Premysl Sobotka of the opposition Civic Democrats has, as expected, been elected chairman of the Czech Senate. Mr Sobotka, who took 55 of the 80 votes cast on Wednesday, will replace Petr Pithart of the Christian Democrats. Premysl Sobotka is a doctor by profession and has been a member of the Senate since 1996.
The 2005 budget has been approved. All 101 coalition MPs were present for Wednesday's vote, ensuring it was passed by the 200-seat lower house. The budget envisages a deficit of over 80 billion Czech crowns (2,700 million euros). It now has to be signed by the president. The Civic Democrats criticized the budget, saying it would not foster growth and meant the country was living in ever more debt.
The majority of Czech members of the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Union opening accession talks with Turkey on Wednesday. But 'no' votes were cast on Wednesday by five of the 24 Czech MEPs, among them Vladimir Zelezny, whose Eurosceptic group came out strongly against Turkey joining, and called for referendums on the issue in all EU states. EU leaders are expected to give the green light to accession negotiations with Turkey later this week.
The Czech Republic has once again been fined by the European Court of Human Rights over the slowness of its courts, Hospodarske noviny reported on Wednesday. The Becvar family took the state to the Strasbourg court after a case they took in a property dispute lasted for almost six years. The Czech Republic has now lost over 35 such cases, and won only one, said the daily.
Police have arrested five men on charges of stealing antiques worth around 14 million crowns (450,000 euros), mostly in east Bohemian. The men are accused of stealing sandstone and wooden statues from churches and graveyards before selling them in Austria. Hundreds of Czech churches have been robbed in recent years.
The European Commission is investigating whether a Czech steelmaker received financial support from the Czech state in contravention of European Union regulations. If the Commission finds that the rules have been broken Trinecke zelezarny may be ordered to return the money.
Apple-growers in Moravia say they are hoping for an increase in demand for apples in the lead-up to Christmas, after what they are describing as one of their worst years, the regional newspaper Olomoucky Den reported on Wednesday. A local farmer told the daily they could not compete with imports from Poland, where growers receive various subsidies and tax breaks.
The English Football Association is investigating comments made by the Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, after he appeared to criticize the referee of a game between his club Chelsea and Arsenal. But Chelsea say the player's statements, which appeared in Czech newspapers, were exaggerated and badly translated.
The cloudy weather we have been having recently looks set to continue for another few days at least, with temperatures due to rise from around 0 now to up to 7 degrees Celsius on Friday.
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
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