Czech President Vaclav Klaus, on an official visit to Finland, has expressed a difference of opinion with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonenon over the EU constitution treaty. In a joint news conference on Thursday, Mr Klaus said he was happy, referring to the treaty's rejection in the Netherlands in Wednesday's referendum vote. Mr Klaus called the referendum results "a victory for freedom and democracy in Europe". The Finnish president disagreed, saying she regretted the result. The Czech Republic's president is the only European head of state to express opposition to the EU constitution treaty.
The Agriculture Ministry has revealed that in 2004 the Czech agriculture sector turned a profit of 9 billion crowns, or 365 million US dollars, a marked turn around from the previous year when Czech agriculture suffered losses of 2 billion crowns. The ministry has attributed the turn-around in revenues to the Czech Republic's joining the EU, seeing an increase in subsidies, improvements in production, and a rise in prices. The Czech Statistical Office has said that in 2003 the agriculture sector received 21 billion crowns in support, while last year that amount rose by one third.
The government's Economic Growth Strategy paper, drafted by a team of experts led by the Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Martin Jahn, has suggested the Czech Republic could abolish its forced retirement age, allowing people to retire according to their own will and projected pensions. In 2015, there should be seven percent fewer people in productive age than present. The Czech population is aging and many analysts say the current system of funding pensions cannot be upheld.
According to the strategy paper, early retirement conditions could be toughened. Half of all of those currently unemployed are aged between 55 and 64 and the current system does not motivate them to look for jobs. In addition, it is difficult for the older people to find work. The report recommends that the state should therefore concentrate on the education of people over 45 as motivation to remain in the work force.
Czech police are investigating a suspicious package which arrived at Prague Castle on Thursday. Details, other than the fact the package was sent from the US, are momentarily not known. Every year Prague Castle, the Office of the President, and numerous other institutions receive similar such packages which are treated with caution and subjected to testing for possible threats.
Police have charged a tram driver with endangering the public in connection with an accident that claimed the lives of two pedestrians in March. The driver's streetcar jumped the rails at Prague's Charles Square killing two and injuring three others who were unable to get out of the way in time. Police say the driver was driving too fast. If found guilty he could face up to 10 years in prison.
A Czech businessman has received an 8-year prison sentence for complicity to murder, in Bucharest. The announcement was made by the Czech consulate in Romania on Thursday; it is expected that the businessman, Frantisek Priplata, will appeal the ruling.
Czech MP Svatopluk Karasek has said he has been refused a visa to visit Belarus to take part in a concert organised by dissident groups opposed to the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko. Mr Karasek, a vocal supporter of human rights, had wanted to perform a song titled "Say No to the Devil" in Minsk. The MP, who is also a pastor, took part in an opposition rally in Belarus last year. Three other Czech MPs have been granted visas to Belarus and should be able to attend the protest event.
The Prague Castle steps will see an exhibition race by world class mountain bikers next week, including Olympic Gold medal winner in Sydney 2000, Frenchman Miguel Martinez. 50 racers are expected to take part. The race, which features a 1,200 metre circuit, includes a descent of 189 Castle steps, and a climbing section with an incline of 12 percent in Prague's Mala Strana (Little Quarter).
The next few days are expected to see a lot of sunshine with hot weather on Friday (27 degrees Celsius) dropping to around 20 degrees Celsius at the weekend.
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