Customs officials in Ceske Budejovice have confiscated two million crowns worth of smuggled cigarettes. The smuggled goods were found after officials searched a lorry that was supposed to be carrying fibreglass insulation. The cigarettes were probably meant for the illegal market in the south Bohemia border areas. The state would have lost one million crowns in taxes through their sale and the perpetrators now face up to eight years in prison.
The Czech Republic will send a military team of chemical warfare specialists, technology and support staff to Greece for the Olympic Games. Some 100 Czech soldiers are expected in Greece at the end of July to help in the security operation surrounding the games. The Czech Republic has one of the best chemical warfare detection units in the world.
The chief rabbi of the Czech Republic Karol Sidon was hospitalized with heart problems as he was about to face a tribunal after being dismissed from his Prague post. Sidon was sacked at the end of June by the Prague Jewish community, who claimed he was unable to handle his duties. When Sidon denied the claims, the community suggested a court rule on the dispute. A hospital spokesman said rabbi Sidon's condition was stable and predicted that it would not be a long hospitalization.
The Czech health ministry has ordered all health institutions in the country to stop using caged beds immediately. The Czech Republic was severely criticized for the practice by human rights organizations and the campaign to get these beds banned was recently joined by J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books. The health ministry said that beds with iron railings should go immediately, those with netting should be replaced by the end of the year.
A fake explosive devise found on a train travelling from the Czech Republic to Germany on Tuesday resulted in a three hour delay. The train was stopped at Rokycany train station and was completely evacuated along with the residents of ten nearby houses as bomb disposal experts went to work. They allegedly found a good imitation of an explosive device. Police are investigating the incident.
The new Czech government could seek a vote of confidence from the Lower House in mid-August, according to the acting head of the Social Democratic party Stanislav Gross. Mr. Gross met with the leaders of the other two parties of the emerging government coalition on Tuesday to discuss the situation within three parties, their respective views on personnel and policy programme matters and a timeframe for the formation of the new government. Mr. Gross has said he expects all deputies of the three parties to sign a commitment in writing pledging support for the new government, which would have a slim one-vote majority in Parliament. Some deputies have said that they want to know more about the future government's policy programme and who will be in the Cabinet before making such a commitment.
The heads of the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union are due to meet on Tuesday. It will be their first meeting since President Vaclav Klaus asked the acting leader of the Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, to begin talks on forming a new government earlier this month following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. The vice-chairman of the Social Democrats, Zdenek Skromach, has said Tuesday's meeting will be the first of a series this week. The most likely scenario appears to be that the new cabinet will arise from the current coalition which has a slim majority of 101 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament. Mr Skromach said that the vote of confidence in the new government could take place in mid-August.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic remained flat at 9.9 percent of the workforce in June, the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Monday. Most analysts had predicted a slight rise compared to May to 10 percent. Economists attribute the flat rate to a fall in the number of school leavers this year and the availability of seasonal work.
President Vaclav Klaus has met his Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic who is on a one day visit to the Czech Republic. The Slovak head of state, who took office last month, is thus fulfilling an unwritten agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in that their presidents always schedule their first visit abroad to the former "sister state". After their meeting the two presidents said that relations between the two countries were exceptional and were to remain so. The Czechoslovak federation broke up in 1993 in what the papers described as "a velvet divorce" and the two countries have maintained above-standard relations ever since. They supported each other in their ambition to join the EU and NATO and they cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group of four Central European states.
Consumer prices in the Czech Republic in June showed the highest year-on-year growth in more than two years, rising by 2.9 percent compared with June 2003, according to official figures released on Monday. The price of goods and services was up in most sectors, largely influenced by a rise in value added taxes earlier this year from five to 19 percent. Cigarette and alcohol prices rose particularly in June. For the first few months after January's VAT hike retailers had been selling old stock at the same price as before but a 7.5 percent rise on new stock kicked in last month. The overall rise in prices, the highest since April 2002, was slightly below analysts' forecasts of three percent. Compared to May, consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent in June, also slightly below predictions of 0.3 percent.
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