The Palestinian press agency PalPress reports that representatives of the Israeli secret service Mossad have been meeting with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas party in the Czech Republic. Citing “official European sources”, PalPress reports that the meeting focused on the armistice in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the prevention of missile attacks on Israel. No information regarding the meeting could be gleaned from the relevant officials on the Czech or Palestinian sides. At least one Israeli paper questioned the credibility of the report, suggesting the information could be a move by the moderate Palestinian party Fatah to reduce the credibility of Hamas, which figures on the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist organisations.
The Czech register of emissions trading has been taken offline indefinitely after an attack by hackers on the accounts of certain traders. Nearly half a million emissions vouchers worth roughly 170 million crowns went missing on Wednesday from the account of one Czech trader. The discovery led to other European countries taking their own registers offline for the same reason; the closures have brought emissions trading on the entire European market to a near standstill.
Czech roads finally became safer last year. According to police statistics released on Thursday, 2010 saw the lowest number of road deaths in five decades, despite a slight surge in the overall number of accidents. The police say greater awareness among drivers, together with a better approach by traffic police themselves, were among the principle causes.
Leaders of the Belarus opposition to President Alexandr Lukashenko’s regime called in Prague on Monday for the European Union to push for the release of political prisoners. Failure to do that should spark the reintroduction of sanctions, they said. Opposition to Alexandr Lukashenko’s regime has hardened following a contested presidential election in December after which the outgoing president claimed 80 percent of support. Former Belarus president and current member of the opposition Stanislav Shushkevich said in Prague that the EU should take a firmer line. He said that trying to teach a wolf how to be a vegetarian did not work. The EU has taken the first steps to reimpose visa restrictions on Lukashenko and his close aides.
The Czech government has approved a funding programme aimed at attracting Czech scientists working abroad to come back to the Czech Republic, the daily Lidové noviny writes. According to the newspaper, the government will set aside almost half a billion crowns for dozens of emerging research centres – created with the help of European funds – in the coming years. Currently, the country lacks enough specialists, as many in the past opted for better conditions abroad. The Education Ministry has said that 1,000 new jobs could be created over the next five years. The head of the Biotechnological Institute CEITEC being created near Brno was cited by Lidové noviny as saying interest in Czechs working in Western Europe was high.
The European Commission rejected on Thursday a call by the Czech Republic
and five other post-communist countries for an EU-wide ban on denial of
communist crimes. The commission said that opinion was too divided on the
matter, and that the conditions to make a legislative proposal had not
met. Commenting on the commission's decision, Czech Foreing Minister Karel
Schwarzenberg said on Thursday that sometimes 'such demonstrative steps'
to be taken to push things forward.
Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania, sent a joint appeal to the EU's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, arguing that the principle of justice should assure just treatment of the victims of every totalitarian regime, and the victims of communism were all too frequently forgotten.
Prague’s Ruzyně airport on Monday afternoon cancelled 21 out of a total 375 flights due to continuing freezing conditions. The cancellations pertain to other European destinations, throughout the course of Monday, from five in the morning to nine in the evening, a spokeswoman said. She added additional cancelations could still follow. Currently airports in Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Budapest, Luxembourg, Berlin and Žilina are in operation. But airports in London and Frankfurt are still suffering difficulties. Heavy snowfall and freezing conditions have affected flights across Europe, affecting thousands of travellers.
The Czech Republic is against a UK proposal to freeze the European Union’s budget in the 2014 to 2020 period. Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said his government was opposed to the plan, adding that talks on the matter were in their infancy. The Czech Republic could in theory lose some of the money it receives under the bloc’s cohesion policy if the idea meets acceptance. Great Britain would like to see the EU’s budget frozen at 2013 levels, with spending only rising in line with inflation until the end of the decade.
In Business News: Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas comes out against the European budget freeze; the health minister, Leoš Heger, says the health Ministry will do everything possible to redirect funds towards doctors’ salaries; the Czech Trade Inspection Office will soon be able to publish the names of gas stations selling poor-quality fuel; and, etiquette experts provide tips on how not to behave at upcoming office parties.
The Czech Republic will receive almost 130 million crowns (the equivalent of around 5 million euros) to help cover damages from floods which hit parts of the country in May and June. The information was released by the European Commission on Thursday. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed that the allotted funds would defray expenses for repairs to public property and infrastructure that had not been covered by insurance companies but would not cover losses suffered by private businesses. Damage from the floods earlier in the year was estimated in the billions of crowns.