Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, who has been under fire over his personal finances, has gained the support of the junior coalition Freedom Union. In recent weeks, Mr Gross has been grilled by the media and some parliamentary parties over how he had been able to afford to make a 2.5 million Czech crown (107,000 US dollars) down payment on a Prague flat in 1999. The prime minister has given various explanations and nothing to back his claims. Mr Gross has enjoyed full support of his own party, the Social Democrats, and was assured further support by Freedom Union leader Petr Nemec after a meeting on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Mr Gross gave all three ministers of the Christian Democratic Party - the third party in the ruling coalition - twenty-four hours to state whether they feel the government can no longer function and needs a new prime minister. Earlier this week, Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek voiced concern and said the scandal over the prime minister's personal finances has damaged the coalition's reputation. The ministers have rejected Mr Gross' ultimatum on Thursday and called for a meeting of the entire government leadership instead.
On Thursday afternoon, underwent further grilling in the lower house, in a 45 minute question and answer session called by the opposition centre-right Civic Democrats. Mr Gross also had to answer for his wife's business activities and stressed neither he nor his wife were ever involved in any illegal business. He added that he would raise the mortgage on his flat.
The country's dominant telecommunications company, Cesky Telecom, plans to expand to foreign markets, which would include capital entries in other companies, company CEO Gabriel Berdar said on Thursday. According to Mr Berdar, Cesky Telecom generated record-high consolidated revenue last year and can afford to ponder investment and possibly dividends owing to its low debt. In 2004, the company's consolidated revenue totalled 62.1 billion Czech crowns (2.5 billion US dollars), a year-on-year growth of 21 percent.
A forty-member military research unit is to be deployed to Afghanistan in March to join a German-run Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the northern region of Badakshan. The Czech Republic currently has only 15 soldiers in Afghanistan in the ISAF mission in Kabul. The NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team is a combination of international military and civilian personnel based in provincial areas of Afghanistan with the aim of extending the authority of the Afghan central government and helping to facilitate development and reconstruction.
The Czech Foreign Ministry plans to open an embassy in Moldova. The nearest embassy is currently in Romania and the Czech Republic hopes diplomatic representation in Moldova itself could help bring the country, which is currently led by a Communist government, closer to EU states. Moldova is one of eight countries in which the Czech Republic intends to open an embassy in the near future, despite being forced to close down others due to a lack of finances.
Czech cross-country skier, Katerina Neumannova, took the first gold medal of the Nordic Ski world championships in Oberstdorf on Thursday in the women's 10km freestyle. Neumannova, who turned 32 on Tuesday, beat Russia's Julia Tchepalova by a mere 1.2 seconds and won her first ever world title.
We can expect less snow and more overcast skies in the next few days with day-time temperatures between -3 and 1 degrees Celsius.
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