News

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Leaders of two strongest parties to begin government policy programme negotiations

The leaders of the two strongest parties, Civic Democrat Mirek Topolanek and Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek, have agreed to start talks on a joint government policy programme. The politicians met for over an hour on Tuesday after the Social Democrats rejected the idea of a four party coalition including the Greens and the Christian Democrats but excluding the Communists that would serve until early elections in 2008.

In almost six months since the elections in June, the five parties in parliament have not been able to agree on the make-up of a new government. Under what they call Agenda 2010, the Social Democrats see a three-party coalition government with the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats - with a mandate until 2010 - as the best way out of political deadlock.

President Klaus holds unexpected meeting with Jiri Paroubek

President Vaclav Klaus has held an unexpected meeting with the leader of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek. Mr Paroubek officially informed the president about his party's stance on the current political situation and presented him with the Social Democrats' Agenda 2010 policy programme.

While the Christian Democrats are prepared to give Agenda 2010 a chance, the Civic Democrats have been sceptical, saying it is too "social democratic".

OECD report: Czech economy to enjoy more growth but could suffer from slow reforms

The Czech economy will enjoy more growth but could suffer if the country's political stalemate continues, a new OECD report warns. While GDP rose by 6.1 percent last year, it is expected to rise by 6.2 percent this year and 4.8 percent in 2007. But the OECD warns that the country's lack of a stable government is slowing down reform, which could in turn slow down growth.

Czechs block beer tax hike

The Czech Republic has blocked the EU's plans to raise the minimum level of taxes on beer, finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty told reporters on Tuesday. With the minimum duty on most wines zero percent, a tax hike on beer would raise competition levels between brewers and winemakers, he said, adding that the changes are unacceptable in a country where beer is a national product. Last month the European Commission proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum duty on beer and spirits.

Foreign Minister Vondra: Czechs could travel to USA without visa within next two years

Czechs could be able to travel to the United States without a visa within the next two years, says foreign minister Alexander Vondra. Mr Vondra was reacting to Tuesday's pledge by US President George Bush to work with Congress to make it easier for some countries to be included in the visa-waiver programme. Mr Vondra says it is probable that the Czech Republic will be among the countries that will benefit as President Bush is warming up to the European Union's requests to include all EU states in the visa-waiver programme.

Czech Republic considering complaint against Austrian authorities

The Czech Republic is considering filing a complaint with the European Commission against the Austrian authorities. Czech Ambassador to Vienna, Jan Koukal, says the Austrians had violated a bilateral agreement when they approved a blockade of a Czech-Austrian border crossing in protest at the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Based on the Melk agreement of December 2000, Austria should not object to the Temelin plant going into full operation as it has passed an environmental assessment study.

Renovation work at Prague's main train station to be launched in mid-December

Extensive renovation and reconstruction work at Prague's main train station is to be launched on December 14. With the aim of attracting more travellers but also Prague residents, the station is to be transformed into a modern centre with shops, restaurants, and banks, within the next five years. With some 100,000 passengers a day, it is the country's biggest station. It was last renovated in 1979.

Weather

The next few days should be cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and daytime temperatures between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.