Two Czech men have been charged with illegally importing over three hundred tonnes of plastic explosives into the Czech Republic. The explosives came from the arsenal of a foreign army and had not been properly marked as plastic explosives, the police said on Wednesday. They refused to confirm reports the explosives originated in Sweden. If convicted the two suspects could face up to ten years in prison.
The European Parliament has expressed concern over alleged trafficking in human beings, especially children, at the Czech-German border and called on the Czech government to support aid programmes targeted at the victims. At the same time the EU body admitted it had no hard evidence of the existence of child prostitution in the Czech Republic. In its report on Thursday on the state of preparedness for EU membership of the ten countries about to join the EU, the European Parliament gave the Czech Republic good marks overall, but beside the alleged problem of child prostitution, MEPs also voiced disquiet at the European Commission's finding that the Czech Republic is not yet able to adopt EU standards in food-processing and urged immediate action so as not to endanger European consumers.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed an amendment to the law on national health. The amendment was to prolong the existence of national registers gathering data on the health state of the population. The bill was approved by the lower house of parliament in February including several changes suggested by the Senate. The lower house could override the presidential veto if all 101 coalition MPs vote in favour of the amendment.
The Czech Republic's central bank, the Czech National Bank, has said it would like inflation to range between 2.0 and 4.0 percent between the year 2006 and the expected introduction of the euro at the end of the decade. The last inflation goal in 2001 predicted a slight decrease in inflation from between 3.0 and 5.0 percent in 2002 to between 2.0 and 4.0 percent at the end of next year.
The government has approved a new state energy plan which - after some protests from the environmental lobby - does not allow for the loosening of restrictions on coal mining. The minister for the environment, Libor Amborzek, said the plan's emphasis on renewable energy and effective energy use showed the Czech Republic's energy policy was now moving in a more environmental direction. There had been fears that some communities would have been destroyed to make way for new mines.
The Speaker of the North Korean Parliament Che Te-bok has met his Czech counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek in Prague to discuss potential Czech involvement in relieving tension on the Korean Peninsula. According to Mr Zaoralek, North Korean politicians believe the Czech Republic could interpret the position the North Korean government would like to hold in international dialogue more accurately than other countries. The prime ministers of South Korea and Japan have approached the Czech Republic before to ask for Czech assistance in solving the tension between North and South Korea. The Czech Foreign Ministry has taken steps towards the re-opening of the Czech embassy to Pyongyang which was closed in the early 1990s.
The Czech National Bank has said it wants inflation to remain between 2 and 4 percent from the beginning of 2006 until the adoption of the single European currency, the euro, expected at the end of the decade. The last inflation target set by the Czech National Bank in 2001 predicted a gradual fall in inflation from 3-to-5 percent in 2002 to 2- to-4 percent at the end of 2005. The Czech National Bank has been setting inflation targets since 1998.
Former finance minister Ivo Svoboda has been sentenced to five years in prison for fraud while he was an executive at a pram-making company which subsequently collapsed. His co-defendant Barbora Snopkova was given a five-and-a-half-year sentence by the Central Bohemian Regional Court on Wednesday. Mr Svoboda served as finance minister from March 1997 to April 1999 in the minority Social Democrat government led by Milos Zeman.
Schools around the Czech Republic held a minute's silence on Wednesday in honour of teacher Bohuslav Sibl, who was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old pupil in the east Bohemian town of Svitavy last week. The classroom killing was the first of its kind in this country, and has provoked a widespread debate about young people and violence.
After long and difficult negotiations the government on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at thoroughly reforming the Czech Republic's education system. Among other things, the bill envisages more importance being placed on the creative use of information by school pupils and less emphasis on rote-learning. Furthermore, the current "maturita" school-leaving exams would be replaced from 2008. The government bill is expected to raise some debate when it goes before Parliament.