suspect they issued citizens of Dagestan, Kazakhstan, and Syria official invitations to get them into the Czech Republic and from there smuggle them into Germany and France in trucks. They face up to ten years in prison if found guilty.
The Social Democrats have expressed disappointment at the content of a government policy programme proposed to them by the Civic Democrats. The party says the manifesto is the exact copy of that of the Civic Democrat's planned three-party coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens that was rejected in the autumn. The Civic Democrats say the policy programme is only to serve as a basis for discussion.
The Czech Republic has settled a six-year dispute with Japanese investment group Nomura. In 2000, amid rumours of pending collapse, the IPB bank in which Nomura held a 50 percent stake, was placed under forced administration and sold for a symbolic one crown to another bank, CSOB. Nomura says the Czech state had failed to protect its investment and won a London arbitration decision earlier this year. In a two-page agreement both sides have pledged to file no more complaints, make no more financial demands, and withdraw from any ongoing court proceedings.
The Civic Democrats intend to call a special lower house meeting to hold discussion on the date when a new Labour Code is to come into effect. Cabinet has proposed to introduce the Labour Code on January 1. 2008 instead of 2007. But Social Democrat and Communist deputies, who together hold 100 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament, have blocked plans to vote on the proposal in Thursday's regular session.
Tests have confirmed the Czech Republic's 25th case of BSE, or mad cow disease. The State Veterinary Authority reported on Wednesday that the infected cow was from a farm near Semily in northeast Bohemia. Some two hundred cows will have to be slaughtered as a precautionary measure. Since 2001, when the first case of BSE was recorded, over one million cows have been tested.
Premysl Sobotka of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats has been re-elected to the post of Senate chairman. On Wednesday, 74 out of 77 senators present supported him in a secret ballot. It was the highest support for any chairman in the upper house's ten-year history. Mr Sobotka's party has a majority in the senate, holding 41 of 81 seats. Regarding his continuing on in the post, Mr Sobotka said one of his priorities was to increase the Senate's role in foreign policy.
The Austrian company Kapsch will not be able to launch test operations of a new road toll system this Friday. The transport ministry has not given the test run the green light. The ministry says some toll gates are hundreds of metres from where they were supposed to be. It also criticises the use of diesel units. Without the test operation, the introduction of the country's first electronic road toll system for vehicles above 12 tonnes cannot be launched on January 1. The new system is estimated to bring in around 10.5 billion crowns (over 4.5 million US dollars) a year.
US President George W. Bush speaking with President Vaclav Klaus at the
NATO Summit underway in Riga, has reportedly reiterated conviction that
visa requirements for Czechs travelling to the US will eventually be
waived. Speaking to reporters after a brief meeting with his US
counterpart, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said President Bush anticipated
intense debate in Congress, which will have the final word.
While Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra has put two years as an estimate for changes in visa policy, some US officials are being more cautious. The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber on Wednesday reacted by suggesting that while two years was perhaps a good estimate, the timeframe couldn't be guaranteed.
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