Around 200 people gathered outside the government headquarters building on Wednesday afternoon demanding that the Prime Minister Stanislav Gross step down. The protesters said that the Prime Minister did not give sufficient explanation of the origin of the money he used to pay for his luxury flat in Prague, nor did he explain his wife's business activities and the activities of special police teams he founded in recent years as Interior Minister.
The protest took place amid an ongoing government crisis. The coalition parties are due to meet later on Wednesday to discuss the current situation. The chairman of the Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek has called on Stanislav Gross to step down over his flat-financing scandal. However, Mr Gross has told the Christian Democrats to either back down or leave the cabinet.
The lower house of parliament has passed a bill under which the Czech Republic should pay compensation to victims of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1991. The bill awards 150,000 crowns (6,631 dollars) to the families of dozens of people killed in the invasion, and smaller amounts to people injured or raped. Soviet troops and soldiers from four other communist countries invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, to halt a liberalisation movement led by Czechoslovak Communist party chief Alexander Dubcek. After the invasion, the Soviet Union helped install a hard-line leadership which dismissed reformers from the party and jobs, and suppressed human rights and opposition movements. Soviet troops stayed in Czechoslovakia until 1991. The bill must still win the backing of the Senate.
The lower house has passed a bill on renewable sources of energy despite protests from the opposition Civic Democratic Party. Under the bill small power stations would be guaranteed fixed state purchasing prices of electricity for fifteen years. The government says the bill had been expected by private investors who will help the Czech Republic meet the European Union's demand to produce eight percent of all power from renewable sources by 2010. Currently, only two percent of energy produced in the Czech Republic comes from renewable sources. The Civic Democrats argue that nuclear and coal power are much cheaper and the involvement of alternative sources would deform the market. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president.
The state will not expropriate the restaurant building and the land adjoining the premises of Prague's National Theatre as the lower house of parliament has rejected a Communist-sponsored bill which would allow for the expropriation. The bill was only short of 10 votes to be passed. Opponents of the nationalisation said that by passing the bill the country would set a very dangerous precedent. In 1990, the Czechoslovak parliament adjudged the restaurant building with a large underground technical complex serving the National Theatre to the Order of St Ursula by mistake. The Order owned the land under the building before World War Two. Later, it sold the building to the firm Themos, which has been locked in a protracted dispute with the theatre. The loss of the facilities has caused significant problems to the actors and theatre staff.
The Czech mobile operator Oskar Mobil said on Wednesday it had been awarded the country's third 3G (third generation) licence. The Czech Telecommunications Office declared a tender for the country's third 3G licence using UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) technology in mid-January but said it would give preference to Oskar, offering it the licence for two billion crowns (88 million dollars). Oskar Mobil, the smallest and newest mobile operator on the Czech market with 17 percent market share, is the only one of the country's three mobile operators which did not hold a 3G licence to date. Third generation technology is designed to provide e-mail, high-speed internet surfing and live sound image broadcasting to compatible handsets.
The Chilean authorities are chasing a Czech tourist, who accidentally started a devastating fire in a national park, for damages, the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Wednesday. The fire started on February 17 after the Czech tourist Jiri Smitak's stove overturned, and spread fast, destroying more than 5,000 hectares of the Torres del Paine National Park and causing damage estimated at 100 million dollars. The fire has not yet been extinguished. According to the newspaper, the Chilean authorities could demand up to 20 million dollars from Mr Smitak. He admitted to the park's managers that he had caused the fire and was detained by the Chilean police. After paying a 200-dollar fine he was allowed to leave the country.
We can expect more snow in the coming days, but also somewhat clearer skies than in the previous days. Daytime temperatures should hover around 0 degrees Celsius.
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