Following Sunday's explosion outside a casino in the centre of Prague,
which injured 18 people, Czech officials have said they plan to tighten
regulations on granting casino licenses. The finance ministry is
drafting an amendment to the law under which the police would screen
all licence applicants, regardless of whether they had produced a clean
criminal record and the local authorities would have the right to
reject a casino in their district even if the applicant fulfilled all
the stated criteria.
Under the present law security checks are terminated the moment an applicant produces a clean criminal record and Prague has more casinos than several European countries put together. Sunday's explosion, which injured 18 people, on a busy Prague street, was linked to the criminal underworld, the result of an ongoing feud between two Israeli mafia families. The incident has raised questions about what kind of people are operating the vast number of casinos in the Czech Republic and whether the authorities have the situation under control.
A sixty one year old Czech woman has died after getting bitten by a poisonous snake while out on a walk in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. The woman was enjoying an afternoon out with her family when she complained of a stinging bite on her ankle. After walking a few metres she fainted and died shortly after being rushed to hospital. Doctors suspect that she was bitten by a highly poisonous snake which is at home in Australia, South Africa and South America. The police have warned locals to exercise extreme caution because the reptile, which is believed to have escaped from a private owner, could attack others walking out in the vicinity of Cesky Tesin. The police have found a reptile owner who could provide a serum to counteract the poison, but they warn that the victim would need immediate help.
President Vaclav Klaus has been meeting with designated cabinet ministers
before he officially appoints the new coalition government of Stanislav
Gross on Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon Mr. Klaus met with Cyril Svoboda
of the Christian Democratic Party who is to retain the post of foreign
minister in the old-new cabinet, with Karel Kuhnl of the Freedom Union
slated to become the next defence minister and with Frantisek Bublan, the
designated head of the interior ministry.
All parties later described the talks as friendly and informative. The
swearing in ceremony is expected to take place at 11am on Wednesday. After
its appointment the government has one month in which to ask Parliament
for a vote of confidence. A likely date for the vote, already being
discussed, is August 24th.
The new Cabinet, headed by Stanislav Gross, will have 18 ministers, including six newcomers. Twelve ministers of the outgoing government will remain in office. The three parties of the centre-left coalition government on Monday signed a coalition agreement outlining their priorities for the coming years. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has expressed confidence in the new administration, predicting that in spite of its slim one-vote majority in Parliament the new Cabinet would remain in office until the next general elections in 2006.
The Czech police have broken up an illegal techno music festival near the village of Bonenov, some 130 kilometres west of Prague. The move came after the owner of the grounds pressed charges against unknown perpetrators - the festival's organizers -who had made use of private farmland without the owner's consent. The festival drew some 15, 000 visitors but many of them left when the police closed off the area and started dismantling sound equipment early on Monday. According to the CTK news agency there were clashes between some festival visitors and police, with bottles and branches being thrown, resulting in minor injuries. Police then allegedly used tear gas and water canons to prevent further clashes. The remaining visitors left in the course of Tuesday. Two young men had to be hospitalized after collapsing from an overdose of drink and drugs.
Prague's Ruzyne airport reportedly cleared more than one million travellers in July - the first time the airport has ever cleared such a high a number in a single month. Airport spokeswoman Anna Kovarikova said on Monday the number of passengers grew by 20 percent year-on-year saying more detailed information would be provided in the coming weeks. By comparison - in June - 950, 000 passengers were cleared, which had set the record till now. Czech Airports Authority chief executive Martin Kacur has stated that Prague's Ruzyne airport, along with Vienna, has become one of the most important air transport hubs in Central Europe.
Three parties set to make up the Czech Republic's new centre-left
government outlined its priorities on Monday by signing a coalition
agreement that could bring to an end the government crisis that ensued
following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla in June. Prime
Minister Stanislav Gross led negotiations on the new government with
original coalition partners the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union,
arriving at Monday's agreement. Mr Gross has made clear the new cabinet's
priorities will include supporting business, education, and young
families, while fighting unemployment and lowering the public deficit.
However, the cabinet has yet to be officially named by President Vaclav Klaus who has reportedly already expressed dissatisfaction with several names put forward for ministerial posts.
Following the cabinet's naming the government will have 30 days to ask for a vote of confidence in the Lower House. A likely date for the vote, already being discussed, is August 24th.
A Czech investigator has said that a blast that injured 18 people in
downtown Prague on Sunday has roots in the assassination of Israeli
underworld boss Felix Abutbul in Prague two years ago, gunned down near
his Casino Royal in the capital's Na Prikope Street. The investigator
said that Sunday's attack, aimed at Mr Abutbul's son Assaf as he
arrived in his car, was part of a continuing settling of accounts
between two underworld families, whose battles have targeted several in
various cities around the world, including in Israel. Police are now
putting together a composite of the assailant who managed to escape the
scene of the crime in the confusion following the blast.
Czech politicians have said an investigation would be held to ensure adequate security especially near gambling sites, while Prague's Deputy Mayor Rudolf Blazek added police would be consulted to determine possible increases in security measures.
21-year-old swimmer Kvetoslav Svoboda has been named as the athlete who will carry the flag for the Czech delegation at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, on August 13th. The head of the Czech Olympic mission Frantisek Dvorak made the announcement on Monday. Mr Svoboda - a specialist in the crawl - will compete in the 200 metres race in Athens.
The new cabinet to be put forward by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross,
meanwhile, is expected to see many current ministers continue in their
posts. President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday he had expected to see
greater differences between the outgoing and incoming cabinets, while
thanking outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's government for two
year's work at a ceremony at Prague Castle.
During the day Mr Klaus received a list of new cabinet members from Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, with the president's spokesman Petr Hajek saying the president would meet with several of those named in the new cabinet on Tuesday.
Those not expected to continue in the new government include Health Minister Jozef Kubinyi, Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka, and Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares.
At the moment it remains unclear whether Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas will stay on.
Brno-based Romany rights activist Karel Holomek has criticised Czech legislation aimed at compensating Roma who were interned in Czechoslovak labour camps during World War II as being too strict. Only descendents of Roma who are known to have died in the labour and concentration camps are entitled to compensation, he said. The Interior Ministry has received about 8,000 applications for compensation so far. Mr Holomek predicts that at most a few hundred people will receive compensation. He said he regretted the fact that that no experts, historians or Romani people were invited to participate in drafting the bill.
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