The president's spokesman Petr Hajek has revealed that in a letter President Vaclav Klaus has called on other top constitutional officials and the heads of all five parties in Parliament to conduct a "serious" discussion on the European Union and its future. Mr Klaus has made clear he would welcome a meeting with the prime minister, the heads of both houses of Parliament, and party chairmen, as soon as possible - during the summer months. The impetus behind Mr Klaus' initiative are apparently the recent "No" votes in the French and Dutch referendums, as well as a breakdown in negotiations on the EU's future budget at the union's most recent summit in Brussels.
Two out of six new Swedish Gripen jets, patrolling Czech air space, were used in training flights on Friday. In May the Gripens replaced the Czech military's Soviet-made MiG-21s, in use in the Czech Republic (and former Czechoslovakia) since the early 1970s. The Air Force has said two Gripen jets will routinely alternate on 24-hour alert: either on the airfield or in training flights. Momentarily the Czech air force has eight trained pilots capable of operatating the Gripens. There will be an additional thirteen.
Over the next ten years the Czech Republic will pay 19.6 billion crowns, around 800 million US dollars, for the lease of a total of fourteen Gripen jets. The Czech air force is due to receive additional planes next month.
Bohumil Kulinsky, the choirmaster of the Bambini di Praga children's choir, charged with the alleged sexual abuse of under-aged girls has been released from custody. Mr Kulinsky left Prague's Pankrac prison on Friday after being held for over half a year. Originally he was remanded in custody for fear he might influence witnesses before his trial. But, last week the Constitutional Court struck down a district court's decision, saying he should be released. Mr Kulinsky was first charged last autumn; the number of girls he is suspected of having sexually-abused - all members of the children's choir - has reached forty-nine.
The Finance Ministry has revealed that the Czech state budget has shown a surplus for the first half of 2005, a total of 3.7 billion crowns. The result was unexpected, the first time the state budget has been in H1 surplus since 1998. The Finance Ministry has attributed the result to fast growing revenues and lower spending.
Thee government ministers and former prime minister Stanislav Gross are among politicians who have so far failed to declare auxiliary income and donations for 2004. The deadline, set by legislation on conflict of interest, is set for July 1st. The government ministers who failed to hand in declarations on Friday include Education Minister Petra Buzkova, Trade Minister Milan Urban, and Health Minister Milada Emmerova. There are no sanctions for the failure to meet the deadline: the Constitutional Court recently struck down a fine for those who failed to declare additional earnings in time, of around 30, 000 crowns, the equivalent of about 1,200 dollars US.
Four Czech university students have received recognition for their work in an essay competition on the subject of Turkey and the European Union. Prizes were awarded at the Turkish ambassador's residence in Prague by the Turkish ambassador, Sabri Cenk Duatepe and by euro MP Jan Zahradil. The first prize in the competition went to Petr Preclik, a student of international relations at Brno's Masaryk University, who is said to have addressed questions of identity and cultural shift towards Turkey and the Balkan states.
Saturday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a chance of showers but also some sunny intervals and a daytime temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, while Sunday should be sunny, with a daytime temperature of 27 degrees.
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