News

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Heads of parties in parliament to discuss direct presidential election

The heads of the five parties in parliament are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the terms under which a popular vote could be introduced to elect Czech presidents. Those terms include also the powers of Czech heads of state. The chairmen of the Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Communist Party, the Christian Democrats and the Green Party will be discussing the matter at a conference at the Senate on Wednesday. Czech heads of state are now elected by both houses of parliament. The parties in the current ruling coalition pledged in the coalition agreement signed in January this year they would launch a debate on the issue.

Senate chairman: Civic Democrats should discuss coalition pledge to vote for Klaus

The chairman of the Senate, Premysl Sobotka of the Civic Democratic Party, has said his party should discuss with its coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, an appendix to the coalition agreement in which the coalition parties pledged to support Vaclav Klaus in next year's presidential election. Prime Minister and Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek says however that differing views of the coalition parties on presidential candidates do not harm the existence of the coalition and a joint position on the election is not part of the agreement itself.

Lower house chairman wants to curb officials' perks

The chairman of the lower house Miloslav Vlcek says he would like to see the right of MPs and Senators to use public transport free of charge abolished and therefore he is going to propose to the lower house an amendment to the law on the remuneration of public officials. Mr Vlcek had earlier announced he would like to make the incomes of politicians more transparent and abolish some of their perks. The public and also some politicians have been critical of the current system but lawmakers have repeatedly rejected attempts at reducing these privileges.

Police detain money-forging gang

The Czech Police anti-organised crime squad detained a group of 15 people on Friday suspected of distributing forged 100-dollar notes, a spokeswoman said. Thirteen people have been accused of currency counterfeiting. The estimated damage is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The members of the group are Czechs, Slovaks, the citizens of former Soviet countries and the former Yugoslavia and Syrian nationals.

Estimated two tonnes of fish killed by toxic leak in Dedina river

According to estimates, some two tonnes of fish were killed on Saturday after a toxic substance leaked into the Dedina river from a sugar refinery in Ceske Mezirici in East Bohemia. The leak of lime water, a substance used in the process of sugar production, polluted around seven kilometres of the Dedina downstream. The cause of the leak is being investigated as well as the amount of the substance involved.

Finance minister: government to privatise Ruzyne airport, CSA

Finance minister Miroslav Kalousek has said the government is going to privatise Prague's Ruzyne international airport next year. Speaking in a live debate on Prima television on Sunday, Mr Kalousek said the primary reason for the move was not money but rather a principle that "the state should not be doing business". Earlier this month, the government approved a proposal under which the state-owned company would transform into a joint stock company within eight months. Mr Kalousek also said the government wants to privatise the national carrier CSA, if not next year, then in 2009.

Number of payment cards on the rise

Banks in the Czech Republic have so far issued almost 8.3 million payment cards, with a year-on-year increase of 690,000, according to data published by the Bank Card Association (Sdruzeni pro bankovni karty). The number of credit cards issued by banks has exceeded 1 million. In the first half of 2007, Czechs bought goods worth 71 billion crowns using payment cards. In the same period, Czechs withdrew 264 billion crowns from ATMs. Debit cards are the most frequent type of cards but the number of credit cards issued by Czech banks has been rising recently.

Analysis: Road traffic law good, enforcement is problem

The Centre for Transport Research has published an analysis according to which the road traffic law which came into force more than a year ago is not to blame for the continuing bad situation on Czech roads. It says the problem is poor enforcement of the legislation. The centre also says the media have been contributing to the grim road death statistics by encouraging drivers to be less disciplined. The study, commissioned by the Transport Ministry as a starting point for a planned amendment to the law, has not found major flaws in the legislation. In the past eight months, 714 people were killed on Czech roads, 22 percent more than in the first eight months of 2006. In the same period of last year the number was 586.

Federer brings Swiss level with Czechs in Davis Cup

World number one Roger Federer beat Tomas Berdych 7:6 7:6 6:3 to bring Switzerland level at 2:2 with the Czech Republic on Sunday in their Davis Cup World Group playoff at Prague's Sazka Arena. Federer won his opening singles over Radek Stepanek on Friday but lost in the doubles on Saturday when he and his doubles partner Yves Allegro were defeated by Berdych and Radek Stepanek who gave the Czech Republic a 2:1 overnight lead.

Weather

The current sunny and warm weather should continue into the week, with daytime highs between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.