Czech police say they have broken up a gang that has been selling drugs to members of the Roma community in the southern Moravian town of Brno. The four men from Vietnam were allegedly supplying heroin to some forty Romany drug addicts. They face up to five years in prison if found guilty of the illegal manufacture of drugs.
The Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, who have
been trying to form a coalition government, have offered to base their
policy programme on the pre-election manifesto of the Social Democrats.
The centre-right coalition is one vote short of a majority in the lower
house of Parliament and has been negotiating with the Social Democrats
to gain their vote of confidence.
Even though the coalition says it would copy the ten-point manifesto word for word, the Social Democrats have rejected the offer and called it a joke. Social Democrat leader and outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek accused the coalition parties of using the offer as a "marketing trick". Talks will continue on Wednesday to find other ways out of the political deadlock.
The European Commission has proposed to allow 17 EU member states, including the Czech Republic, to lower VAT for services that demand hard labour. In the Czech Republic, this would mean that services like construction work, window cleaning, and home care would be taxed at five percent until 2010. The proposal has yet to be approved by the Council.
The Czech electricity network is suffering an overload and has called a state of emergency. The network CEPS, which balances electricity generation with consumption in the Czech Republic, says the overload has led to several blackouts. All large companies are now obliged to minimise their energy consumption. The crisis committee is holding an emergency meeting to find ways of bringing the situation under control.
Police are looking for a person who has been shooting an airgun at random in the Bohemian town of Ceske Budejovice. At least four people, among them one child, have been shot since Thursday. None of them were seriously injured. The residents of the Maj residential area are scared to leave their homes as the shots are believed to be fired from a window.
Meanwhile, some Czech senators have been drumming up support for a bill that could lead to early elections. Senators will hold a vote on the amendment to the Constitution that allows for the dissolution of the current lower house at a special meeting in August. One third of the Senate, or 27 senators, would have to vote in favour of the bill for it to be approved. The senators who proposed it are reacting to the political stalemate and are hoping the bill will lead to early elections. However, the bill will also have to gain the approval of the President and the lower house.
The Czech National Park authority has decided to close a portion of the Ceske Svycarsko (Czech Switzerland) National Park after a destructive fire over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon fire fighters managed to contain a fire in the park, situated in the northwest of the country, after some 20 hectares of forest had been destroyed. Tourists are being warned that they must stay on marked hiking and biking trails, and police are not allowing anyone into the zone affected by the fire. The fire is the largest there in thirty years, and damages run into the millions of crowns. Firefighters expect to be at work for at least the next three days, neutralizing the situation. Experts say the risk of forest fires is extremely high in the current hot and dry weather.
Telecommunications operator Telefonica 02 Czech Republic—formerly known as Cesky Telecom—has recorded gains of more than fifty percent at the half-way point in the year. Profits have reached 4.3 billion Czech crowns, or over $191 million USD. Meanwhile, the company's financial director, Juraj Sedivy, announced that there will be further staff downsizing before the end of 2006, but he refused to offer specifics. The Spanish company Telefonica holds roughly 70% of shares in Telefonica 02 Czech Republic.
A meeting between representatives of the would-be coalition between the
Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, and leading
members of the Social Democratic Party has brought no end to the ongoing
political deadlock. The Social Democrats refused to formally enter the
coalition government, meaning the three-party coalition remains one seat
short of a majority. Civic Democratic Party chairman Mirek Topolanek says
that the goal now is to establish guidelines by which the Social Democrats
would tolerate the three-party coalition, and to set these conditions in
writing. Talks between the political leaders are expected to continue this
week, with Tuesday's meetings focusing on economic issues and decreasing
the unemployment rate.
A fifth attempt to elect a new chairman of the lower house is also set for Friday, and Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek is expected to stand for the position.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has called on all Czech citizens who have decided to leave Lebanon amid the continuing Israeli military operations to contact the Czech Embassy in Beirut by phone or email. A ministry spokesman said that out of some 150 Czechs who were in Lebanon prior to the attack, only some 20 to 30 have stayed. He urged them to stay in touch with the embassy.