Around 300 Czech police and other members of the security forces protested
in the centre of Prague on Saturday in protest at the so-called
"Service Law". The demonstration was organised by police unions,
who claim that the law, which has been in effect since the start of the
year, leaves many police officers worse off. Their principal grievances
include the fact that the law abolished many bonus payments for overtime
work and for working on state holidays and weekends. The Czech Minister for
the Interior Ivan Langer denies that the law has had a detrimental effect
on police salaries and maintains that the wages of 94 percent of police
officers have increased since the legislation was introduced.
The turnout was a lot lower than expected, but protest organisers claim that the attendance would have been much higher if some police had not been assigned to a special traffic-safety operation. They also said that the number of people protesting was also affected by the fact that a lot of extra police were on duty amid security concerns surrounding a first-division football match between Slavia Prague and Banik Ostrava on Saturday evening.
An advisor to the Ministry of Education has said that the food served to
children in Czech schools could change within the framework of proposed
reforms to the education system. Educational consultant David Bartusek has
said that in addition to offering parents different education programmes
for their children, schools may soon be offering alternative healthy meals
on their menus as well.
The food served in school dinners is currently set by a ministerial decree. Critics say that the food prescribed by the legislation has too much fat and an unhealthy surfeit of protein, which could be a contributory factor in rising obesity levels.
Brno's municipal waste-management firm SAKO is being investigated by the
Office for the Protection of Economic Competition (UOHS) in connection with
a tender it held for the reconstruction of an incineration plant in the
Moravian capital, according to Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes. It was the
fourth tender announced by SAKO for the reconstruction of the plant, which
is expected to cost as much as 2.25 billion CZK (113 million USD). The
first three tenders were cancelled by the waste-management firm itself and
the allocation of the fourth has now been delayed for around a year after
one of the unsuccessful bidders lodged a complaint with the UOHS.
The Brno incineration plant has been in need of refurbishment for several years now. Brno's municipal authorities want to obtain funds from the EU to finance part of the project
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Saturday evening that
negotiations with US representatives on the construction of a proposed
American radar base were proceeding without any major problems after
holding talks with a delegation from the US Congress on the issue. He also
said that a number of obstacles to the negotiations had been removed
although he declined to elaborate.
The US delegation, headed by Democratic congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, also met with the deputy prime minister Alexander Vondra and the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek. Earlier, Ms Tauscher had said that the proposed US missile defence system involving a radar base in the Czech Republic and an interceptor missile facility in Poland must be fully incorporated into NATO and it must protect both Europe and the United States.
The proposed US facilities are intended as part of a missile defence system aimed at countering possible attacks from so-called rogue states such as Iran. Polls show that a majority of Czechs are against the proposal even though it has the tentative support of the centre-right government. A final decision on the base is expected early next year.
Jet-ski owners symbolically blocked the Vltava River in Prague for several minutes on Saturday afternoon in protest against a planned amendment to the law on inland navigation, which would ban certain vessels from water courses, including jet-skis. The protesters were also demonstrating against a proposal to introduce charges for recreational navigation on the country's waterways, which has been free up to now.
Most of Central Europe's Social Democrat leaders have signed a joint statement calling for a moratorium on more ballistic missiles being located in the region. The statement was issued following a meeting in Prague attended by representatives from social democratic parties in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Germany. The statement also said that all EU and NATO countries should be involved in negotiations on the placement of a new US missile base and radar station in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a missile defence shield against so-called rogue states such as Iran. The statement also calls for greater consultation on the issue with Russia, which has been a fierce critic of the proposed military installations. Only the representative from the Hungarian social democrats did not sign the statement.
Two people have died after the ultra-light airplane they were flying in crashed into a field near the west Bohemian town of Varnsdorf. The plane's two passengers - a man and a woman aged between 60 and 70 years of age - were found dead at the scene. Police are currently investigating the causes of the crash.
US Democrat Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher said on Friday that a proposed US
missile defence system involving radar and missile bases in the Czech
Republic and Poland must be fully incorporated into NATO and it must
protect both Europe and the United States.
Ms Tauscher made her comments in Prague after heading a three-member Congressional delegation, which had talks with Czech politicians on the US plan to station a radar base in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Congressmen Jim Cooper (Democrats) and Michael Turner (Republicans) were the other two members of the delegation. Apart from Prague, the American politicians also visited Warsaw and Brussels.
Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar said he welcomed the fact that the US Congress preferred the missile defence shield to be connected with NATO. The American delegation said that the Democrats and the Republicans clearly agreed on the need for the anti-missile system.
Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip told journalists on Friday that his
party will not officially propose its own candidate for next year's
presidential elections, but that they favoured certain contenders whom they
would like to discuss with other political parties.
Mr Filip did not rule out any of the names discussed by the other parties such as the chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences Vaclav Paces, former Czechoslovak foreign minister Jiri Dienstbier, Senate deputy chairman Petr Pithart and economist Jan Svejnar. Nevertheless, the Communist leader did add that the fact Mr Svejnar did not live in the Czech Republic would put him at a this country."
Mr Filip said his party had a number of criteria for considering presidential candidates including their views on such topics as the future development of the EU and the government's recent economic reforms. He added that any potential candidate's attitude to a proposed US radar base in the Czech Republic and his or her support for a referendum on the issue would also be a major consideration. Vojtech Filip's party has consistently demanded that a public vote be held on the possible establishment of the US radar facility in the Czech Republic.
The Communist Party is currently in talks with the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Christian Democrats on the possibility of fielding a joint presidential candidate to challenge current incumbent Vaclav Klaus.
The country's national air carrier, Czech Airlines (CSA), has announced
that it is going to change its logo. The new logo will comprise the letters
CSA written in white in a red triangle. A spokesman for the company said
the airline's old logo was considered to be too dull and eastern European,
which could lead to negative perceptions of the standard of services
provided. The new logo will also include the words ""Czech
Airlines" to make it more understandable for foreign clients who now
make up 80 percent of CSA's passengers.
The change of logo is part of an overall re-branding process within CSA, which includes new designs for its staff uniforms and sales outlets.