The Czech capital Prague, Brno, south Moravia and Olomouc and Ostrava in north Moravia, are all likely to see informal meetings between EU ministers during the Czech presidency of the EU in 2009. The information was released by the office of the government on Wednesday. Of 11 scheduled informal meetings of EU ministers, seven are to take place in regions and the remaining four in Prague. The deputy prime minister in charge of European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, discussed the regions' roles in the Czech EU presidency with representatives of the Czech Association of Regions on Wednesday. A final decision on the chosen sites is to be made on October 10th.
The possession of child pornography will, in all likelihood, soon be a criminal offence in the Czech Republic: on Wednesday the lower house overruled reservations by the Senate, approving a planned amendment to the Penal Code. Under the legislation, anyone possessing photographic, film, computer, electronic pornographic material featuring minors could face up to two years in prison. The legislation will now have to be signed into law by the president. The lower house first passed the amendment in June, but the Senate returned it for reappraisal, fearing the bill might easily be abused or misapplied.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that the number of Czechs opposed to a US radar base on Czech territory has lessened, although those against the project remain firmly in the majority. According to the poll, 49 percent are now "against" while those "in favour" number 22 percent. Around half of those surveyed said they would be willing to change their mind on the radar issue if they were provided more information. Most polls until now have suggested that around two-thirds of Czechs were against the idea of a US base on Czech soil.
Ice hockey's Detroit Red Wings, home to Czech goalie Dominik Hasek, demolished Jaromir Jagr's New York Rangers in an NHL preseason match on Tuesday. Hasek's Red Wings went up 1:0 just 28 seconds into the game. Hasek made 18 saves for Detroit in the game, allowing the Rangers' lone goal with less than three minutes left. Jarmoir Jagr assisted on the goal, which was scored by Scott Gomez.
In related news, a spokeswoman for the anti-corruption and organised crime unit has said that members of the unit have begun an investigation into Mr Gross' holdings, despite not having received an official complaint against the former prime minister yet. The spokeswoman said the unit had begun investigating on its "own initiative".
The lower house has voted to strip opposition MP Josef Vondruska of immunity so he can face criminal charges. The MP is suspected of having mistreated prisoners as a prison guard in communist Czechoslovakia. 151 of 154 deputies present voted in favour. The Communist Party MP has dismissed accusations but said he did not wish to avoid prosecution. Fellow CommunistParty deputies left the chamber ahead of the vote. Citing a file on Mr Vondruska, mandate and immunity committee head Miloslav Kala said that Mr Vondruska had tortured a dissident in the 1980s; the former prison-guard allegedly punched the prisoner in the face and beat him repeatedly with a truncheon.
The Green Party has announced it will decide on a successor to outgoing Education Minister Dana Kuchtova on October 7th. This Tuesday, after hours of deliberation amongst the Greens, Ms Kuchtova announced she would step down next week; she had faced increasing pressure following mistakes jeopardising the education sector's ability to draw EU funds. Ms Kuchtova admitted it was not clear who would replace her and said it was uncertain whether the candidate would be a Green Party member. The outgoing minister, who is also a Green Party deputy leader, said she would be able to help her successor for a period of about three weeks.
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released a report revealing that corruption levels in the Czech Republic have dropped to their lowest in almost a decade. The report - comparing 179 countries - ranks the Czech Republic at the same level as in 1997: 41st, together with Italy. According to TI, after a several year rise corruption in the Czech Republic began to level off in 2003. Analysts attribute the drop to several factors including pressure by the watchdog group, positive economic growth, the better-functioning of some institutions, and the Czech Republic's joining the European Union.
Two days after Czech President Vaclav Klaus gave a speech challenging the human impact on climate change at a conference on global warming in New York, his predecessor Vaclav Havel has written an editorial in the International Herald Tribune arguing the impact of global warming must not be ignored. He writes that it is the human race and not the planet which is at risk and says that scientific studies have shown that "changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale" could prove dangerous "for people on all continents". Mr Havel and Mr Klaus were well-known for differing political views in the past; Vaclav Klaus succeeded Mr Havel as Czech president in February 2003.