A contingent of Czech soldiers will be dispatched this week to Bosnia-Herzegovina to take part in the European Union peacekeeping force EUFOR. The 47 Czech soldiers will be based in the town of Tuzla for six months and serve alongside Austrian units. In addition to keeping the peace in the ethnically divided former Yugoslav republic, EUFOR soldiers are tasked with working to reduce organised crime.
Several hundred Czechs who were in Southeast Asia at the time of Sunday's massive tsunami are still unaccounted for. The tidal wave, which was triggered by an undersea earthquake, has killed upwards of 38,000 people. Consular staffers in the region have compiled a list of 381 Czech nationals whose whereabouts remain unknown. At least five Czechs were hospitalized in Thailand but no reports of fatalities have been reported. Among the injured was the Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, a 2003 cover girl for Sports Illustrated magazine's swimsuit edition, who suffered a broken pelvis. Her photographer boyfriend was swept out to sea and is still missing.
A spokesman in Washington for the U.S. government funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has confirmed that the radio is considering four possible sites for its future headquarters. RFE/RL is currently headquartered at the top of Prague's Wenceslas Square. The current site is considered too vulnerable to terrorist attack and the broadcaster is expected to move to a more remote site in Prague.
The head of the Social Democrats' deputies group, Petr Ibl, has said he will remain in his post for the time being but probably won't run for re-election. Earlier this month Mr Ibl, whose party is the largest in the governing coalition, said he was considering resigning from the post over his "disgust" at disunity within the party ranks. Meanwhile, the Social Democrat chairman, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, had an informal meeting on Tuesday with President Vaclav Klaus, at which the Czech president signed a bill that will change how funds are distributed to regional governments. Mr Klaus also signed bill relating to waste management and the right to information relating to the environment.
The Czech capital is by far the wealthiest "region" in the 10 new European Union member states, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office this week. The GDP per capita for Prague last year was 164 percent of the EU average, while for the Czech Republic as a whole it was 73 percent of the EU average. The Olomouc region bordering Poland is the poorest in the country with a GDP per capita equal to about 56 percent of the EU average for the year 2003.
It is not yet clear whether any Czechs were among the victims of Sunday's tsunami disaster in Southern Asia. Czech travel agencies say they have established contact with all of their clients but hundreds of Czechs are known to have travelled to the region by themselves. The Foreign Ministry has decided to release ten million crowns (over 300,000 euros) from its budget to aid the affected regions. A crisis committee meeting was also held on Monday morning to coordinate help for stranded Czech tourists. The Ministry has also set up a special information hotline for the families of Czechs who are still missing in Southern Asia: +420 22418 1111, +420 22418 2425, +420 22418 2254, +420 22418 2985.
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