A proposed government bill on regulated rent has been swept off the table in the Chamber of Deputies - a bill that seemed so increasingly unlikely to pass this Tuesday that the Czech government called a special meeting before asking the Chamber for permission to withdraw the proposal at the last minute. However, the opposition voted down the appeal, leading to the subsequent vote on the bill. In recent days pundits have speculated that a failure to pass the bill on rents in the 3rd reading might spark a government crisis, an allegation that has so far been largely denied by coalition MPs, as well as Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. After proceedings Tuesday Mr Spidla said that the failure to pass the bill was not about the coalition but about technical flaws in the proposal itself. The bill on regulated rents counted on 3 separate rent hikes of up to 10 percent, between the 1st of July this year and January 2006. As a result of Tuesday's decision the Czech Republic remains without a proper legislative framework covering regulated rent.
Independent MP Svatopluk Karasek has joined the ranks of the junior government party the Freedom Union. Party spokeswoman Simona Cigankova made the announcement on Tuesday stressing that Mr Karasek had decided to join to express solidarity for the party, which recently saw the departure of two MPs - Tomas Vrbik and Marian Bielesz. She added that Mr Karasek hoped his decision would lessen the threat that the Freedom Union might leave the current coalition government. Mr Karasek was elected as an independent for the Christian Democrats in 2002. His decision to join the Freedom Union means that the party's deputy group now contains 7 party members and 3 independents.
President Vaclav Klaus has expressed his support for the mission to send Czech Special Forces troops to Afghanistan. The president made the statement on Tuesday after speaking with the commander of the Army's General Staff Pavel Stefka and Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka. With regards to Afghanistan Mr Klaus said he had been given detailed plans on the mission including information on special tasks. The Afghanistan mission, already approved by Parliament, will see more than 100 elite soldiers from Czech Special Forces sent to the combat zone to help weed out remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, as part of the U.S.-led operation 'Enduring Freedom'. At the same time a recent CVVM poll revealed that some 75 percent of Czechs disagreed with the soldiers being sent abroad.
Leaders in the governing coalition reached agreement on a proposed education bill on Tuesday despite continuing differences between the senior Social Democrats and the Freedom Union. The Freedom Union's Petr Mares told the Czech news agency CTK that his party would support the bill despite several provisions remaining in dispute. Mr Mares has been in negotiation with Education Minister for weeks - now the bill will be discussed by the cabinet Wednesday. The new education bill proposes various new changes to the current law while retaining certain elements, for example, tuition for trade schools. Under the bill the final year of kindergarten will be made free for parents, a change from the current law where the entire kindergarten service must be paid for by parents.
A Czech Airlines Airbus A310 failed to take-off from New York's Newark Airport on Monday after experiencing technical difficulties with its hydraulic system. The national carrier's spokeswoman Marcela Pickova said that passengers were transferred free-of-charge to a later flight, after it was revealed the problem could not be repaired in time for take-off. The flight was the second in as many weeks to experience difficulties and failure to take-off from New York to Prague. Earlier Czech Airlines stated that the number of technical problems experienced was in line with the rising number of the carrier's flights, some 55, 000 take-offs per year.
According to data released on Tuesday by the Czech Central Bank the Czech Republic increased foreign currency earnings from tourism, compared with the figure from 2002, the year the Czech Republic was hit by sever flooding that lowered tourist numbers. Income rose by 4.2 percent on the 96 billion crowns achieved in 2002, when the summer tourist season was cut short by devastating floods in Prague and other parts of the country in mid-August. Despite the rise, last year's figures still fell below the 118 billion crown earnings of 2001. In addition, the tourism industry has also been weakened by economic factors affecting the flow of tourists from the US and Germany, while business from Britain has grown as the result of cheap airline flights.
The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has counted the Czech national football side among the favourites at this year's upcoming European Championships, Euro 2004, to be held in Portugal. In an article on Tuesday the daily noted that the Czechs had not been beaten in 20 international matches, had been the last to beat France 13 months ago, and had weathered teams like Italy, Sweden, and Turkey. The Daily Telegraph also wrote that the key to Czech success lay not only with individual stars like Pavel Nedved and goalminder Petr Cech, but came from 'stability' stemming from overall experience in the national side.
Wednesday is expected to be mostly overcast and to see light snow fall. Daytime temperatures will hover at a lowly 3 degrees Celsius.
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