The newly renovated Congress Centre in Prague has opened. The centre will remain open to the public until July when the Ministry of Finance will move in to prepare for the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to be held there in September. The centre will re-open in mid-October. The cost of renovation reached 2.8 billion Czech crowns.
The Senate is expected to vote on the government's proposed new electoral law today, which aims to introduce majority elements into the current proportional system. The vote is expected to be close, with small parties and even some senators of the ruling Social Democratic party, which proposed the law along with its opposition partner Civic Democratic Party, voting against the bill. Failure to reach a majority in the Lower House could threaten the power-sharing agreement between the two largest parties and force early elections.
The call of the opposition Civic Democratic Party for a parliamentary commission to investigate the introduction of forced administration last week on one of the Czech Republic's major banks, Investicni a postovni banka, or IPB, and its subsequent sale to Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka, or CSOB, has not met with support on the political scene or in the financial world. Civic Democratic chairman Vaclav Klaus described the sale of IPB as a "bank robbery", organised by politicians and financiers. The Belgian bank KBC, which owns CSOB, has reacted strongly against the accusation that its members were complicit in a criminal offence but said it would not resist a parliamentary commission since the sale was transparent and carried out in full mutual trust and confidence between KBC and the Czech authorities.
The Constitutional Court has deemed the methods employed by the Interior Ministry in the two-year-old case of police officer Jan Mares unlawful and unconstitutional. The court found that the bribe Mares had been charged with accepting while investigating the Skloexport company had been planted by the Ministry's investigators and was thus inadmissable evidence. The court overturned Mares's 4-year jail sentence and returned the case to the district courts.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, has met with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, and parliamentary chairman, Vaclav Klaus, to discuss issues concerning the country's progress towards EU accession. Verheugen identified 2003 to 2005 as the window of opportunity for the country's acceptance into the Union, but said it was too early to give a specific date. He expressed disappointment at the pace of Czech administrative and reforms and over the lack of a law on state administration.
The European Parliament's foreign committee has started debating a proposal on the Czech Republic submitted by the Parliament's rapporteur for the Czech Republic, Jurgen Schroeder. Among other points, the proposal suggests that the compatibility of the post-war Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of Czecholsovakia's large ethnic German community and are still in place today, with EU legislation must be verified. The Czech negotiator for EU accession, Pavel Telicka, said the Czech government did not see any connection between the Decrees and the enlargement process but would come to terms with such an investigation.
The Chairman of the far-right National Alliance Vladimir Skoupy has been released from custody. Skoupy had received a one-year suspended sentence for advocating fascism and spreading racial hatred on June 7 and had been in custody since the end of February.
The Culture Minister, Pavel Dostal, has declared the case surrounding a medieval Jewish cemetery discovered on the construction site of a carpark of Ceska pojistovna insurance company closed, despite the protests of some Orthodox Jews from abroad. The government decided in March that the remains of the historic cemetery were to be preserved at the site and declared a cultural monument but some international Jewish groups continue to protest against the desecration of the burial ground.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the current system of regulated rents is unconstitutional. The court claimed that property owners end up subsidising rents, whereas this burden should be covered by all taxpayers. The ministries of Finance and Regional Development plan to eliminate centralised regulation and introduce a system of contractual rents by 2002. Nearly a third of Czech rents are currently subsidised.
And who said Czechs could only dominate in hockey and beer guzzling...The first European Championship of Police Dogs trained in sniffing out explosives saw the Czechs occupy the top rungs of both the individual and team categories. Danny, Clarke and Lucky were the heroes of the day - suspiciously non-Slavic sounding names...smuggled in sniffers perhaps?
And finally, a look at the weather. A cold front has hit the Czech Republic today breaking the record high temperatures of the past week and bringing cloudy weather, with scattered showers and storms throughout the day. Temperatures are expected to reach highs of 24 degrees during the day and drop to 15 degrees at night. Similar conditions are expected over the weekend, with slightly wetter fronts coming in from the north-west. Daytime temperatures will reach highs of 22 degrees and lows of 16, with night-time temperatures as low as 8 degrees on Sunday.
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