News

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PM says proposed reforms are emergency brake for fiscal deficits

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday that his government's proposed finance reforms will act as an emergency brake for public spending. Mr Topolanek said that the draft reforms were needed to curb rising budget deficits, which are threatening public finances. The reforms, which include a flat tax, fees for healthcare services and changes to the social welfare system, are expected to pass their first reading in the lower house on Wednesday. Two opposition MPs supporting the government, which has no guaranteed majority in parliament, have said they will vote for it but haven't ruled out pushing for changes in the next stage of the approval process. The final vote on the reforms is to be taken later this summer.

Jiri Paroubek: reforms will plunge country into darkness.

Meanwhile, in related news, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has dismissed the government's argument that the proposed reforms are needed to rein in public spending and said that they would plunge the Czech Republic into darkness. He said that the reforms will only benefit the rich and will increase poverty in the country. Reacting to Mr Topolanek's assertion that they were an emergency brake for public spending, he said that applying the emergency brake when the road was slippery may cause the car to crash disastrously.

South Africa: Krejcir free until at least Friday

Police in South Africa have said they cannot re-arrest fugitive Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir - who left their custody last Monday - until Friday at the earliest. According to a spokesperson for the South African police, Krejcir's lawyers have filed a suit to prevent their client from being re-apprehended and that his case will be heard on Friday.

Mr Krejcir, who is wanted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder, managed to escape from the Czech Republic during a police raid on his villa in 2005. He moved to the Seychelles, where the authorities refused to extradite him because he had bought Seychelles citizenship.

Mr Krejcir was apprehended on the basis of an Interpol arrest warrant while on a trip to South Africa in April. Czech authorities had been negotiating with the South African government for his extradition, but his lawyers managed to convince the detention centre holding Mr Krejcir to release him. His whereabouts are now unknown.

Defence Minister defends song for George Bush

Czech Defence minister Vlasta Parkanova caused a furore on Tuesday by presenting the visiting US President George Bush with a song in support of a proposed controversial American radar base in this country. The minister gave the president a CD recording of her singing an old, communist-era song with special lyrics welcoming the idea of a US radar facility in the Czech Republic. It's a move that has prompted ridicule among MPs opposed to the radar and even those tentatively in favour of the plan - such as senior Christian Democrat MP Cyril Svoboda - have said that her action was ill advised. Ms Parkanova, for her part, claims that she was simply trying to lighten the poisonous atmosphere that has surrounded the debate about the hotly disputed base.

Czech Airlines sue man who travelled with TB

Czech Airlines have filed a criminal lawsuit against an American man who travelled with a rare form of tuberculosis on one of their flights and may have infected other passengers. The suit charges the man, Andrew Speaker, with spreading an infectious disease. Mr Speaker, who has been infected with a contagious "super TB" bug, had been ordered by American authorities not to go on long-distance flights, but ignored these instructions. Doctors say he may have infected four Czechs with the virus on a Czech Airlines flight from Prague to Montreal on 24 May.

Havel criticises "strange" EU attitude to Cuba

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has criticised what he described as the EU's strangely diplomatic approach to Cuba. Speaking at a conference of pro-democracy activists in Berlin, Mr Havel said EU countries tended to appease the Castro regime by not inviting dissidents to events at their embassies in Havana. He also implied that the European Union should try and catch up with the United States in terms of it support for human rights in addition to competing with America economically.

Zlin region still struggling to deal with torrential rain

The Zlin region was badly affected by torrential rain on Wednesday, which has damaged homes and disrupted traffic in the region. The worst affected area is in the Uherske Hradiste district, where emergency services had to answer several calls to deal with blocked sewerage pipes. An underpass near the town hospital was also inundated, leaving several cars stranded.

Earlier in Zlin's Prstne district, emergency services spent much of Tuesday evening clearing flood damage after the dike of a nearby pond broke. A fire department spokesperson said that the devastation was immense as the area been suddenly hit by a strong wave. Several houses were flooded and some roads were also damaged. The dike was recently repaired but burst due to high water pressure caused by heavy rain.

More than 500 centenarians living in the Czech Republic

Last May, there were 547 people aged 100 years or more in the Czech Republic, according to information from the Czech Social Security Administration (CSSZ). The CSSZ announced on Wednesday that 458 women and 89 men had identity documents proving they had been born in 1907 or earlier. The number of centenarians is steadily growing in the Czech Republic. Last November, there were 404 of them, while there were only 354 in November 2005. The Czech Republic has a population of around 10 million. The oldest Czech person is currently Marie Kraslova from South Bohemia who was 108 last November. Czech population experts predict that modern healthcare and improved living standards should see the number of centenarians living in the country rise to almost 19,000 within 60 years.

Czech authorities deny receiving Angelina Jolie adoption request

Czech authorities say they have not received any request from the American actress Angelina Jolie to adopt a child from the Czech Republic. Earlier, Britain's The Sun newspaper had claimed that Ms Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt were going to adopt a Czech boy from a Catholic orphanage in Prague, which they had been visiting while shooting a movie in the city. Angelina Jolie has already adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Japan.

Weather

Today's weather is expected to be cloudy at first but should become increasingly overcast with showers in places and occasional storms. Highest temperatures should range between 25 and 29 degrees Celsius.