Parliament votes against Maticni street wall
The Czech lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, has voted to overturn a decision by the city of Usti nad Labem to build a controversial wall to separate a predominantly Romany or gypsy housing estate from privately-owned houses opposite. In an evening sitting on Wednesday the Chamber voted by 100 to 58 to overrule the local council´s decision to build the wall, which was finished just hours earlier in the presence of almost 100 police officers. The Chancellor of the Czech President´s Office has filed charges against the person who ordered the police to cordon off Usti´s Maticini street so the wall could be completed uninterrupted. The city´s mayor, Ladislav Hruska, has remained defiant in the face of repeated warnings from the central government in Prague as well as attempts by Roma to dismantle the wall. Mr Hruska said on Wednesday that he had received letters of support from people throughout the country. He has previously vowed to ignore any parliamentary ruling on the wall.
Czech officials have been reacting to another highly critical report from the European Commission on preparations for joining the EU. The Commission released progress reports yesterday on the eleven candidates for membership. The Czech Republic, once a front-runner, again came in for criticism, for insufficient reform of its administration, civil service and judiciary. The Commission said the Czech Republic had failed to increase the tempo of reform since the last report was issued last year. The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has vowed to take radical steps to improve the situation.
The leader of France´s ultra-nationalist National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, arrives in Prague on Wednesday for a two-day visit as the guest of Miroslav Sladek´s Republican Party. Mr Le Pen is to hold a press conference at Prague´s Ruzyne airport and will later attend a performance at the State Opera. The two parties are due to hold a joint meeting in Brno on Friday. The Interior Ministry says Mr Le Pen will not be given police protection as he is not a state official.
The fate of four Czech policemen who have been rejected for the international police force in Kosovo remains unclear. The four were part of a group of ten Czech officers who arrived in Kosovo recently, after passing a series of tests - including English - to prepare them for the force. However upon their arrival in Kosovo, the four were rejected by the United Nations, who said their English was not good enough. The officers say they are running out of funds and the Czech Interior Ministry has appealed to the U.N. to resolve the situation as soon as possible. The Czech police have blamed the U.N. for failing to specify the level of English required to serve in the international force.
A leading Austrian motoring organisation has warned its members of the potential risks of taking taxis in Prague. The organisation issued the warning after carrying out a number of undercover tests. During one test a member of the organisation posing as a passenger was charged some 1,000 crowns for a three-kilometre journey, about 20 times the official rate. The organisation warns that meters in Prague taxis are seldom connected to the tachometer. This allows drivers to have the meter running as fast as they like, and charge as much as they want.
Three parliamentary deputies are joining forces to launch a campaign against underage smoking. The campaign is to support a recently-passed law banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under the age of eighteen. Christian Democrat MP Jaromir Taliø, his Civic Democrat colleague Walter Barto and Social Democrat deputy Miroslav Kuèera, say they want to recruit well-known public figures to help them in their cause. Mr Taliø told reporters that in his opinion the Czech public were largely unaware that it was now illegal for people under eighteen to buy cigarettes.
And finally a quick look at Thursday´s weather. It will be a mostly clear day with isolated showers in places. Temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 15 degrees Celsius, with temperatures dropping to zero in some parts of the country at night.
I'm Rob Cameron and that's the end of the news.
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