News

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Roma activists demonstrate against Deputy PM Cunek

Roma activists and representatives of NGOs have held a demonstration against Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Over a hundred protesters gathered outside the Office of the Government on Wednesday to call for his departure from cabinet. The controversial politician came out and attempted to hold a discussion with some demonstrators, but was met with whistles.

Mr Cunek came in for criticism from across the political spectrum after seeming to disparage Romanies in a newspaper interview. He is also under investigation for alleged bribe-taking. However, the Christian Democrats leader has proclaimed his innocence in both instances and has resisted calls for him to step down.

But Jiri Cunek's affairs have had one "casualty": MP Pavel Severa is stepping down as deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats deputies' club, after his calls for the party leader's departure went unheeded.

Government reforms could hit budget, says defence minister

If a government tax and social welfare reform bill is approved the Czech Army could see a reduction in its budget, said Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova. Budget cuts could result in military spending dropping below this year's level of 1.55 percent of GDP, she said. Minister Parkanova added that plans to purchase new technology may have to be revised, but said the country's participation in missions overseas was not under threat. NATO recommends that member states devote 2 percent of GDP to defence spending.

Government approves euro adoption but does not set date

The government on Wednesday approved a "national plan" to adopt the euro, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told reporters. However, the document does not set a concrete date for the introduction of the common European currency. The prime minister said it made no sense to discuss a date until a package of reforms outlined last week is approved by parliament. Previously the Czech Finance Ministry has given 2012 as a realistic date for euro adoption.

UK Deputy PM John Prescott discusses climate change in Prague

States can invest in more environmentally friendly technology AND still experience economic growth, Britain's deputy prime minister John Prescott said on a visit to Prague. He spoke on the subject of climate change at a discussion in the Czech capital on Tuesday, before holding talks with the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra. As well as global warming, Mr Prescott also discussed the Czech Republic's presidency of the European Union in 2007 with the two men.

Number of dentists could fall by third in 15 years, warns chamber head

The number of dentists in the Czech Republic could fall by a third within 15 years, the president of Czech Stomatological Chamber warned on Wednesday. Jiri Pekarek said it could happen that many patients would be unable to find a dentist, as few new people enter the profession in this country. He also said that medical faculties were not receiving sufficient funding to train new dentists.

Skoda Auto offer workers 10-percent pay rise

Management at the Skoda Auto car plant in Mlada Boleslav offered workers a pay-rise of 10 percent during discussions with trade union officials on Wednesday. The unions, who have been threatening to go on strike alert, have not made clear what the minimum increase they would accept is. They are set to respond to Skoda Auto's offer on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the company Skoda Steel is to stop using the Skoda name and logo from June. The company will be known as Pilsen Steel.

NGOs slam failure of Czech Republic to sign up to ICC

A group of non-governmental organisations have issued a statement condemning the fact that the Czech Republic has not signed up to the International Criminal Court. It is the only country in the European Union not to have done so. The Czech Foreign Ministry said it was working on a draft proposal on the issue which would be put to parliament. Prime Minister Topolanek has previously said the Czech Republic will ratify joining the court by the beginning of its presidency of the EU in 2009.

Pilsner Urquell launches new beers

The world famous brewer Pilsner Urquell (Plzensky Prazdroj) has launched two new beers aimed at the Czech and international markets. Both will bear the name Master; one will be a semi-dark 13-degree lager, the other a dark 18-degree. The 13-degree version will cost one crown more than the brewery's flagship 12-degree lager.

Top seed Vaidisova makes early exit in Charleston

The Czech women's tennis number one Nicole Vaidisova has made a surprise exit in the second round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. On Wednesday the 17-year-old top seed was beaten 4-6 6-4 6-3 by Michaella Krajicek of Holland, ranked 54 in the world.

Czechs draw Switzerland in Davis Cup World Group playoffs

In other tennis news, the Czech men's team have drawn Switzerland in the Davis Cup World Group play-offs. The tie will take place in the Czech Republic on the second last weekend of September. World number one Roger Federer is a member of the Swiss team.

Cech reaches semi-finals of Champions League with Chelsea

The Czech football goalkeeper Petr Cech has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with his club Chelsea, after they beat Valencia on Tuesday night. Cech has already won the English League Cup with Chelsea this season, while the club are also still in the running for the Premiership and the FA Cup. Only two Czechs have ever won the Champions League - Milan Baros and Vladimir Smicer, who took club football's most prestigious trophy with Liverpool two years ago.

Visitors to Milotice will have chance to wear traditional kroj

Visitors to Milotice in south Moravia will be able to try on traditional folk costumes (kroj) from this June, say the organisers of a folk costume exhibition in former stables at the town's castle. There will be a mock-up of an old cottage on the site and tourists will be able to have their photographs taken in various different types of kroj.

Weather

It should remain mostly sunny over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 23 degrees Celsius.