The Interior Ministry plans to increase the number of police officers responsible for the country's national security when the Czech Republic joins the Schengen Zone. Some six hundred officers from the border and foreign police will be transferred to internal security forces, says Interior Minister Ivan Langer. Border-free travel to and from all of the Czech Republic's neighbours is to be introduced by March 2008.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has met President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle and says he will present Mr Klaus with a list of new government ministers by the end of next week. Following the announcement, Green Party leader Martin Bursik expressed disappointment in the Civic Democrats' failure to include his party in behind-the-scenes talks on the make-up of the next cabinet. Discussions have already been held with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
The Slovak government has decided to sign a bilateral agreement with the Czech Republic that allows Bratislava to store emergency supplies of crude oil and petroleum products on Czech territory. EU countries have until 2008 to find a way to store enough crude oil to guarantee an emergency supply for 90 days. With insufficient storage space, Slovakia has agreed to pay the Czech Republic to store its crude oil.
Czech Police chief Vladislav Husak has ordered an investigation into steps taken by the east Bohemian police to uncover a series of mysterious hospital deaths. Media reports say that the police were too slow to react to the hospital's criminal complaint. The complaint was filed on October 23 but the suspect was not detained until December 1. The 30-year old nurse has since confessed to the crime, saying he injected 17 patients with excessive doses of a blood-thinning drug to see if doctors were able to detect the problem. Up to nine of the patients are believed to have died as a result.
Police say they have arrested six people believed to have organised the transport of illegal migrants to Italy. Four more members of the same international gang of people smugglers have been detained in Austria and Germany. The suspects are from Moldova, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic and are believed to have organised transports for at least 150 migrants within the last eighteen months.
The Civic Democrats have presented their proposed policy programme to the three parties involved in government talks - the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens. Entitled "seven bold reforms for the future", the programme focuses on the following areas: the public budget and taxes, the pension and social systems, the health sector, the business environment and labour market, the limitations of regulations, reform in the police sector and the fight against corruption, and the Czech presidency in the EU and European funds.
The number of pickpocketings in the country's second biggest city Brno is rising dramatically. Police have recorded 2,100 cases since January, 400 cases more than last year. The thefts this year have so far amounted to 11 million crowns (a little under half a million US dollars). Most of them take place in department stores, in the vicinity of the train station, and on trams.
The Social Democratic Party leadership is meeting to decide whether the party should negotiate a place in the country's future coalition government or remain in the opposition. Outlooks for a rainbow coalition of four parliamentary parties have dimmed in recent days as an increasing number of Social but also Civic Democrats have spoken out against it. The Civic Democratic Party has openly stated it would prefer a three party deal with the Christian Democrats and the Greens and would then seek support for a confidence vote among individual Social Democratic Party deputies.
The enlargement of the Schengen border-free zone to the EU newcomer states, including the Czech Republic, has been set for December 31 2007. The decision was made at a summit of EU interior and justice ministers in Brussels on Tuesday following months of controversy over a proposed delay of more than a year. The compromise solution approved on Tuesday was put forward by Portugal and would mean a delay of only a few months. The Czech Republic was one of the countries which fought hard against the proposal delay and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer praised the outcome of the summit, describing it as "a historic decision". The original expansion date cannot be met due to technical difficulties involving the process of setting up a new police data base for the expanded region.
A planned conference on Iraq which sparked controversy among Czech lower house deputies has been postponed and will not be taking place on the grounds of the lower house as planned. The conference sparked controversy after Czech public television aired a report claiming that it would be attended by supporters of the toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The organizers say this is nonsense and have filed charges of scaremongering against Czech television.
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