President discusses new government possibilities with Social Democrats

President Vaclav Klaus has said that finding an agreement between the Czech political parties on the formation of a new government will be tough. Speaking after a meeting with the leadership of the Social Democrats on Wednesday, President Klaus said he had learned the party's goals and priorities. He said that the different parties' views were like the pieces of a puzzle and he was trying to put the puzzle together. Previously, Mr Klaus received representatives of the Civic and Christian Democrats, and he will end the series of consultations with meetings with the Communists and the Greens.

Interior Ministry dissolves Communist Youth Association

The Interior Ministry has decided to dissolve the Communist Youth Association. The reason given is that its programme statement says the movement strives to remove the private ownership of means of production and replace it with communal ownership, a ministry spokeswoman said. The ministry says the statement is in breach of the Czech Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The association plans to take the matter to court. The Czech counter-intelligence service BIS lists the organisation among left-wing extremist groups.

Hybaskova discloses names of people allegedly involved in bribery

The chairwoman of the Independent Candidates-European Democrats party Jana Hybaskova has provided a state attorney's office with the names of people who allegedly demanded a bribe from her party in exchange for the payment of a state subsidy to which the party is entitled, Ms Hybaskova said on Wednesday. However she did not disclose the names to journalists, saying that it would frustrate the investigation. The small party's representatives said previously that they were addressed by certain persons who said that the subsidy would be immediately paid if the party set aside 3 million crowns out of the 15 million for the mediator.

The SNK-ED demands a subsidy for its successful performance in the 2002 local elections in Prague. Previously, the Finance Ministry refused to pay the subsidy, saying that the SNK-ED had entered the elections as an alliance of a political party and independent candidates, while only parties and movements are eligible for the subsidy. The courts, however, have not supported the ministry's stand so far. The SNK-ED, claiming some 15 million crowns in compensation, has turned to the Constitutional Court. The party also filed a complaint against former Social Democrat finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka, but police shelved it.

Court postpones Pitr, Provod's prison sentence

The Prague City Court has ruled that businessmen Tomas Pitr and Miroslav Provod, who were sentenced to five years in prison for a tax fraud, do not have to start serving their sentence as yet. The court has postponed the prison sentences in both cases until it makes a decision on a proposed reopening of the trial. State attorneys can appeal Wednesday's verdict.

Government wants to see number of abused children reduced

The government has said it wants to see the number of abused children and children in institutional care reduced. On Wednesday, it approved a plan by the Social Affairs Ministry which proposes to boost cooperation between state bodies, NGOs and the public to fight child abuse. According to a report published by the ministry, some 7,500 new cases of child abuse were reported last year and the number has been increasing. Some 20,000 children are in institutional care in the Czech Republic, a fact regularly criticised by NGOs both in the country and abroad.

Interior Minister presents strategy against corruption to cabinet

Interior Minister Ivan Langer has put forward a strategy for a stricter fight against corruption. Under his proposal, special anti-corruption courts would be established and special agents would help reveal corruption and gather evidence against corrupt officers. Stricter punishments would be also imposed on civil servants proved guilty of taking bribes. They would face up to 15 years in prison instead of current 8 years if found guilty. The Interior Ministry also wants to introduce a black list of people sentenced for corruption to prevent them from taking part in any further public tenders. Mr Langer says clear borders must be set to distinguish between lobbying and corruption. The Interior Minister worked out the anti-corruption strategy in cooperation with the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.


The next few days should be partly cloudy to overcast with daytime highs reaching 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.