The number of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic has increased dramatically this year as compared to 2002. Over the first nine months, more than 8000 people from 67 countries have applied for asylum, which is nearly the same number as for the whole of last year. More than one-third of asylum-seekers come from Russia. A total of 173 foreigners were granted asylum this year. The Czech Republic tightened its asylum laws last year due to frequent abuse of the system.
Football - the Czech Republic defeated Austria 3-2 in the last Euro 2004 qualifier in Vienna on Saturday. The Czechs won 18 matches in a row in Group Three and qualified for the European football championship next year. Scorers for the Czech Republic were Marek Jankulovski, Stepan Vachousek, and Jan Koller.
The Czech Medical Chamber has called on Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla to replace Health Minister Marie Souckova. The professional organisation of health care personnel claims that the minister is unable to deal with the current serious financial crisis in the sector. According to the Medical Chamber, heath insurance companies are heavily indebted and delay payments to health facilities, which consequently become insolvent themselves and many of them are facing bankruptcy. The doctors claim that Mrs. Souckova has failed to present any feasible solution to the unsustainable situation and her incompetence may result in thousands of patients left without proper care.
A regional court in the district of Ostrava has remanded Slovak businessman Patrik Pachinger in custody. He has been accused of fraud in his country and applied for political asylum in the Czech Republic. Pachinger was arrested in a refugee camp in north Moravia, at the request of Slovak authorities. It is up to the court to decide whether he will be extradited. Slovak authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Pachinger on Thursday. He and two other men have been charged with large-scale fraud and asset stripping. They deny the charges and claim that the prosecution is politically motivated.
The Czech Republic has been elected to the UNESCO Executive Council at the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference to replace half of the 58 council members. The Czech Republic will be represented in the council by senator Jaroslava Moserova who also chairs the Czech UNESCO commission and who was chairwoman of the UNESCO General Conference between 1999 and 2001. Mrs. Moserova said earlier that she would like to work on the human rights committee. The election of the Czech Republic to the UNESCO Executive Council is seen as an evidence of the country's good position in the organisation.
Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has received the St George Prize, awarded by the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny. Havel is the first Czech to receive the prize. Also awarded was Polish journalist, human rights promoter and a friend of Mr. Havel's, Adam Michnik. The prize goes every year to personalities who act for the general benefit. Established in 1945, Tygodnik Powsechny is the oldest independent weekly in the former eastern bloc countries.
Nearly 5,000 Czech police stormed more than 400 brothels on Friday night in the biggest strike against the sex slave trade in the country. They checked documents of over 4,000 people, nearly half of them foreigners and charged 21 people, mostly with pimping and trafficking women. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the raids across the country were in response to growing criticism, both at home and abroad, that police were doing little to contain the illegal sex trade. He said foreign women detained in the raids would be given a chance to win residency permits if they co-operated with police. The Czech Republic has become a transit point and also destination for large numbers of sexual workers from other east European former Communist countries. Most women checked in the raids came from the Balkans and from countries further to the east of Europe like Ukraine or Moldova.
Franz Ulrich Kinsky, a descendant of the Kinsky noble family, has lost two further court cases involving property confiscated after the Second World War. A court in the northern town of Decin rejected Mr Kinsky's claim that he was the rightful owner of a hunting lodge and a restaurant. Franz Kinsky has filed a total of 157 lawsuits against the Czech state, asking the courts to declare him the legal owner of property including country homes and woodland. Most of the property was confiscated after 1945 from Mr Kinsky's late father, an alleged Nazi sympathiser who died before the war. However Mr Kinsky says the property belonged to him, not his father, and the confiscation was therefore illegal.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has begun a two-day official visit to Bulgaria with talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the country's former king. Mr Spidla is in Bulgaria to boost trade and bilateral relations. A government spokesman said the Czech Republic saw Bulgaria as a stabilising factor in the Balkans, and supported the country's bid to join NATO and the European Union. Mr Spidla is being accompanied by Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban and Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, as well as a large delegation of Czech businessmen. Meanwhile President Vaclav Klaus has ended his three-day state visit to neighbouring Hungary.