Representatives of the three Czech ruling coalition parties have agreed to measures aimed at reducing the country's growing deficit of public finances. Cabinet experts agreed to reduce the number of state bureaucrats and to slow down wage growth in the public sector. The ministers also approved a radical reform of the pension scheme from a continuously financed system to a savings-based one. The retirement age will be increased to 63 from the current 61 for men and 60 for women. Czech economic experts and foreign institutions have repeatedly warned that the growing public finance gap is unsustainable and besides causing other problems, it could pose a threat to the country's adoption of the single European currency.
The Czech ice hockey team, who ended fourth at the world ice hockey championships in Finland on Saturday, have received a warm welcome home. Several dozen fans applauded each team member as they emerged at the at Prague Ruzyne airport on Sunday. The Czechs won world title in three of the past four years. The president of the Czech Ice Hockey Union, Karel Gut, said the fourth place was still a great success and that replacing the national team's three couches was out of the question.
A young Czech man who recently visited China has been admitted to Prague Bulovka hospital for fears he may have contracted the SARS disease. Doctors said the hospitalisation was more of a precautionary measure because the 30-year old man had fever but no other symptoms typical for SARS. Around 30 people so far have been taken to hospitals in the Czech Republic for suspcion of SARS but tests did not prove the disease in any of them. More than 500 people have died and thousands contracted the disease worldwide, with the biggest number of cases in China.
Pilots for the Czech Republic's national carrier Czech Airlines have been staging a work slowdown since Thursday that delayed many flights and is likely to continue throughout the weekend. The slowdown has affected at least one-third of the carrier's 150 daily flights which have been delayed by 20 minutes on average. The job action stems from a contract dispute between the airline and a union representing its 350 pilots. The two sides have been negotiating for a new contract since January. A new round of talks involving the Czech Ministry of Labour is expected to begin Monday.
The health condition of three Czech soldiers who were injured in a road accident in Iraq on Friday has been improving. Two of them were released from hospital, but the third one remains in intensive care with serious injuries. The accident took place some 150 kilometres south of Baghdad. Experts are still investigating the accident which is thought to have been caused by exhaustion of the driver.
The Czech ice hockey team ended fourth at the world ice hockey championships in Helsinki, Finland, losing 2-4 to Slovakia on Saturday. The Czechs, world champions in three of the last four years, lost their chance to fight for another gold on Friday, when they were defeated by Canada 8-4 in the semi-finals.
The Czech police recovered paintings stolen from a museum devoted to one of the country's most famous artists, Josef Lada, and broke up a theft ring. Eight paintings were stolen from the Lada museum in the late artist's hometown of Hrusice, near Prague, in October but only five of them have been recovered. The paintings were found in Prague with a large number of antiques and other valuables stolen from nearly 60 homes, cottages and shops across the country since September.
President Vaclav Klaus is planning a visit to the United States in mid June, the president's spokesman Tomas Klvana said after Mr Klaus's meeting with US Ambassador Craig Stapleton on Friday. According to Tomas Klvana, President Klaus has received invitations to several conferences in the United States but he is also to meet top-level officials. The presidential office did not confirm whether Vaclav Klaus was to meet President George W. Bush.
Representatives of the three Czech ruling coalition parties are to meet again on Sunday to try and agree on concrete steps to cut the country's large budget deficit. Leaders agreed last week to slash spending and raise taxes to turn around the deterioration of Czech public finances, which is hampering its aim to join the euro zone several years after EU entry in May 2004. A strong consensus on the reform is key for the survival of the weak coalition, whose 101 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament have proven an unreliable majority.