One Czech remains unaccounted for in the wake of the London bombings last Thursday. The Foreign Ministry said it had hopes that the missing person was alive and well since the chances of him having been near the sites of the tragedy were slim. Efforts to locate him continue. The other 27 Czechs who were in England at the time of the terrorist attacks have all contacted their families. A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry has told journalists that the Czech police and intelligence services are cooperating with the British authorities in the hunt for the terrorists. She did not specify in what way.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's plan for a reconciliation gesture towards Sudeten German anti-fascists who were expelled from the country after WWII has evoked a lukewarm response among Sudeten German expellees. Representatives of the Sudeten German Landsmanshaft said it was not yet clear what form the gesture would take or even whether it would ever materialize. Others said that such a gesture should be directed to all expellees, not just anti-fascists. On the home front, the Prime Minister's plan has met with anger from the two main opposition parties, the right wing Civic Democrats and the Communists.
The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said he wants to speed up the renewal of the government's outdated fleet of planes. Mr. Paroubek made the announcement shortly after yet another defect caused a Czech government plane carrying the foreign minister Cyril Svoboda on a foreign trip to Latin America to make an unscheduled one day stop-over in Mauritania. Technical defects of this kind have been frequent in recent months. The Prime Minister said he thought government officials should use the services of Czech Airlines until the end of the year by which time the military could lease new planes.
The Supreme State Attorney Marie Benesova has publicly apologized to private TV NOVA for implying that it had been bribed to air a damaging news report about her. Mrs. Benesova came under fire after failing to back up her claim and her position as Supreme State Attorney remains shaky. Although Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek resisted pressure to dismiss her outright, he asked her to apologize to the television station and show greater prudence in future. He said that Mrs. Benesova's honesty and dedication made her hard to replace, but that the government coalition would seek a successor.
A similar topic is being discussed at a two-day ministerial conference in Brussels which follows the publishing of the European Commission Green Book on demographic changes which the EU Commissioner for social policy and employment Vladimir pidla presented earlier this year. Politicians, scientists, experts and NGO representatives are meeting to discuss the aging of Europe's population and its implications. Commissioner Spidla said that by 2030 seven percent of the work force will have retired which will have a direct impact on economic growth. One of the necessary steps, according to Commissioner Spidla, is to improve work-life balance and help families with young children.
Eighty Czech soldiers have left for Prishtina, the capital of the south Serbian province of Kosovo, to begin the rotation of the Czech contingent in NATO's KFOR peacekeeping mission in the province. According to the Defence Ministry, the rotation of the 400-strong unit is to be completed on July 22. As of August 1, the Czech Republic will take over from Finland the command of the Centre multinational brigade in Kosovo for one year. The Centre brigade is overseeing one of the four zones in Kosovo supervised by the NATO KFOR mission. The Czech Republic has been participating in the Kosovo mission since 1999.
The Czech Republic's labour market should be reformed simultaneously with the pension reform in order to secure enough jobs for older employees as retirement age increases, Vladimir Bezdek, the head of the expert team working on the pension reform, said. The team has been assessing the alternatives of the pension reform as proposed by five political parties since last October. The Czech population is aging and the number of people in retirement age will be growing while the number of people able to work and contribute to the funding of the pension system will be decreasing.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has backed Supreme State Attorney Marie Benesova in her dispute with Justice Minister Pavel Nemec. Prime Minister Paroubek said, however, that he does not agree with her statement about an alleged bribery of a commercial TV reporter by the Justice Ministry. The government coalition is going to seek a successor to Ms Benesova but it is probable that she will remain in her post until the end of this election term in mid-2006. According to the commercial TV Nova, Marie Benesova accused its reporter of having accepted a bribe from the Justice Minister's spokesman to artificially provoke a dispute between an outgoing state attorney and the Supreme State Attorney's Office. Ms Benesova later admitted that she had made a mistake by making such a statement.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said that he wants to talk about his plans to make a gesture of reconciliation towards Sudeten German antifascists with the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel during his Vienna visit on Thursday. Mr Paroubek said that before he submits the material to the government he wants to discuss the form of the gesture with the coalition parties, the opposition as well as the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda at a meeting in Budapest on Wednesday. The former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla (in office in 2002-04) also considered taking an accommodating step towards members of the German minority who were against fascism during World War Two.
A ceremony has been held in the north Moravian town of Troubky in honour of those who died in the heavy flooding which hit the region eight years ago, the website novinky.cz reports. Almost 50 people died and almost 60,000 were evacuated during the floods of July 1997. Speaking at the commemoration on Sunday, the mayor of Troubky said no anti-flood measures had been introduced in the town following the disaster.