Daily news summary News

06-06-2005

NGOs call for Klaus apology

Almost 90 non-government organisations in the Czech Republic have asked Czech President Vaclav Klaus to apologise for statements made last month categorising non-government organisations - or NGOs - as "dangerous" to democracy. The NGOs have sent the president a letter outlining their appeal. But, the president's spokesman said on Monday the document had not yet been received. Jan Bouchal, from the association which initiated the appeal, has said that the non-profit organisations and their members have stated clearly that they disapprove of President Klaus's opinion, defending citizens' rights to interfere in public developments and decision-making. NGO members first protested the president's remarks in May, when at the Council of Europe summit in Warsaw, he described what he called "post-democracy" as involving pressure from non-governmental organisations to influence individuals' lives. In his view - without a proper mandate.

Prime Minister and opposition party head fail to reach agreement

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats and the leader of the country's largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, have failed to find consensus on the future of the European constitution and planned reforms to the Czech Republic's pension system. After a two-hour top-secret meeting on Monday between the prime minister and Mirek Topolanek, the prime minister told reporters that both sides would retain their previous stances. Mr Paroubek has made clear he will press for the EU constitution ratification process to continue. At the weekend he said that even opponents of the treaty - like the Civic Democrats - would be invited to address the first phase of a planned information campaign.

Havel: Communism fell in part thanks to Helsinki movements

The Communist regime collapsed in Europe because of its own internal crisis but also due to the work of the Helsinki movements, so says former Czech President Vaclav Havel. Mr Havel spoke at the start of an international conference in Prague on Sunday, where some 30 experts and eyewitnesses began discussing the contribution of the Helsinki process to the collapse of the Communist bloc. The term "Helsinki process" is used to describe negotiations between the West and the former Eastern bloc, covering commitments in a number of fields, from armament reduction to the protection of human rights.

Drug smuggler caught

It has been revealed that Prague customs officials arrested a Mexican national smuggling more than three kilograms of cocaine at Prague's international airport at the weekend. The smuggler apparently arrived from Amsterdam. An X-ray check of his luggage revealed a number of record sleeves filled with compressed cocaine. Officials say the cocaine would have sold for four million crowns on the black market, the equivalent of roughly 160,000 dollars US. If found guilty the suspect could face up to five years in prison.

Czech car prices lowest in Europe

A new study by Price Waterhouse Coopers has shown that Czech car prices are apparently the lowest in Europe, standing 8 percent below the European average owing to lower interest in new cars. Following last year's accession to the European Union, experts predicted prices would grow as differences between prices in the EU narrowed. But, says Antonin Sipek, director of the Association of Automotive Industries, dealers began a price war as interest in new cars decreased rapidly. Over the past 12 months, the Czech Republic has been the only country in which prices have fallen, posting a 1.2 percent drop.

On the whole Czech car sales have been falling by an annual 9 percent over the past two years. The drop in sales has affected all vehicle categories.

Weather

Tuesday is expected to see light showers with daytime temperatures dropping to just 11 degrees Celsius.

06-06-2005