Data released by Eurostat on Friday have revealed that the Czech Republic is the 2nd most popular tourist destination among EU newcomers, behind only Bulgaria. The Czechs are 12th on the list; the first ten are traditional "old" EU countries. According to the data, foreign and domestic tourists spent almost 11 million nights at Czech accommodation facilities in 2006, while foreign exchange revenue from tourism exceeded 113 billion crowns last year. Tourism is directly or indirectly the source of living for 14 percent of the Czech population.
Czech Radio's Radiozurnal has reported that the former head of Interpol's Czech section, Pavol Mihal, will likely be paid up to 2 million crowns in severance pay. That is the equivalent of roughly 94, 000 US dollars. Mr Mihal left police ranks four months ago after it was revealed he had collaborated with the StB, communist Czechoslovakia's secret police. He did so in the 1980s. Police are reportedly keeping the exact sum of Mr Mihal's severance pay secret, but the presidium did say he had received 200,000 crowns. The additional 1.7 million - is allegedly to be paid out until Mr Mihal reaches retirement age. Interior Minister Ivan Langer - who launched a fresh round of vetting in the police service this year - said he could not prevent the payment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has called the removal of the symbol of the hammer and sickle from a monument to Red Army soldiers in Brno's Kralovo Pole "vandalism", reacting to actions taken this week by the town's deputy mayor. Brno-Kralovo Pole deputy mayor Rene Pelan had the hammer and sickle symbol removed. He told the CTK news agency he viewed the hammer and sickle as a symbol of totalitarianism, "comparable to the swastika". The Russian foreign ministry - issuing a statement on its website - said it wanted the case to be investigated and the monument to be restored. The monument marks the grave of Russian soldiers who died liberating the city of Brno at the end of World War II.
Czechs will be able to work in Denmark next year, after the Danish government reached a decision to open the Danish labour market to the ten "newer" EU states including the Czech Republic which joined in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania which joined this January. Denmark has not yet set an exact date when restrictions will be lifted. Countries where Czechs can work currently include Britain, Greece, the Netherlands and others. Various restrictions still apply in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.
Environment Minister Martin Bursik has revealed that the Czech Republic could draw up to 150 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 7 billion US dollars) within the European Commission's Environment Action Programme, between the years 2007 - 2013. In the first stage, some 20 billion crowns will be up for distribution. It will be possible for municipalities, regions, civic associations and other groups to apply as of September. According to the information released, subsidies will be divided in five areas: water protection, air pollution, reliance on renewable energy resources, waste management, and education on environmental issues. Successful applicants could see up to 85 percent of their project costs covered.
Criminologists have completed a round-up of DNA samples at 35 Czech prisons, part of a project to add prisoners' genetic profiles to the national database. 15,000 samples of prisoners found guilty of deliberate crimes were taken. According to police presidium spokesman David Kubalak the samples were taken to help with investigations into a number of unsolved cases, to help with investigations in the future, as well as to make it easier to track international crime. A number of lawyers criticised the procedure, saying that prisoners did not know how the samples would be used. According to the presidium spokesman, the prisoners gave DNA samples willingly.
The number of police wiretappings increased by about 200 cases in the Czech Republic in 2006, compared to the previous year. Interior Minister Ivan Langer told journalists on Friday had wiretapped more than 7,500 phone numbers in 2006. He said that while wiretapping was indispensable for police work firm legislative limits were needed. As an opposition politician until last year, Mr Langer repeatedly criticised what he called the excessive use of wiretapping under the previous government.
The smaller parties in the governing coalition have expressed reservations over the Civic Democrats' intentions to revise proposed tax reforms, further lowering taxes. The Civic Democrats' proposal envisages decreasing corporate tax from 24 to 19 percent, while slashing income tax either down to 19 or 12 percent, (which would be calculated from a "super gross wage"). Some have questioned the plan: Christian Democrat Ludvik Hovorka said he could not imagine how it might work, while fellow party member Jan Kasal said that if the Civic Democrats pushed ahead, he would put forward his own proposed changes. Green Party leader Martin Bursik said he considers the Civic Democrats' proposal "unrealistic" as it would mean a decrease of 16 billion crowns income in next year's budget. Government discussion on the topic of tax reform is set to resume on July 10th.
Czech tennis player Lucie Safarova has expressed disappointment after losing a gruelling match against 3rd seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at Wimbledon on Friday. Safarova won the first set 7:5 and was only a game away from the win in the 2nd, before she was edged 7:6. She lost the third set 6:2. The match lasted almost three hours.
The Czech Police Force honoured its best officers at a ceremony at Prague's Zofin palace on Thursday. The honours were given for the protection of human rights, solved serious crimes, and assistance in battling forest fires. Two police officers received Officer of the Year awards for rescuing an 8-year old boy who almost drowned in a frozen-over river.
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