MEPs approve new Commission

European Parliament has approved a new team of EU commissioners who were put forward by president of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. The vote passed on Thursday by 449 to 149, while 82 abstained. The revised Commission, which saw the departure of earlier nominees from Italy and Latvia, includes former Czech prime minister Vladimir Spidla, who will be in charge of the Social Affairs portfolio.

Among Czechs in the European Parliament the new Commission received approval from Social Democrat, Christian Democrat/European Democrat MEPs: Communist MEPs, and former television magnate Vladimir Zelezny voted against.

President signs bill abolishing compulsory military service

President Vaclav Klaus has signed a bill officially ending compulsory military service in the Czech Republic as of January 1st, 2005, paving the way for a fully professional military. The decision ends a 140-year-long tradition in the Czech lands. As of 2005 all new soldiers will enter the army on a voluntary basis only, and mandatory service would only be declared during a dire threat to the country or in cases of war. With professionalisation the number of Czech military personnel will decrease from 44,000 to 35,000; of that number some 26,000 are soldiers, while a little under 9,000 are civilian employees.

Court stops legal proceedings against foreign minister's former chauffeur

A Czech court has stopped legal proceedings against Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda's former chauffeur, responsible for losing control of the foreign minister's car in April and going off the road in Vyskov, in Moravia. The accident, caused by speeding, saw the foreign minister suffer a serious neck injury which put him in critical condition, before he made an eventual recovery.

On Thursday the court judge stopped proceedings against the driver on the condition he avoid any clash with the law over the next two years. The driver also had to pay for damages caused in the accident.

Homeless men sentenced for double-murder

Two homeless men have been handed down sentences of 21 and 16.5 years in prison by a Czech court that found them guilty of double murder. The duo attacked two other destitute men in 2003. The killings took place in the town of Karlovy Vary in a run-down building inhabited by squatters, with 42-year-old Martin Krcma and 37-year-old Roman Bohacek entering the premises, first arguing with, then brutally murdering the two older men.

Both Mr Krcma and Mr Bohacek have had extensive run-ins with the law before. They have already appealed Thursday's ruling.

Pendolino train sets Czech speed record

The Virgin Company's Pendelino train has set a new train speed record in the Czech Republic. On Thursday the train clocked 237 kilometres per hour in the south Moravian region of Breclav. Czech experts expect the record to stand for the next five years.

Tracks in the Czech Republic, and neighbouring Austria and Germany are not built to handle faster speeds: the maximum speed for a train with passengers between Prague, Berlin, Vienna, is 160 km/h.

Bruckner keeps alive hopes of Nedved return

Following the Czech Republic's 2:0 defeat of Macedonia in the team's final World Cup qualifier this year, football coach Karel Bruckner hinted Wednesday he has not given up on the possibility of midfeilder Pavel Nedved returning to the national side.

The former team captain, who was dogged by injury after Euro 2004, announced his - apparently definite - retirement from the national side in late September.

However, Mr Bruckner has now indicated he would at some point still like to meet with Mr Nedved to discuss the matter, saying it was his duty as coach to do so as long as Nedved was healthy. Still, the national side coach pointed out it was early days yet, saying arrangements had not yet even begun to be organised for the two men to meet.


Friday should see heavy showers and a maximum temperature of just 5 degrees Celsius.