A key labour union in the Czech Republic with more than half a million members has announced that from April 14, it will undertake what it describes as a “month of disruption”. The Czech-Moravian Association of Trade Unions are planning a series of demonstrations and have also threatened strike action, in protest at government reforms, which they blame for rising inflation levels in the country. Specifically, they oppose wide-scale reforms to healthcare and pensions proposed by the government. The news follows a tense meeting between union members and the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in early April.
In Ostrava, a special anti-drug police unit known as “Toxi” has broken up one of the biggest pervitin producing networks in the country. Czech police made the announcement Monday. The group, which is said to have made as much as a million crowns, was reportedly under surveillance from last September, allegedly making around 50,000 crowns worth of pervitin a day. The drugs were then sold on to dealers throughout the region. The abuse of pervitin or methamphetamine has been on a rise in the Czech Republic.
Former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has continued to come under media scrutiny for the purchase of a luxury apartment near Miami, Florida. Czech newspapers have been looking into the apartment complex, called Hidden Bay which boasts 24 hour security and high fences. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes has estimated the flat to be worth 12 million crowns - or more than 800,000 US dollars. Mr. Gross was forced to stand down as the country’s Prime Minister in 2005 partly as a result of an inability to explain where he got 1.2 million crowns to purchase a luxury flat in the Czech capital.
On Monday morning, the Czech crown broke a new record, exchanging at a rate of 23 crowns for 1 Euro. Although this is considered to be something of a blip, the underlying strength of the Czech crown has been a key issue in recent months and even years – at the same point last year, the rate was 28 crowns to the Euro. Although a strong crown favors Czechs traveling abroad, but has a detrimental effect on Czech exporters in Europe, who find that they get fewer Euro for exporting the same amount. The Czech government has long promised to take measures to avoid a further strengthening of the currency, said to partly be the result of market speculation and increasing Czech overseas investment.
Police and transport specialists have reconstructed events which led to a tram crash that occurred in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava on Friday. The head-on collision, which claimed three lives, occurred on a single track used for trams going in both directions. Monday’s reconstruction was undertaken in order to find out the precise circumstances behind the accident. Czech police have confirmed that the investigation into the incident may take several months. At present, human error on the part of one of the drivers – both of whom survived the crash - is being seen as the most likely cause.
The Czech police have arrested an employee of the Prague 1 town council over suspected foul play, which led to the loss of around 50 million crowns. The police believe that an organized plot enabled the missing money to be transferred to somewhere other than its intended destination, the Swedish construction company Skanska. Instead, the money was channeled to a company in Lithuania. So far, only 5.5 million crowns of the money has been recovered.
Newly released figures suggest that last year the Czech Republic saw record levels of immigration with around 84,000 people moving into the country. An academic study from Charles University also suggests that the country has become the number one destination for immigration among post-communist European states. Some figures estimate that with an ageing populace, up to a third of the Czech population may comprise of immigrants by 2065, with people from Ukraine, Vietnam and China forming the largest immigrant communities. Recent government initiatives have been designed to make immigration into the country easier.
Head of the Czech Green Party Martin Bursík has said that the European Green Party has softened its stance on the construction of a US anti-missile defence shield on Czech soil. At a meeting of Green Party MPs from around the continent in Slovenia on Sunday, a resolution leaving the final decision on the US radar up to the Czech Green Party was passed with a massive majority. The Dutch Green party had originally drafted a proposal which rejected the project unconditionally, but this proposal was amended by the Czech Greens present at the session. The decision is now up to them, but the party remains divided on the issue, with Mr Bursík and senior MP Kateřina Jacques for the construction of a US radar, and deputy Olga Zubová telling Czech Television on Sunday that she could not vote for such a base.
Politicians are discussing whether to go green, and to reduce the amount of paper used in parliament. A parliamentary committee is discussing whether to present MPs with the proposals and documents they are set to discuss in an electronic format, rather than on paper. It is thought that each document set for discussion in parliament is printed between 240 and 380 times. Furthermore, a document such as the recent public finance reform proposal comes in at over two kilograms in weight. Last year, it is thought that the Czech parliament spent nearly 640,000 CZK (40,500 USD) on paper. The proposal to make all documents available over the parliamentary intranet, however, still needs to be approved by lawmakers, and could only be implemented in four months time at the earliest.
The Czech Communist Party would support the opposition Social Democrats should they bring a vote of no confidence against the government, said the deputy head of the party Jiří Dolejš in an interview on Sunday. The Social Democrats are looking to instigate a vote of no confidence against the current government, their third since the elections two years ago. The Social Democrats have said that they are unhappy with the government’s stance on building a US radar base in the Czech Republic and the current pensions system. On Sunday, Mr Dolejš waded into the argument by saying that the current government did not enjoy his party’s confidence, and that he would not therefore seek to ‘sabotage’ the opposition’s proposals.
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