Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that border checks and conditions for granting visas to citizens from risk countries would be tightened in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Madrid on Thursday for which the international terrorist network Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. Mr. Gross said that the police would start using dogs in street patrols capable of detecting explosives. He added however that the secret services had no indications of a terrorist attack being prepared against the Czech Republic. Mr. Gross also said that people from his ministry and the secret services would meet more frequently to assess gathered intelligence. Mr. Gross has also called on the public to show comprehension for the tightened security measures and to try to cooperate with security forces.
The police have arrested more than 20 neo-Nazi skinheads in the northern town of Most and charged them with promoting an ideology aimed at suppression of human rights and freedoms. Some 50 skinheads marched through Most with lit torches, chanting Nazi slogans, to mark the 66th anniversary of the German annexation of Austria. The group was heading for a housing estate inhabited mainly by Romanies. The police seized knives, iron rods and telescopic truncheons from the skinheads.
Disputes over a series of bills aimed at fighting tax evasions threaten to break the governing coalition. They include the introduction of property declarations obligatory for people with income over a certain level, labelling of alcohol, and cash registers. The senior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, want the push the new laws through regardless of the opinion of the two smaller parties. The Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats say the bills go too far in some respects and want them revised to comply with the government manifesto, otherwise, they threaten to leave the coalition. The opposition Communist party said on Sunday it was ready to vote for the Social Democrat version in Parliament.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has criticised the Czech Republic for inappropriate treatment of detainees and prisoners. The committee demands the elimination of certain excesses in the police treatment of detained persons and abandoning an unnecessarily tough treatment of prisoners. In its latest report on the Czech Republic, the committee points to numerous accusations concerning police brutality during arresting and interrogation. It says that Romanies, foreigners and young people are most often subject to harsh treatment. The Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee also calls on Czech authorities to improve treatment of prisoners and to make further efforts to eliminate overcrowding in prisons.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has called on Czech citizens to pay honour to the victims of the Madrid terrorist attacks by holding three minutes of silence on Monday at noon. According to the latest information, 200 people died and more than 1,400 were wounded in Thursday's attacks on packed Madrid commuter trains. On Monday and Tuesday, Czech citizens will be able to sign a condolence book at the Spanish Embassy in Prague. A solemn mass in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks will be celebrated at Prague's St Tomas Church on Tuesday afternoon.
Czech producer prices grew by a faster-than-expected 0.3 percent in February, up from 0.8 percent in January, driven mainly by chemicals, oil refining and food industries. The Czech Statistics Office said on Friday said that the result put the year-on-year growth of industrial producer prices at 1.5 percent down from January's 1.6 percent. Agricultural prices alone grew by more than 3 percent, which analyst predict will stimulate growth of consumer food prices.
The European Parliament has expressed concern over alleged trafficking in human beings, especially children, at the Czech-German border and called on the Czech government to support aid programmes targeted at the victims. At the same time the EU body admitted it had no hard evidence of the existence of child prostitution in the Czech Republic. In its report on Thursday on the state of preparedness for EU membership of the ten countries about to join the EU, the European Parliament gave the Czech Republic good marks overall, but beside the alleged problem of child prostitution, MEPs also voiced disquiet at the European Commission's finding that the Czech Republic is not yet able to adopt EU standards in food-processing and urged immediate action so as not to endanger European consumers.
Two Czech men have been charged with illegally importing over three hundred tonnes of plastic explosives into the Czech Republic. The explosives came from the arsenal of a foreign army and had not been properly marked as plastic explosives, the police said on Wednesday. They refused to confirm reports the explosives originated in Sweden. If convicted the two suspects could face up to ten years in prison.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed an amendment to the law on national health. The amendment was to prolong the existence of national registers gathering data on the health state of the population. The bill was approved by the lower house of parliament in February including several changes suggested by the Senate. The lower house could override the presidential veto if all 101 coalition MPs vote in favour of the amendment.
The Czech Republic's central bank, the Czech National Bank, has said it would like inflation to range between 2.0 and 4.0 percent between the year 2006 and the expected introduction of the euro at the end of the decade. The last inflation goal in 2001 predicted a slight decrease in inflation from between 3.0 and 5.0 percent in 2002 to between 2.0 and 4.0 percent at the end of next year.
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