Police in the western city of Plzeň have detained a 24-year-old man suspected of blackmailing the family of a missing nine-year-old girl. Police say the man demanded 250,000 crowns for the return of the missing girl and demanded no police involvement. The man faces fraud charges and a jail sentence of up to two years. The nine-year-old girl, Anna, disappeared from a Prague suburb in mid-October and has not been found in spite of intensive police searches. The family offered a reward of 3.5 million crowns for information leading to her return or her takers.
Weather forecasters are warning of serious disruption being caused by snowfalls on Sunday with up to 20 Centimetres of snow across the country possible by Monday morning. The snow, likely to accompanied by high winds which could create drifts, will arrive from the south-east. Snow is likely to continue on Monday in the north of the country with chances of another 15 Centimetres of snow there during the day.
French customs officers detained two men after find a tonne of cannabis hidden in a lorry with Czech registration plates. The seizure was made near the south-east city of Saint-Etienne on the motorway between Lyons and Marseille. The drug had a street value of around 2.0 million euros, around 50 million crowns. The regional daily Le Dauphiné Libore said it was the third such seizure in a month in the Rhone valley.
The Czech National Bank as well as President Václav Klaus have called for
the government to seek an opt out from adopting the single European
currency, the euro, according to Saturday’s edition of the daily Lidové
noviny. It said the bank was working on a report spelling out how an opt
out could be obtained. The paper says the bank and president feel the time
to make the demand is ripe now that Germany wants to reopen the Lisbon
treaty and insert a permanent safety mechanism for eurozone countries.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday reacted to news the president
an opt-out (similar to Denmark’s or Great Britain’s) by making clear
such a move was highly unlikely.
As well as much tighter rules on budget deficits, the mechanism should include a larger fund to help save countries which hit problems. Whether countries, such as the Czech Republic, which are not members of the eurozone but are obliged to join when they meet the qualification conditions, should also contribute to the fund in not clear. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said he does not think the Czech Republic should contribute directly as long as it is outside the zone.
Freezing conditions have worsened air quality conditions in the industrial north-east of the country. Limits for airborne dust has been exceeded at all monitoring points and at one, at Bohumín, was more than three times the permitted level. Air quality conditions in the region are the worst in the country and are exacerbated during the winter. The city of Ostrava has launched legal proceedings against the central government saying it has not taken serious enough steps to deal with the problem.
Czech speed skater Martina Sábliková took second place in the World Cup 500 metres event in Hamar, Norway, on Saturday. The two times Olympic champion was beaten by almost five seconds by German rival Stephanie Beckert. Sábliková is still looking for a win this season having been second-placed in the last three events she competed in.
The Czech Social Security Administration has highlighted an alarming rise in distrainment orders served on pension payments connected with the worsening economic situation. The number of such orders at the end of October totalled more than 106,000, a sevenfold increase on the total in 2005. Overall, the administration said over 591,000 distrainment orders have been served so far this year. In 2005, the total was just over 247,000. The distrainment caseload has been described as critical by the authority with management setting a target of the middle of next year to sort it out.
Members of the main opposition party, the left of centre Social Democrats, in the second city of Brno will send an important signal about who is likely to be the future leader of the party. Party members are meeting on Saturday to decide whether they would prefer acting party leader and former finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka or south Moravia regional governor Michal Hašek as leader. Both men will address Saturday’s meeting. Brno party chairman Jeroným Tejc has said it is too close to call who might win in the secret ballot. Brno will send 12 delegates to a party meeting in Brno in March. The former leader, Jiří Paroubek, resigned after disapointing election results at the end of May.
Czechs across the country have experienced their first major snowfalls. Fresh snowfalls were deepest in parts of Moravia with drifts threatening problems on some roads. In the west of the country, snow began earlier in the week and has turned to ice. Temperatures in the Plzeň region plunged overnight to minus 10 degrees Celsius.
Czech swimmer Tomáš Fučík set a new national record of 53.82 seconds on Saturday in a heat of the 100 metres medley event during the European Short Course Swimming Championships being held in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The 25-year-old swimmer won the heat. It is the first time he has swum the event in less than 54 seconds.