Floods: water levels dropping but more rain forecast

Clean up work is underway in many parts of the Czech Republic following a week of heavy flooding. Water levels in the affected areas are continuing to drop and water management has called off a state of emergency in the last two areas in the Elbe (Labe) River basin. Of the thousands of people who were evacuated, only 200 have yet to receive the green light to return to their homes.

Though it rained around the country on Monday, water levels have not been affected. However, meteorologists expect the rain to continue throughout the first half of this week, enough to cause smaller rivers to swell.

Country to limit chicken imports from some EU states

Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek says plans are underway to limit imports of chicken from EU countries with confirmed cases of bird flu. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Mr Mladek said the Czech Republic expects to receive permission from the European Commission within the next month. The consumption of chicken has not dropped in the Czech Republic, despite several confirmed cases of bird flu. Suppliers of chicken meat in some EU countries, which are witnessing a decrease in consumption, have been selling their products in the Czech Republic at dumping prices. By limiting imports from abroad Mr Mladek hopes to aid local producers, who say their profits have suffered from the foreign competition's low prices.

Lukashenko and others banned from entering EU

The European Union has banned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 30 ministers, prosecutors and regional election officials from entering the 25-nation bloc. It took the decision to punish those they say were involved in rigging Belarus's March 19 presidential polls and a crackdown on opposition activists. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda was actively involved in the debate on what manner of sanctions should be introduced, stressing that they should be diplomatic sanctions which would not hurt the people of Belarus who are perceived as victims of the Lukashenko regime. The Czech Foreign Ministry has also announced plans to help Belarusian dissidents.

The European Union also decided to sever political contacts and temporarily suspend direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government on Monday to pressure it to recognise Israel, end violence and accept peace accords. But foreign ministers of the 25 member states, who met in Luxembourg, agreed to continue humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Defence Minister of Serbia and Montenegro in Prague

The Defence Minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Zoran Stankovic, said on Monday that the Army would not intervene in efforts to gain Montenegrin or Kosovo independence. Speaking to his Czech counterpart Karel Kuhnl during a visit to Prague, Mr Stankovic said there will be no repetition of the 1990s, when the Yugoslav Army tried to hinder the Slovenes and Croats from gaining independence. A vote on Montenegrin independence is scheduled to take place on May 21 and there is ongoing discussion on autonomy for the south Serbian province of Kosovo.

The two defence ministers also spoke about a possible EU military engagement in Kosovo and Serbia's efforts to help bring Ratko Mladic before the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague by the end of this month. Mr Mladic is the alleged architect of the murder of around 7,500 Muslims in the Bosnian silver-mining town Srebrenica in 1995.

Financial daily: in '05 Czechs bought record number of companies abroad

The Czech financial daily Hospodarske Noviny has reported that in 2005 Czech companies acquired a record number of foreign firms outside the Czech Republic - a total of twenty-five - up from eight the previous year. The news is based on a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting. The largest Czech firm to acquire control in foreign companies last year was the energy giant CEZ, investing largely in the Balkans, followed by Zentiva pharmaceuticals, and Agrofert chemical group. The largest number of acquisitions came in neighbouring Slovakia. In total, Czech firms spent 700 million US dollars to buy into the foreign companies.

State debt

The national debt of the Czech Republic reached 698.2 billion crowns in the first quarter of this year, the Finance Ministry said on Monday. This is an increase of seven billion crowns.

President Klaus signs new construction law

President Vaclav Klaus has signed a law on construction that will help facilitate and speed up numerous building projects in the Czech Republic. Current law requires that a building permit is obtained before a garage is built, a flat is renovated, or a family house (that does not exceed 150 square metres and three floors) is put up. As of January 1 2007, those planning to undertake such types of construction work will only have to put forward a notice.

Foreign and education ministries propose ESO membership by 2007

The education and foreign ministries have proposed that the Czech Republic become a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) by next year. In plans presented to the government, the Foreign Ministry states it has managed to collect six of the around 8 million euros needed to become a member of this prestigious intergovernmental organisation for astronomical research. The ESO which has its headquarters in Germany's Garching and operates observatories in Chile, currently has eleven member countries.

Exhibition in Czech towns introduces international flood prevention project

An exhibition introducing the ELLA project - a transnational co-operation of nearly all regional spatial planning authorities in the Elbe basin - opened in three Czech towns on Monday. The ELLE project, which focuses on flood prevention and integrated water management is financed by the European Union and involves cooperation between over twenty institutions. It was launched shortly after the devastating floods of 2002. The exhibition is currently on show in Ceske Budejovice, Pardubice, and Hradec Kralove. It will travel to Pilsen and Usti nad Labem next week.

Weather forecast

The next few days are expected to be overcast with showers and snow in Bohemia and the Vysocina region. Day temperatures will range from 5 to 9 degrees Celsius.