Around ten thousand trade union demonstrators gathered in the North Moravian capital of Ostrava on Thursday afternoon to protest against rising unemployment in the region and the government's planned reform of public financing. Unemployment in the region recently exceeded 100,000, much higher than the national average. Police were forced to escort the governor of North Moravia Evzen Tosenovsky away from the gathering after two protesters attempted to attack him during his address to the crowd.
The Czech soldier injured recently in a car accident in Iraq died in the Central Military Hospital in Prague on Thursday. He sustained serious injuries in a road accident on May 9, about 150 kilometres southeast of Baghdad and was transported by a special military plane back to the Czech Republic. The deceased is the Czech Republic's first fatality linked to the war in Iraq. The Czech Army has several hundred soldiers serving with two contingents in the region - a chemical and biological weapons-detection unit in Kuwait and a field hospital in Basra, Iraq.
Additional tests on a man who had been suspected of contracting the SARS disease proved negative on Thursday. While preliminary tests detected evidence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in the 25-year-old Czech man, further tests ruled out the presence of the corona virus thought to cause the disease. The patient who recently returned from Hong Kong, and had also visited Cambodia has been quarantined since Tuesday in Prague's Bulovka medical centre. He will remain hospitalised for the next ten days. Czech health officials have tested at least 20 other people for SARS since the global outbreak was reported in March, but none tested positive.
The lower house of the Czech parliament approved a tax bill on Thursday which will raise VAT on most services to 22 percent from five percent in January 2004. The hike has been planned ahead of the Czech Republic's European Union entry in May next year. The EU requires most services to carry the standard VAT rate rather than the lower rate which can be applied only to a limited range of items such as food. The tax hike is part of the Czech government's efforts to slash public finance deficit to four percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from over six percent expected this year.
Two Czech citizens, Radek Hanykovics and Emil Novotny, who are serving long prison sentences in Thailand for drug trafficking, will be able return to the Czech Republic. The Czech Supreme Court acknowledged the verdicts of Thai courts on Thursday, fulfilling the terms of a Czech-Thai agreement on extradition of prisoners. The severe sentences for drug trafficking practiced in Thailand are not in line with the Czech judicial system. Radek Hanykovics was to serve a twenty-five-year prison sentence in Thailand.
Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban said on Thursday that the Czech Republic might expand its Temelin nuclear power plant even though its has yet to bring the station's first two reactors fully online after years of breakdowns and problems. The owner of Temelin and the country's main power producer, the state-controlled company CEZ, is to make a decision on new power sources next year. On Thursday the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban as saying the expansion of nuclear power is one option to replace at least 60 percent of the four-gigawatt capacity at obsolete coal-burning power plants over the next fifteen years. The south Bohemian nuclear plant has raised many protests in neighbouring Austria because of its combination of Soviet design and Western control systems. The Czechs government says the plant is safe.
Friday is going to be partly cloudy with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 25 degrees Celsius.