Thousands of trade union members are expected to converge on the north Moravian city of Ostrava on Thursday to protest against rising unemployment and the government's budget reform plans. The protest is being billed as the biggest demonstration in the region since the 1989 overthrow of communism. Over 100,000 people are out of work in the region, mainly due to layoffs at steel mills and coal mines. The locals fear that the government's budget reform plans, which include cutting back on social expenditures, will make the situation even worse.
A Parliament commission is to ascertain who is responsible for the Czech Republic's lost arbitration with the Bermuda based media company CME, resulting in a ten billion crown fine for the country. An international arbitration procedure and a Swedish court of appeal both ruled that the Czech Republic had damaged CME by failing to protect its investment in private TV Nova. CME helped to launch the station in the early 90s but was later sidelined by its management. The man who is believed to have been behind the operation, TV Nova's former general director Vladimir Zelezny was sacked last week by the television's new owners. Zelezny claims that he acted within the bounds of the law.
The former President Vaclav Havel is to be awarded the country's highest state distinctions : the Order of the White Lion and the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. The proposal for the former Czech president to receive these distinctions was approved by both houses of Parliament. It is not yet clear when the award giving ceremony will take place. Vaclav Havel spent thirteen years in office, the first three of which he served as president of Czechoslovakia.
A proposed bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and the Vatican was rejected by Parliament on Wednesday. The agreement, which was to have established the relationship between the State and the Church, was rejected by 110 out of 177 deputies present in the Lower House. The Communists, Civic Democrats and some Social Democrats who raised their hands against it said that in its present form the agreement would have given the Catholic Church a privileged position in the Czech Republic. Because Parliament cannot amend international agreements, work on the treaty will have to begin all over again. The Christian Democrats in the Lower House expressed bitter disappointment over the outcome of the vote, saying that two years of hard work had been lost.
The police have arrested a gang which has robbed at least ten goldsmith shops in the Czech capital. The four men are believed to have stolen jewelry and precious stones to the tune of 20 million Czech crowns.
Parliament has approved an amendment to the law which should make the sleeping drug Rohynol less easily available. In future Rohypnol should only be available on special prescription which will be subjected to greater scrutiny. The drug originally prescribed for insomnia has become very popular with drug addicts and some prostitutes who use it to put clients to sleep before robbing them. Other, less powerful, drugs for insomnia have now appeared on the market and doctors are encouraged to prescribe those instead.
The former National Hockey League goalie Dominik Hasek has apologized to another man for injuring him with a hockey stick during an in-line skating game. Hasek allegedly drew blood when he attacked rival Martin Sila who was treated for concussion, a broken nose and injuries to the shoulder and spine. Hasek visited him shortly after his release from hospital on Tuesday, but despite the apology, and his attempt to play down the incident, the police are going ahead with an investigation and may file charges against the former hockey star.
Thursday should be partly cloudy with afternoon highs between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius.
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