The foreign police has launched a special operation to try to prevent a large group of refugees from crossing the country illegally. Late this week the police was alerted to the fact that some 3,000 Chechens were trying to cross Poland and the Czech Republic illegally on their way to a better life in Western Europe. Officers have been out in force doing routine checks on trains, busses and cars. It is the first large-scale operation of this kind since the Czech Republic joined the Schengen border-free zone on December 21.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra has rejected claims that the ruling Civic Democratic Party would try to delay the ratification of the European treaty for as long as possible in the hope that some other state would be the first to reject it. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr. Vondra said his party had no such intentions and predicted that the new EU treaty could be ratified by Parliament within a matter of months – most likely by the end of the year. A number of senators and deputies for the Civic Democratic Party have criticized the treaty and said they would file a complaint with the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it was in violation of the Czech Constitution.
An employee at a PET bottle recycling plant died a terrible death shortly after going on duty on Saturday. The thirty-seven-year-old man appears to have fallen into the crusher - a huge grid with rotating knives – and other employees only noticed the accident when human body parts appeared on the transporting line. The police are now investigating the accident.
Over 8,000 people in the town of Litvínov were left without heating and hot water for most of the weekend due to a damaged hot water pipe in the town’s central heating system. United Energy, the company which operates the facility, concluded emergency repairs and restored heating to thousands of households in the late afternoon on Sunday. Day temperatures in Litvínov hovered at around minus four degrees Celsius and people used electric appliances to heat their homes as best as they could.
Heavy snow and icy roads have caused serious traffic problems across the country. Five to ten centimeters of fresh snow fell overnight, covering icy roads in places. Although road maintenance crews have been working around the clock some roads are still impassable and the police have advised extreme caution. Hundreds of accidents have been reported in the past 24 hours, a number of them fatal.
Public support for the ruling Civic Democratic Party is slipping, according to a poll conducted by the Median agency. The outcome of the poll suggests that if elections were held today the opposition Social Democrats would come out the winner with 37 percent support. The Civic Democrats would come second with 28,2 percent support and the Communist Party would place third with 16,6 percent. The main governing party puts its slide in popularity down to the need to implement painful reforms.
The Karlovy Vary Hospital is facing a crisis following a mass resignation of its medical staff. Fourteen of its seventeen chief physicians and heads of department resigned on Friday followed by most of the hospital’s nursing staff. The employees are protesting against the hospital’s management and have demanded a financial audit for 2007. Crisis meetings are now taking place to try to resolve the situation.
The ruling Civic Democratic Party says it will push for a secret ballot in the February presidential election. This is in line with Czech legislation, but opposition deputy David Rath has said he would table a proposal for a vote by acclamation, saying it would be more honest and transparent. Civic Democratic deputy Petr Tluchoř said on Sunday that there was no reason to change the tradition of a secret ballot. This was justified in one case only – in the turbulent days of 1989 when a parliament of Communist deputies elected Václav Havel president according to the will of the people, Tluchoř said.
Czech and Polish officials are to debate the US plan to station part of its missile defense shield in central Europe with a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. The US missile defense shield will top the agenda of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s working visit to Prague on Thursday. The US proposal has met with strong opposition from Russia and objections from a number of EU member states. Both countries are currently engaged in talks with Washington on the matter but neither has as yet made a firm commitment.
The public turned out in force for a doors open day at the Prague State Opera building on Saturday. Queues of people waited for up to two hours in freezing temperatures for a glimpse behind the scenes at the opera. Organisers said the event’s popularity had surpassed their expectations. The doors-open day was staged to mark the building’s 120th anniversary, and offered visitors not only a tour of the theatre, but a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the soloists’ dressing rooms and the prop and costume stores as well. A spokesperson for the opera house said that the public’s positive response meant that more events of this sort would be organised in the future.