A recent study by the corruption watchdog Transparency International indicates that the Czech Republic is facing growing corruption in the public sector. Various forms of unethical business practices not only discourage foreign investors, but are seen as a serious problem by the European Union which the Czech Republic is to join in May 2004. This week the government met to debate the most effective course of action against a problem that has plagued Czech society for decades.
The main opposition Civic Democrats have called on Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and police chief Jiri Kolar to resign over what the party describes as the country's "corrupt and unprofessional" police force. Civic Democrat deputy chairman Ivan Langer told reporters the two were responsible for a range of problems in the police force, including rampant corruption, distortion of statistics and low respect among the public. The police recently launched high-profile campaigns targeting bad drivers and illegal prostitution. The opposition and some in the media have dismissed the campaigns as publicity stunts.
Photos of trade union members at Saturday's demonstration against the government's public finance reform plan are featured on all the front pages today, with all dailies looking into how much the government is willing to react to their demands. Internationally, it is Sweden's referendum on the adoption of the Euro - 56% voted against the single European currency, and the released photo of the possible murderer of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh that also make the headlines.
The Czech Republic has often been criticised for its relatively high level of corruption and economic crime. A recent survey carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that the number of detected cases of economic crime has risen since 2001 - by some seven percent. While the most common type of economic crime is fraud, more than 50 percent of Czech companies say the most widespread type of economic crime in the country is corruption and bribery. One of the organisations trying to tackle corruption in the public sector is the civic association
Last week the Czech Republic's intelligence service BIS released a new report warning that the Russian mafia was still alive and well in the Czech Republic. According to the report illegal activities include everything from money laundering to human trafficking, to extortion to fraud. And, what's worse: gangs have become better organised and more inter-connected than in the past - making it increasingly difficult to crack down - and eventually root out - criminal activities at their source.
All the papers today are dominated by two big stories - the death of alleged StB torturer Alois Grebenicek and the fraud charges against Viktor Kozeny, the notorious "Pirate of Prague". Also making headlines today is Monday's shooting in the Prague metro, a story which receives prominent coverage in Mlada Fronta Dnes.
The Czech Republic has been repeatedly criticised for a relatively high level of corruption. One of the problematic areas is government contracts and public tenders. The Office for Protection of Economic Competition is trying to set things right again but says loopholes in the law should be patched up first.