Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has reportedly given Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba a one-week deadline to introduce new controls to make the sale of state-owned land more transparent. State officials - including Minister Zgarba, who is also chairman of the Czech Land Fund - are suspected of having sold state property at well below market rates, possibly for personal gain. No charges have been filed, but two Fund employees were been dismissed earlier this week, and Mr Zgarba is to replace his vice chairman. An internal audit at the Land Fund is underway.
Year-on-year inflation rose to 2.6 percent in October, the fastest growth so far this year, the Czech Statistical Office said on Tuesday. Inflation had reached 2.2 percent in September. The main reason for the jump was higher fuel costs. The Czech National Bank had surprised the markets last week by raising rates a quarter point, to 2 percent, in an effort to curb inflationary pressures. Many economists now predict inflation could reach 4 percent next year and expect the central bank to raise interest rates another quarter point in January.
Farmers in the region of Ostrava where the South Korean carmaker Hyundai is considering investing some $ 1.2 billion for a new car plant have agreed in principle to a land exchange --and unspecified compensation from the government -- for making the move. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek had hinted last month that the state could force the farmers to accept a deal. The stand off mirrored an obstacle that the Hyundai affiliate Kia Motor faced when in 2002 it tried to buy land for its first European factory, in neighbouring Slovakia.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, now in India on an official visit, has urged the South Asian country to further liberalize its economy, saying Czech businesses are keen to invest in India's energy, information technology and glass industries, the Associated Press reports. Two-way trade between India and Czech Republic has risen to $500 million thus far in 2005 from $150 million over the same period in 2001. Speaking in New Delhi, Mr Klaus also said his country supported India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Regional election leaders of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party have convinced the party leadership to revise its campaign platform to place a "family" emphasis on the introduction of a flat tax. The flat tax and a universal social benefit could become part of the pro-family policy project, said party deputy Vlastimil Tlusty. The change in tactics comes on the heels of the passage of a popular tax-cut proposal drafted by the ruling Social Democrats. The proposal - which would benefit people earning less than 30,000 crowns per month, or roughly 9 out of every 10 taxpayers - has undercut the appeal of a flat tax, political analysts have said. The centre-right Civic Democrats are now expected to concentrate on presenting themselves as champions of small businesses through other proposals. These include efforts to reduce bureaucracy at all levels of government, and the fight against corruption.
The Vietnamese branch of Interpol and Czech police have announced the safe return home of scores of young women tricked into prostitution in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Vietnamese media reported that among them were some fifty women and girls who had been rescued from illegal brothels in the Czech Republic. Interpol said that organised gangs had made victims believe they'd won a free trip abroad. Several alleged gang members have been arrested.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has come out in support of acting Supreme State Prosecutor Renata Vesecka, in particular her plans for fighting corruption. The prime minister met with Mrs Vesecka on Monday prior to her naming to the post of Supreme State Prosecutor later this week. Renata Vesecka replaces Marie Benesova who was dismissed by the government in September. In coming to the post Mrs Vesecka has made clear she will aim to improve state attorneys' records in bankruptcy proceedings, as well as will create special teams to combat terrorism, organised crime, and corruption.
According to the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, the Czech Republic
will not back the idea of the European Union monitoring the Rafah border
crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The incentive for just such an operation
was discussed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, one day after the EU
commissioner for the Middle East, Marc Otte, met with senior Israeli and
Palestinian officials. Guarding the border to prevent, for example,
against the smuggling of weapons, would mean unprecedented EU involvement.
Appeals to the European Union have been made by both Israeli and
So far, the EU's foreign ministers have approved to dispatch 50 senior police officers to the Palestinian territories, to take part in training Palestinian police. The Czechs reportedly will have two officers in the group.
Czech police have reported breaking up a drugs gang allegedly organised by prisoners at a maximum security prison. Two men, serving 18 year sentences for double murder are said to have run the gang - which produced methamphetamine - from behind the bars of Valdice prison, making use of cell phones and visits by family members. Seven others have been arrested. According to drug law enforcement head, Jiri Komorous, gang members smuggled methamphetamine, known locally as pervetin, to neighbouring Germany, where they earned the equivalent of about 20,000 US dollars. If found guilty, each of the suspects could face a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.
The Interior Ministry has announced its intention to implement changes at a number of refugee camps. The reason is the fewer number of applicants seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. In 2005 so far some 2,300 have applied for asylum, down markedly from last year and by more than three-quarters since 2003, when 11,400 applied. The aim of changes backed by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan is to improve living conditions for asylum seekers at a number of facilities, while at the same time lowering overall spending. A refugee camp in the Central Bohemian region of Pisek, will be closed down permanently.
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