News

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Parliament passes financial reforms

The Czech lower house has passed an extensive financial reform bill. In a final vote on Tuesday, the centre-right coalition government's draft legislation was supported by 101 of the 200 MPs in the Chamber of Deputies. The votes of two rebel opposition Social Democrat MPs, Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka, were needed to push the reform through the lower house. One government MP, Christian Democrat Ludvik Hovorka, voted against the bill, which has sparked much controversy with critics saying that it will do nothing to halt the Czech Republic's rising budget deficit whilst leaving many people worse off.

The passing of the bill has staved off a potential political crisis, as Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek had threatened to push for early elections if the vote failed. The bill includes major changes to the Czech Republic's taxation and welfare systems. It will now have to be approved by the Senate and the president before becoming law.

No final decision made on US radar base

Czech defence minister Martin Bartak told Russian diplomats at discussions in Moscow on Tuesday that no final decision has been made on installing a US radar base in this country. Russian Chief of Staff Yuri Baluyevsky told journalists after the talks that he urged the Czech Republic not to make a final decision on the radar base before the US presidential elections in autumn 2008, as a new American administration might change its mind about building it.

The United States wants to build a radar base in the Czech Republic as part of a proposed missile defence shield to protect it from possible attacks from so-called rogue states such as Iran. Russia perceives the move as a threat to its own security and has urged the Czech authorities not to allow the facility on its territory. The current coalition government is tentatively in favour of the radar base, but Mr Bartak stressed that talks were still underway between Russian and Czech representatives on the issue.

Ceremony held to mark anniversary of 1968 invasion

Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek and other state dignitaries have attended a special ceremony in front of the Czech Radio building to mark the 39th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Speaking at the event, Mr Topolanek praised the heroism of those who stood up to the Warsaw Pact troops, whose invasion of Czechosovakia ended efforts to establish a more liberal form of socialism in this country.

The prime minister also said it was important to remember the lessons learned from the fate of the so-called Prague Spring to ensure that such events were never repeated. He also paid tribute to Czechoslovak Radio for truthfully informing the people about what was happening in this country during the invasion. The Czech Radio building in Prague was the scene of some of the heaviest clashes between Soviet troops and Czech protesters during August 1968.

Coalition blocks parliamentary debate on Cunek and US radar base

The centre-right coalition government has blocked a move by Social Democrat and Communist MPs to hold a debate in the lower house on the conduct of state attorneys in a recent corruption case involving Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Mr Cunek had been accused of accepting a bribe while he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago, but all charges were subsequently dropped. This was heavily criticised in some quarters with critics alleging that the case had been subject to political interference. The government also blocked a debate on the proposed construction of a US radar base in this country. Parliament is not expected to sit again until the end of September.

Klaus criticises last EU summit

On the eve of a visit to Austria, Czech president Vaclav Klaus has strongly criticised the last EU summit, which decided on voting rights for member states. In an article entitled More Integration, Less Unification, which was published in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Mr Klaus said that it was more important to clearly set parameters for what the European Union should vote on than to decide on the manner in which votes should be taken. Mr Klaus - a well known Euro-sceptic - has repeatedly warned against too many executive powers being ceded to Brussels by nation states.

Prague public transport authority wants to increase fare prices

The Prague Public Transit Company, which is in charge of public transport in the Czech capital, has said it wants to increase its fares by around 20 percent. Speaking to the Pravo daily, the company's director says the firm is seeking the increase to ensure it is able to cover its running costs and to also have enough resources for investing in the modernisation of Prague's public transport infrastructure. It will put its proposals to the city council in September and, if they are approved, the new fares will be introduced at the start of next year. A standard transferable ticket for Prague's metro, bus and tram systems currently costs 20 Czech crowns or just under 1 US dollar.

Man stabs wife then kills himself

Police are investigating an incident in the village of Vejprnice near Pilsen where a man stabbed his wife several times before shooting himself dead. The fifty-seven-year-old woman was taken to hospital with multiple stab wounds and doctors have described her injuries as serious. Neighbours of the couple told the Novinky news website that the couple had never given any indication of conflict in their relationship.

Petr Cech wins player of the year award

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has won the football writers' "Golden Ball" award as the Czech Republic's player of the season for the third time in a row. Cech beat Arsenal midfielder and Czech captain Tomas Rosicky by just three votes in the poll of Czech sports journalists., The keeper won the award despite a head injury that kept him out of action for several months. The 25-year-old has played with protective headgear since suffering a skull fracture following a collision with an opposing player last October.

Mushroom-picking season one of worst ever

Czech mushroom-pickers have said that this year's mushroom-picking season is one of the worst they have ever experienced. According to the Pravo daily, mycologists claim that the dry weather conditions experienced by the Czech Republic in 2007 are responsible for the scarcity of many popular varieties of wild mushrooms this year and that only a prolonged period of wet weather will save the season. Mushroom picking is hugely popular in this country and it is estimated that over 26 million kilograms of the forest fungi were harvested by Czechs last year.

Weather

The weather is expected to be cloudy with sunny intervals and scattered showers in places. Highest temperatures should range between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius.