The Czech Republic hopes to continue providing health care to Iraqis after its army field hospital pulls out of Basra. According to interior ministry spokeswoman Marie Masarikova future assistance would probably be limited to treating seriously ill Iraqi children at Prague hospitals. In recent months the government paid to have 18 Iraqi children flown to Prague and treated for heart disease and other ailments. The seven million crowns earmarked for the project by the interior ministry have almost run out but the authorities are now looking for a way to continue bringing seriously ill Iraqi children to the Czech Republic for treatment.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday he hoped the proposed European Union constitution would not be accepted. Mr Klaus was speaking to journalists after a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla who was at Prague castle to inform Mr Klaus about the government's position on the matter. Mr Klaus reiterated that the constitution could threaten the sovereignty of the Czech Republic, which will join the EU with nine other countries in May. A Czech delegation is leaving for Brussels this week to take part in an EU summit aimed at finishing talks on the EU document.
The junior coalition Freedom Union-DEU says it would consider 12 percent of the vote in the June 2004 European Parliament elections a success. At the end of the two-day conference, party delegates said they did not allow for the possibility of failing in the first European Parliament election in which the Czech Republic will take part even though their voter support is currently very low. The elections will be held one month after the Czech Republic's admission to the European Union next year.
Independent Senator Helena Roegnerova was elected leader of the Freedom Union's candidates who will run for the European Parliament next year. Ms Roegnerova was chosen by the leadership of the smallest coalition party late on Saturday night at its national conference in the East Bohemian city of Hradec Kralove.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has said he wants to propose to his German counterpart Otto Schily that the two countries' police forces jointly tackle the problem of child prostitution in border areas. Mr Gross said that cooperation between the two countries' police forces will be based on the Czech-German treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters. A media campaign around child prostitution along the Czech-German border was stirred up in October by information published in a report by the German non-government organisation Karo, suggesting child prostitution was rampant in border regions. Both Czech police and local authorities say the information about hundreds of children offered for prostitution in the area was exaggerated.
A German couple have received probation of eight and six months respectively for providing videos of underage girls stripping over the internet. Their firm would hire girls to strip and provide sexual services to customers in a studio in Kraslice, west Bohemia which would then be offered through live feeds over the internet to customers in Germany. At least six of the girls had not yet reached the age of 18. The couple defended themselves saying that the girls acted on their own will. Both the man and the woman faced three years in prison for threatening the morals of minors and threatening public morality. The court ordered them to pay a fine of 130,000 crowns.
The deputy chairman of the junior coalition party, the Freedom Union-DEU Ratibor Majzlik said on Saturday that the DEU or Democratic Union platform was leaving the party. Mr Majzlik made his announcement at this weekend's party conference, which was to complete the integration of the Freedom Union and the DEU. To explain the move, Mr Majzlik said a 300-member faction disapproved of the participation of the Freedom Union-DEU in the Social-Democrat-led government. Mr Majzlik announced the departure after failing to push through his proposal that a new leadership of the Freedom Union-DEU be elected. Freedom Union leaders say that in the long run, the departure of Mr Majzlik's faction is not going to have any negative effects on the party as a whole.
A 30-metre tall Christmas tree crashed to the ground during high winds at an open-air Christmas market filled with tourists and shoppers in Prague's historic Old Town Square on Saturday morning, injuring four people, two of them foreign tourists. Prague rescue officials said a 100 km/h gust of wind snapped the tree, sending it plunging down into the stalls of several vendors at the market. A spokesman for the Prague rescue department said two people suffered broken bones when the tree landed on them, while two others, including a child, had cuts and bruises. Strong winds also hit East Bohemia and North Moravia on Saturday.
Reports from the United States say although the US respects the decision of an expert commission recommending to the Czech government to lease the Swedish-British Gripen military aircraft, it has not given up its efforts to supply US F-16s or F-18s to the Czech Republic. Lack of transparency was reportedly the reason why the United States and other participants in the first tender called by the previous government led by Milos Zeman eventually pulled out. The government then decided that the Czech Republic would buy the Gripen aircraft but last year's floods thwarted the plan. The Americans are now waiting for the Czech cabinet's decision that should be made by the end of this year.