The Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has met the Czech Republic's EU Commissioner, Vladimir Spidla in Prague to discuss above all the European social policy and the Lisbon Strategy - the European Union's action and development plan. Mr Spidla, who was Mr Gross's predecessor in the post of prime minister and head of the ruling Social Democratic Party, refused to comment whether the current situation in the party, which is losing public support, was also discussed.
The first 90 members of a new Czech and Slovak contingent have left Prague for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo to replace the members of the battalion who have served in the province since May. A special unit trained to suppress demonstrations will also operate in Kosovo. The new contingent will stay in the Balkans till July. It will guard a section of the provincial Kosovo-Serb border.
Several dozen conscripts have symbolically parted with the military at Prague Castle, on the eve of the abolition of compulsory military service in the Czech Republic. As of January 2005 the Czech military will become fully professional. The soldiers, coming from around 70 units from all over the country, represented the last 2,000 conscripts whose service will end before Christmas. Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl presented the conscripts with commemorative plaques and watches to mark what he called a closing of a historical period. Czech men were subject to universal conscription for the past 140 years. The length of the service had been gradually reduced to one year after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime.
A Prague court has sentenced 25-year-old Frantisek Ctrnacty to 2.5 years in prison for brutally attacking an investigative journalist earlier this year. The editor of the country's leading investigative weekly Respekt, Tomas Nemecek, was tear-gassed, hit on the head with a club and kicked in the face by a pair of assailants outside his home in Prague in January. After the attack, Mr Nemecek said he believed it was in retaliation for articles about crime gangs in north Bohemian towns that had been published in his weekly. Mr Ctrnacty denies any wrongdoing and the other attacker remains unknown.
Czech pilots from the town of Usti nad Orlici are prepared to fight locust invasions in Africa again next year. Three crews operating the Antonov An-2 aircraft returned from a successful mission in Algeria in June where the planes spent five to six hours in the air every day, spraying the swarms with insecticides. The Czech pilots are ready to take part in any of the internationally funded missions in Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and Egypt.
The first part of the week should be cloudy with fog and drizzle. Clearer skies can be expected in the mountains. Daytime temperatures in the coming days should range from +1 to +5 degrees Celsius.
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