The Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, has responded to criticism of the EU Constitution by President Vaclav Klaus, who said he was against it 100 percent at the weekend. On Monday, after meeting with the prime minister of Luxembourg, Mr Gross said he believed the constitution would help strengthen the Czech Republic's place within the union, allowing a proper forum for Czech opinion, while a failure to ratify the document would see the Czech Republic pushed to "the outskirts". Mr Gross made clear that despite the president's strong view on the subject, in his view ratification of the EU Constitution was "a step in the right direction".
Defence Minister Karel Kunhl has revealed that the Czech Republic will provide at least 350 troops for new EU rapid-response forces by 2007. Along with neighbouring Germany and Austria, the Czechs will form one of 13 rapid-response units, capable of acting in trouble zones anywhere in the world over the course of 15 days. The defence minister pointed out that by 2007 the Czech military will have completed necessary reforms making it capable of providing troops for such operations. Czechs serving in the EU rapid-response force will include classic infantry along with anti-chemical troops and health specialists.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has raised its estimate on Czech GDP growth for this year from 3.1 to 3.9 percent. The organisation is also predicting growth of over 4 pct over the next two years. The OECD has recommended that the Czech government focus primarily on improving the state of public finance and carry out health-care and pension reforms to be able to sustain high growth. However, the OECD added the government needed to improve business conditions if it expected rapid growth to continue.
A spokesman for the Swiss national telecommunications operator, Swisscom, has revealed the company is looking into possibilities of buying up the government's 51 percent stake in the country's dominant fixed-line operator, Czech Telecom. At the weekend a Czech daily reported that Swisscom officials had contacted the Czech prime minister but not offered a concrete bid; the Czech government has been weighing whether to sell the stake to one investor or selling it on the capital markets.
Other potential buyers interested in the stake reportedly include Telekom Austria and the British company Vodafone.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has cut short a visit to Asia after suffering a fracture to his foot. The accident happened when Mr Havel, who is 68, slipped in the bathroom at his Taiwan hotel. Officials said Mr Havel has already made changes to his itinerary and cancelled additional visits to Thailand and Indonesia. He will be returning to the Czech Republic mid-week. It is possible the former president will face minor surgery upon his return.
A cheetah at a Czech zoo has become the first in the world to be fitted with an artificial hip. The two-year-old cheetah, from a zoo in Usti nad Labem in north Bohemia, had been suffering from a congenital disorder of a hip joint. The animal was operated on by doctors at a local hospital, to replace the distorted joint with an artificial one. A zoo spokesman said that without an operation the big cat would have been condemned to a gradual loss of mobility and would have had to be put down.
Czech football side Sparta Prague are gearing up for Champions League action on Tuesday when the team will face a weakened Fenerbahce Istanbul, playing without Dutch striker Pierre Hooijdonck,, but will themselves be without star midfielder Karel Poborsky. Both teams are fighting to secure at least third place in their group to keep open the possibility of going on in the UEFA Cup. So far top spots in the group are being held by Lyon followed by Manchester United.
Cool weather is expected to continue over the coming days, with showers and a maximum daytime temperature of 8 degrees Celsius.
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