North Korean seamstresses attack TV crew
Some thirty North Korean seamstresses disrupted a Czech TV crew on Thursday, which was filming outside their place of employment in the town of Skutec, near Chrudim, east Bohemia. The attack came in reaction to reports in the Czech media that the seamstresses were being mistreated by their own embassy. The crowd of women surrounded the crew members, who had been taping interviews with passers-by, pushing, scratching, and even throwing rocks at them. No one was seriously hurt but the cameraman did suffer light injuries. The crew's camera was damaged after being seized by the women who took it inside the company. It was only returned after the arrival of police; the videotape in the camera had been removed. Police are now investigating the incident and have arrested three of the seamstresses.
Senate approves seven of twenty-four provisional EP deputies
The Senate has approved the nomination of seven of the twenty-four provisional deputies, who will be representing the Czech Republic in the European Parliament in the period between the country's accession to the EU on May 1 and July 20 when regular deputies are scheduled to assume their posts. The twenty-four Czech MEPs will be elected in the June 11-12 elections, in which the Czech Republic will take part for the first time as a full-fledged EU member. The remaining seventeen provisional deputies are expected to be nominated by the Lower House next Tuesday.
Students launch week of protests
Some 2,500 students and professors marched through the centre of Prague on Thursday afternoon to protest against the lack of finances at Czech universities. The protest march is the last of a number of events staged by students this week named the "week of unrest", to pressure the government into releasing more funds for the education sector. The students from Prague were joined by their peers from the towns of Olomouc, Pilsen, Usti nad Labem, Hradec Kralove, and Liberec. The Chairman of Charles University's Academic Senate, Vaclav Hampl, argues that under the given conditions, Czech universities will not be able to compete with other European universities after the country's accession to the European Union, as the quality of education in the Czech Republic will suffer a serious setback.
International banks asked to manage Czech euro bonds
More than twenty international banks have been asked to submit bids to lead manage the Czech Republic's debut sovereign euro bond issue, Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota told Reuters news agency on Thursday. The Czech Republic is looking to tap international markets for about one billion euros through a 10-year bond issue in June, about a month after it joins the European Union. According to Mr Janota, the ministry will make a short list and choose one or two lead managers by the end of this month at the latest. The Czech euro bond offering is expected to set a benchmark for sovereign debt of the country, which - unlike its central European peers - has no outstanding sovereign foreign bonds. Apart from this, the finance ministry also wants to open up a new borrowing channel and ease pressure on the domestic market, increasingly saturated by fast growing state debt. Czech government debt accounted for 37.6 percent of gross domestic product last year, under EU criteria, and is seen rising further in the years to come due to fiscal deficits.
Former Finance Minister to become EIB Vice-President
Former Czech finance and education minister Ivan Pilip, has confirmed that he is to become one of the seven vice- presidents of the European Investment Bank (EIB) on May 1. According to EIB vice-president Wolfgang Roth, Mr Pilip will be in charge of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, which along with seven more countries become EIB shareholders as of May 1, when they join the European Union. Mr Roth, who has up-to-date been in charge of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland at the EIB, will cover other Central European countries such as Austria. The EIB is one of the biggest players on global financial markets. It is controlled by EU member countries, which means it can borrow cheaply and grant cheap loans, mostly to countries and regions.
The Czech national football side's record of twenty matches without a loss has come to an end. Wednesday the Czechs lost 2-1 in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland. Ireland took the lead in the 52nd minute on a goal from Ian Harte, and Robbie Keane scored in injury-time to secure the surprise win. The Czechs, who were denied early on, got one goal back from striker Milan Baros. Their loss ends one of the most impressive records on the international scene just months ahead of the Euro 2004 championships in Portugal, where they have been counted among the favourites.
Friday is expected to have overcast skies with day-time temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.