- The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has concluded that the Ostrava Transport Authority made a mistake in not alerting the authorities to near-misses on a local tram route which saw a deadly collision this month.
- The opposition Social Democrats have confirmed they will call a vote of no confidence on the centre-right government.
- Police have shelved their investigation into death threats against a number of legislators during the Czech presidential election.
Safety Inspection Office says Transport Authority should have alerted officials to dangers on route
The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has concluded that the Ostrava Transport Authority should have alerted it to previous near-misses on a local tram route which saw a deadly collision this month. Three people died when two trams crashed head-on two weeks ago. Last week the Ostrava Transport Authority hinted there had been close calls in the past along the area of track in question. The recent tragedy happened after a tram driver failed to wait along a loop of track before heading out. The spokesman for the Rail Safety Inspection Office said on Friday that if authorities had been aware of the problem, preventative measures might have been taken. The Ostrava Transport Authority could now be fined tens of millions of crowns.
Social Democrats confirm no confidence vote
The opposition Social Democrats have confirmed they will call a vote of no confidence on the coalition government next week. The date has been set for April 30. For the motion to succeed, the opposition requires at least 101 votes in the 200-member Parliament, but the opposition can only effectively rely on 97 MPs. Former Social Democrat lawmakers Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka confirmed on Friday they would continue to back the government. The opposition Social Democrats along with the Communist Party have tried to topple the coalition twice before. On Friday the Social Democrats stepped up their rhetoric, accusing the government of corruption and criticising steps taken in health care and other sectors.
Police shelve election death threats case
Police have shelved their investigation into a widely-publicised case of death threats against a number of MPs and senators. The threats took place during the presidential election in February. According to internet news site aktualne.cz, investigators failed to uncover any perpetrators. After a first attempt to elect the country’s president failed, lawmakers such as Social Democrat MP Evžen Snítilý and Senator Liana Janáčková received envelopes containing bullets – an apparent attempt at intimidation. As a result Mr Snítilý and family members for a time were provided police protection.
Czechs, Slovaks agree on joint military unit
Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánová and her Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Baška signed an agreement on Friday towards founding a joint military unit - one of the biggest joint defence projects since Czechoslovakia's Velvet Divorce in 1993. The unit will start operating in 2009 and will be made up of 1,500 soldiers, the ministers told journalists after a Visegrad Four meeting on Friday with Ukraine. Of that, 300 soldiers and 100-member strong support team will be Slovak nationals. EU members pledged back in 2004 to form 13 battlegroups to be on alert for defence missions, with soldiers being ready for deployment to emergency areas ten days after a decision is taken. The Czech Republic is to provide a mechanised battalion, artillery systems and combat helicopters.
E15: Raytheon signs first US radar-related contract
The Czech daily E15 has reported that a Raytheon, a US defence firm, has become the first to win a contract in connection with a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic. According to the daily’s website, a contract worth five million US dollars was awarded last week. Under the agreement the firm will reportedly gauge planning and demands surrounding the radar system, which could one day be located in the Brdy military zone. Raytheon spokeswoman Maureen Heard confirmed for the daily the signing of the contract; Raytheon is the world’s fifth biggest arms producer as well as a producer of missile defence systems.
Police charge 12 in prostitution ring
Police have charged 12 individuals for alleged activities in a prostitution ring targeting young women from former Soviet bloc countries. The 12, four men and 8 women (11 of whom are from former Soviet bloc) ran a dozen prostitution sites. Police are now investigating whether girls working for the ring did so of their own volition or were forced. The gang is suspected of having made several million crowns in profits over a number of years: all of the foreign nationals in the gang were in the country legally.
Deputy transport minister named winner of “Ropák” anti-award
Deputy transport minister Jiří Hodač has been named the winner of the 2007 “Ropák" or Oil Guzzler, awarded for the worst environmental policies. Winners of the anti-award are chosen each year by Czech environmentalists Děti Země. Mr Hodač was chosen for supposedly threatening to sue a number of civic associations in a dispute last year. The award is named after a fictional creature that lives off of industrial waste; it was invented by director Jan Svěrák in a mock-documentary.
Another to receive an anti-prize on Friday was President Václav Klaus. He was named as this year’s holder of the Green Pearl – given for worst environment-related statement in the media. The president, well-known for scepticism on the issue of global warming, questioned ecological devastation on the planet by reportedly telling Hospodárské noviny he’d “never seen any in [his] life”.
Hockey: NHL playoffs
Hockey forward Tomáš Plekanec earned an assist in the Montreal Canadiens’ dramatic win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday. The Canadiens twice rallied from behind, tying the game with only seconds remaining. Montreal then scored in the first minute of overtime to win 3-2.
In other action, Milan Hejduk scored for the Colorado Avalanche against Detroit – but his goal, while enough to put his team within distance, but not enough for a win. The Red Wings – with Chris Osgood in net, not Dominik Hašek – edged Colorado by a score of 4-3.
Hockey forward Výborný headed for Sparta
Five time Ice Hockey world champion David Výborný is headed for Prague’s Sparta hockey team next season. The player, who was signed with Columbus in the NHL, agreed to a three-year contract. Výborný was part of the national team which won the world championship gold in Vienna in 1996 as well as in 2005.
Partly clear skies are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures on Saturday should reach highs of up to 15 degrees Celsius. Sunday is likely to see similar conditions, with temperatures going up to 20 degrees.