Government fails to agree on 2005 budget

The outgoing government on Wednesday failed to reach agreement on next year's state budget. The finance ministry proposed a deficit of 94 billion crowns but the demands made by individual ministries were 14 billion crowns higher. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his proposal met with strong protests from all sides but he argued that a deficit 94 billion was the absolute limit. The ceiling is not set by the finance ministry - it is the result of a coalition agreement, Sobotka told the CTK press agency. The Cabinet is to meet again next week to try to reach agreement on the 2005 budget. Although the Czech Republic may have a new government by September, the three party coalition agreement on next year's budget deficit should remain valid.

President slams health minister for jumping the gun

President Klaus has criticized the Czech health minister Josef Kubinyi for banning the use of caged beds in all health institutions in the Czech Republic without consulting doctors and experts on the matter. Minister Kubinyi issued the order following criticism in the British media and a protest letter from J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books. President Klaus, who has invited medical experts to Prague Castle to inform him about the situation, said that the issue was not something that "could be solved out of context, by a populist gesture". Mr. Kubinyi was called on to explain his decision on Wednesday morning and he assured the head of state that he had not meant to ignore or dismiss the views of Czech specialists in the field. Many Czech psychiatrists maintain that caged or netter beds are less cruel and traumatising to a patient that forced application of drugs or being strapped to a bed.

Czechs to send record number of athletes to the Olympics

The Czech Olympics Committee has approved to send a record number of athletes to the summer Olympic Games in Athens. 136 Czech sportsmen and women will be representing the Czech Republic at the summer Olympics, accompanied by a team of coaches, doctors and support staff.

German national sentenced to two years for fraud

A German national has been sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding a Czech-German theatre festival of over four million crowns. In 1998 Henner Polscher was in charge of the finances department of the Czech-German language theatre festival annually held in Prague. He used over four million crowns as an interest free loan to his own real estate office. "It is clear that Polscher used the money for his own purposes and his guilt has been proven," the judge said. Polscher has appealed the verdict, saying he was convinced that he did not commit a crime in managing the funds.


Thursday is expected to be overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.