Twenty-six political parties and groupings have registered to run in the June parliamentary elections, compared to 29 in the last national election four years ago. Latest polls suggest that five parties can be expected to pass the five-percent threshold and make it to parliament: the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, the ruling Social Democrats, the Communists, the coalition Christian Democrats and for the first time the Green Party.
President Klaus has signed into law a bill increasing the birth allowance and a state contribution to parents of first graders to help purchase teaching aids. As of April 2006 the birth allowance will grow from 8,600 to 17,500 crowns per child. The ruling Social Democrats have promised to increase the birth allowance still further if they win the June general elections.
Towns and villages across the Czech Republic are battling with local
floods, as a result of melting snow and persistent rain. The north, south
and eastern parts of the country have been hit and the army has been
called in to help the worst affected areas. Two villages in the north have
had to be evacuated, one of them counting 500 inhabitants. In other places
firemen are pumping water from cellars and gardens. People have been
filling sandbags and erecting makeshift barriers to try to protect their
property. Several roads have had to be closed down. 3,000 firemen and 900
soldiers are in the field, and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said another
800 were on standby should the situation worsen.
The Czech capital Prague is likewise on flood alert and there are preparations to offset a small scale flood. The area between Charles Bridge and Lichtenstein Palace is being cleared out for the erection of anti-flood barriers and Prague's Troja Zoo is preparing for a possible evacuation of 1,000 animals.
Two Bulgarians, a Serb and an Albanian accused of belonging to an international gang specializing in the production of counterfeit euros were served prison sentences from three to thirteen years by a Prague court on Tuesday. The four counterfeiters belonged to a wider international gang, some of whose members are currently on trial in Bulgaria. The four judged in the Czech Republic were caught red-handed in Prague in June 2004 by two undercover German policemen who pretended they wanted to buy 6.8 million counterfeit euros.
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has condemned the police violence in the Belarusian capital Minsk and called on President Alexander Lukashenko to resign from office. Lukashenko was recently elected for a third year term in elections that EU observers said were neither free nor fair. Many people were injured and arrested in the opposition demonstrations which followed. Mr. Havel took a written petition to the Belarusian embassy in Prague on Tuesday but was refused admission.
The daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Monday that a three member delegation led by deputy justice minister Roman Polasek had left for the Bahamas to try to persuade the local authorities to extradite Viktor Kozeny to the Czech Republic rather than the United States. Mr Kozeny is wanted for extensive fraud in both countries. The Czech authorities say that they filed an extradition request before the United States, which on the other hand has been more successful in getting Mr Kozeny arrested and jailed in the Bahamas where he had been living a life of luxury as an Irish citizen.
The Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has said the Albanian authorities continue searching for three Czech students who went missing in the country in 2001. Mr Berisha who came to Prague on Monday for a one day official visit met his Czech counterpart, Jiri Paroubek, as well as President Vaclav Klaus to discuss economic issues and the future of the Balkans. Prime Minister Paroubek told reporters that the Czech Republic supports Albania's future EU membership as it would guarantee stability in the western Balkans.
According to Friday's issue of The Washington Times, the United States is close to completing a deal that will result in the creation of a third ground-based missile interceptor site in Europe. The candidate nations for the site are Poland, the Czech Republic and Britain, a senior U.S. defence official told the paper. More than 100 million dollars is already authorised for the site, which is part of the global U.S. missile defence system now oriented toward Asia. A spokesman for the Czech Defence Ministry said the Czech Republic had not received any specific offer, adding that longterm consultations had been held only at NATO level.
Czech auto producer Skoda Auto has announced it has launched series production of its Roomster family car at its Kvasina plant in the east of the country. At least 15,000 Roomster cars should be produced by the end of the year, with the starting price at 14,260 US dollars, the company, part of the Volkswagen Group, said. The Roomster, the fourth Skoda Auto model, was officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show at the end of February. Sales of the car will be launched on main European markets this summer.
South Korean car giant Hyundai is going to invest up to 1 billion euro in a new factory in the village of Nosovice in North Moravia, the vice-president of Hyundai Motor Company In-Seo Kim told reporters on Monday. The car factory, which will be Hyundai's first European plant, is expected to start production in 2008, with 3,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs and 300,000 cars a year rolling off the production lines.