Some twenty Egyptian nationals who had asked for asylum in the Czech Republic returned to their homeland this week. They left of their own volition when it became clear that their plans to settle in Western Europe could not be realized. Over 200 Egyptian nationals have asked for asylum in the Czech Republic and there were recently two mass-escapes from Czech asylum centers. Altogether over 100 Egyptian asylum seekers escaped allegedly with help from smugglers. The majority of them were detained at the country's western border and the incidents resulted in tightened security at all asylum centers.
The head of the special police squad for fighting organized crime Jan Kubice may be forced to leave his post by the end of the year because he will no longer fulfill the criteria required for the job. According to a new law which takes effect as of January 1st of 2007 all persons serving in top posts within the police force must have university degrees. Both Mr. Kubice and the head of the anti-corruption unit Miloslav Brych only have a secondary school education. The new interior minister, Ivan Langer, who has had no complaints about their work, said the new criteria would have to be met without exception.
The presidents of the Visegrad Four -the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland -ended a two day summit in Prague on Saturday, vowing to step up their cooperation and pool their power to achieve common goals within the EU. The four post-communist countries worked together to join the EU and frequently coordinate their stands as EU newcomers. In Prague they expressed disapproval over the possibility that their entry to the Schengen border free zone could be delayed by a year, saying they would push together for the original date to be observed. In regional matters: the Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic and his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Solyom said they would make a concerted effort to curb nationalist tensions in the two neighbor states.
The new trade and industry minister, Martin Riman, says he wants the new Civic Democrat government to ensure that the planned purchase of over 500 transport trucks for the Czech military from Tatra Koprivnice go ahead as planned. Plans for the sale were allegedly shelved by the former government due to significant cuts in the military budget. Mr. Riman said that he considered it unacceptable for purchases involving foreign companies to receive full-scale funding while domestic-oriented ones, which were important for the country's industry, to be shelved. The Defense Ministry said the purchase had been merely postponed not cancelled but Trade Minister Riman said he would push to find a solution so that the military could confirm the order as soon as possible.
There were mixed results for the four Czech teams in action in the first round of football's UEFA Cup on Thursday evening. Liberec beat Red Star Belgrade 2:0 at home, though Slavia Prague could not convert home advantage into success against Tottenham Hotspur, losing 1:0. Sparta Prague look well placed for the second leg, after beating Hearts in Edinburgh, while Mlada Boleslav face a tougher challenge after losing 1:0 away to Olympic Marseilles.
The EU Statistics Office, Eurostat, has revealed that the Czech Republic is losing some advantage it enjoyed in terms of luring foreign investors: namely affordable labour costs. According to Eurostat, labour costs in the country are currently increasing at one of the fastest rates in the European Union; wages and other labour costs in the Czech Republic rose by more than ten percent in the second quarter of 2006 and more rapid growth was observed only in the Baltic states. Wages in the Czech Republic, says Eurostat, have been growing equally in almost all sectors, benefiting employees in industry, as well as in construction and the service sector.
The presidents of the Visegrad Four - the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland - have met at the Lany Chateau in the Czech Republic to discuss the repercussions of a possible delay in the enlargement of the borderless Schengen area within the European Union. All agreed on Friday that their countries were ready to join the zone in 2007 according to original plans, and they indicated that anything less would amount to discrimination. Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the sentiment was shared by all four Visegrad heads of state, with Polish President Lech Kaczynski agreeing that he and his counterparts were united on the issue.
A 31-year-old Czech man has been given eleven years in prison by a court in Pilsen for planning to murder his wife in 2005. The man went as far as advertising on the Internet for a contract killer. He was offering a sum of 2,000 euros - the equivalent of 2,500 US dollars for the killing; the murder was meant to look like an accident. In court the accused denied any wrong-doing, saying the advert had only been intended as "provocation". In the case the accused was also charged and found guilty of sexually abusing his stepdaughter.
The opposition Social Democrats have issued a statement saying they
will ask Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to explain the circumstances of
the purchase of his Prague flat and a past business deal in parliament.
On Friday the head of the party's deputies' group, Michal Hasek,
stressed that Mr Topolanek's financial affairs will be among the top
issues taken up by the Social Democrats in the chamber. Currently
police are investigating allegations that the VAE company - in which Mr
Topolanek had a stake - failed to repay part of a 70 million crown bank
The issue under investigation is whether the new prime minister - then senator - sold his stake in the company and used the money to buy his family flat, rather than using the funds to repay part of VAE's debt. Earlier this week Mr Topolanek stated that the sale of his shares in the company - worth 2.5 million crowns or the equivalent of 111 thousand US dollars - was not irregular, as the shares were not blocked at the time. By then a new company had acquired the VAE claim. Mr Topolanek has accused his political rivals of manipulating the issue to try and weaken his party's position ahead of upcoming municipal and Senate elections.
The new health minister, Tomas Julinek has begun replacing state
representatives on the boards and supervisory boards of the country's
health insurance companies, a move that has provoked criticism from his
predecessor David Rath. Mr Julinek has, for example, appointed his own
nominees as members of the board at the largest insurer the VZP, and on
three boards out of the country's eight employee insurers. The
replacement of state representatives on the remaining five boards is
expected soon. Mr Rath has called the replacement of officials a
"display of arrogance of power" on the part of the Civic Democratic
Appointed last week, the minority cabinet is not guaranteed to win a vote of confidence in the lower house: along with the other centre-right parties it can rely at most on 100 votes in the 200-member chamber. The former health minister has indicated the shake-up of personnel could destabilise health insurers in the long run, if the government falls and another is named in its stead. In Mr Rath's view, this will lead to yet another round of dismissals. Others have called the new minister's move "standard" procedure.
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