The Senate has approved a draft amendment to the nature and landscape protection bill which provides for the creation of some 40 European Natura-type protected areas. The amendment, which the Czech Republic has been asked to pass by the European Union before its accession on May 1, provides mainly for the declaration of "bird reserves" where the protection of endangered bird species would be ensured. The opposition Civic Democrats are opposed to the amendment saying that it restricts the rights of land owners. The Natura 2000 project aims to create a continuous European environmental system of specially protected areas with endangered species of birds and protected animals, plants and habitats.
Senator Richard Falbr has stressed the need to fill the posts of all 15 Constitutional court judges. He said the country was experiencing a drawn-out constitutional crisis as the Constitutional Court was paralyzed by the vacancies. The controversy between President Klaus, whose task it is to nominate constitutional court judges, and the Senate, which must approve them, exploded with full force on Thursday when one of the senators accused the President of treason for his failure to produce what he called "acceptable nominees". This happened after the Senate rejected yet another candidate -Milan Gavlas - on the grounds that he had a narrow area of expertise and had spent 23 years in the communist party. Senator Falbr on Friday attempted to play down the controversy, saying that he considered the accusation of treason foolish and inappropriate and could understand the President's anger in response to the news. He said the President's next nominee Stanislav Balik was a good choice and would probably gain approval. Four out of fifteen posts of Constitutional court judges remain to be filled.
President Klaus has vetoed a bill on value added tax and a bill on real estate tax, which are a crucial part of the government's fiscal reforms. The country needs the bills to be approved and come into force before its accession to the EU in May. The president's spokesman said Mr. Klaus considered both bills to be a bad mixture of measures that would have serious consequences for Czech citizens and businesses. The finance ministry has refused to comment on the President's decision, saying that it counted on Parliament to overturn the Presidential veto in time for the laws to take effect on May 1st.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda met his French counterpart Michel Barnier in Paris on Thursday to discuss the two countries' business and trade relations, the European Union Constitution and also the current situation in Iraq. Mr Barnier said after the meeting that the situation in Iraq was extremely serious and could be resolved only if Iraqi citizens, the countries of the region and the international community increase their efforts. He said that an international conference of all involved countries and organisations would be especially useful. Mr Svoboda said the Czech Republic was against any individual action and supported a solution agreed on by the European Union and the United States. Mr Svoboda ended his two-day visit to France on Thursday afternoon.
The host of a political discussion programme on the commercial TV station Nova, Jana Bobosikova, has confirmed she is running for a seat in the European Parliament. Ms Bobosikova is running for the Independents' Movement alongside former TV Nova head, Senator Vladimir Zelezny. Ms Bobosikova said she was leaving her job in TV Nova. The Czech Republic will hold its first ever elections to the European Parliament in mid-June.
The Czech public service radio, Cesky rozhlas has received two awards in the "Media Helping Historical Monuments" competition for journalists. Czech Radio studios in the cities of Ceske Budejovice and Plzen have been awarded for consistent attention paid to monuments in South and West Bohemia. The competition is co-organised by the Syndicate of Journalists under the auspices of Senate Chairman Petr Pithart.
The unemployment figure for March has dropped to 10.7 percent, the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry announced on Thursday. Compared to February, when the ministry announced a record-high 10.9 percent, the number of jobless people decreased by some 11,000 to reach 559,822 (almost 560 thousand). Compared to figures in March of the previous year, the number of unemployed increased by more than 30,000.
Police say they detained a group of illegal immigrants on Thursday morning, close to the town of Hodonin, South Moravia. The group of refugees from Chechnya and Armenia had successfully crossed the bridge over the Morava River - a natural border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Half of the group were young children between the ages of two and four. One child, bleeding from a wound on the neck, had to be taken to hospital for treatment, a police spokesperson said.
NATO is said to be considering a Czech offer to send a surgical team to Afghanistan. The team would consist of a surgeon, anaesthetist and several nurses to boost a multi-national medical centre in Kabul. Hungary has allegedly made a similar offer. At present there are around 20 Czech soldiers -mainly mine-experts and meteorologists - serving in the vicinity of Kabul Airport and the Czech Republic has also sent a special unit which is helping to comb the Afghan mountains for members of the terrorist organization Al Qaida.
The Lower House on Tuesday voted that 17 of its members who have been observers to the European Parliament since last year will remain as temporary deputies until the June elections to the European Parliament. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, confirmed its seven observers last week. All 24 temporary deputies will represent the Czech Republic in the European Parliament from May 1st, when the Czech Republic joins the EU, to July 19th, when the newly elected deputies will be ready to take up their mandates.