News

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MPs now likely to back government in confidence vote

Five Social Democrat MPs who had threatened to vote against the new government in an upcoming confidence vote now seem likely to vote in favour, following a meeting by the Social Democrats' deputies group on Tuesday. At least one MP said it was not his place to vote against his own party in the confidence vote. The group of MPs, which includes the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lastuvka, and fellow committee member Jan Kavan, have been calling for greater Social Democrat influence in the sphere of foreign policy. They put forward at least one name for the position of first deputy foreign minister - which the foreign minister rejected. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has indicated that methods of cooperation - and not personnel changes - are of the first order.

Regarding the confidence vote itself the prime minister has stressed that he expects all 70 Social Democrat MPs to vote in favour of the government in ten days' time.

Committee to look into May Day arrest

Following a recommendation by the Christian Democrats the parliamentary Defence Committee will look into police action at the weekend in which police arrested an activist protesting the Communists' annual May Day meeting. Anti-communist demonstrator Jan Sinagl was arrested at Prague's open-air Letna Park when he tried to interrupt a speech by the head of the Communist Party. Another man was also arrested for slashing the tires on a police vehicle. The opposition has strongly criticised the police course of action in Mr Sinagl's arrest - suggesting it was 'overkill'. The committee will meet to address issue on May 10th. The interior minister, Frantisek Bublan, and the police president, are expected to attend.

Chamber passes bill on compensation for victims of 1968

The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill that will allow victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia to receive anywhere between 30,000 to 150, 000 crowns in compensation - the equivalent of about 1,300 to 6, 300 U.S.. Those who lost a family member - killed by Warsaw Pact troops between August 20th, 1968 and the 27th of June, 1991 - will be entitled to receive the full sum, while those injured, raped, or suffering permanent injury will receive the equivalent of 3,000 U.S. dollars. The bill must be signed by the president before taking effect.

Poll: one year after accession many Czechs sceptical about future benefits of EU

A new poll released by the Median agency asking Czechs to rate EU membership has suggested that a majority of Czechs - 61 percent - see negatives outweighing positives. Half of those polled, for example, replied they were not pleased by the eventual adoption of the euro. In general, the younger generation and those between 30 and 40 years of age take a more positive stance on the EU than older citizens, seeing the EU as a guarantee of stability.

Sobotka: Czech Rep unlikely to adopt the euro before 2010

Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said it is unlikely the Czech Republic will adopt the euro before 2010, citing that year as the most likely date. The finance minister cited various factors in fiscal reform and the cutting of deficit gaps as responsible for the delay. The Czech National Bank, though, has been critical, saying the government plan to cut deficits lacked ambition considering recent economic growth. The Czech Republic should meet the criteria for euro adoption in 2008 when the public finance gap should drop below 3 percent of the GDP.

Kousal resigns as head of Ceske drahy - Czech Rail

Petr Kousal, the head of Czech Rail (Ceske drahy), has resigned in the face of proposed changes to Czech Rail's business policy. Although the firm has see a rise in passenger use, Czech Rail has failed to increase freight transport and to sign new freight contracts. This, despite the fact exports have gone up since the Czech Republic joined the European Union. Mr Kousal steps down after 27 months as head of Czech Rail, during which he significantly reduced losses of 5 billion crowns to those in the hundreds of millions. He has been replaced by his first deputy Jozef Bazala.

Seven-year-old responsible for anonymous bomb threats

Police say that a seven-year-old boy in the Czech Republic's 2nd largest city of Brno was responsible for making repeated anonymous bomb threats. Last year the child - apparently inspired by a television programme - made around ten anonymous calls to a local elementary school threatening a bomb would go off in the building unless he received 100, 000 crowns, around five thousand U.S. dollars. On one occasion more than 300 students had to be evacuated following a bomb threat. The seven-year-old made the calls from his parents' phone. Police point out the boy is too young to face charges, but say if he had been an adult he would have faced up to three years in prison.

Sparta - season champions

Prague football club Sparta Prague have earned the title of league champions following a win by arch-rivals Slavia over Teplice on Monday night. Slavia won 2:0 over 2nd place Teplice, meaning no team can contest Sparta for the title. With just five matches left this season Sparta is on 61 points. The title is the club's 7th in the last ten years.

Weather

Wednesday should be cloudy with some sunny intervals and daytime temperatures of around 18 degrees Celsius.