Police and transport specialists have reconstructed events which led to a tram crash that occurred in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava on Friday. The head-on collision, which claimed three lives, occurred on a single track used for trams going in both directions. Monday’s reconstruction was undertaken in order to find out the precise circumstances behind the accident. Czech police have confirmed that the investigation into the incident may take several months. At present, human error on the part of one of the drivers – both of whom survived the crash - is being seen as the most likely cause.
The Czech police have arrested an employee of the Prague 1 town council over suspected foul play, which led to the loss of around 50 million crowns. The police believe that an organized plot enabled the missing money to be transferred to somewhere other than its intended destination, the Swedish construction company Skanska. Instead, the money was channeled to a company in Lithuania. So far, only 5.5 million crowns of the money has been recovered.
Newly released figures suggest that last year the Czech Republic saw record levels of immigration with around 84,000 people moving into the country. An academic study from Charles University also suggests that the country has become the number one destination for immigration among post-communist European states. Some figures estimate that with an ageing populace, up to a third of the Czech population may comprise of immigrants by 2065, with people from Ukraine, Vietnam and China forming the largest immigrant communities. Recent government initiatives have been designed to make immigration into the country easier.
A key labour union in the Czech Republic with more than half a million members has announced that from April 14, it will undertake what it describes as a “month of disruption”. The Czech-Moravian Association of Trade Unions are planning a series of demonstrations and have also threatened strike action, in protest at government reforms, which they blame for rising inflation levels in the country. Specifically, they oppose wide-scale reforms to healthcare and pensions proposed by the government. The news follows a tense meeting between union members and the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in early April.
In Ostrava, a special anti-drug police unit known as “Toxi” has broken up one of the biggest pervitin producing networks in the country. Czech police made the announcement Monday. The group, which is said to have made as much as a million crowns, was reportedly under surveillance from last September, allegedly making around 50,000 crowns worth of pervitin a day. The drugs were then sold on to dealers throughout the region. The abuse of pervitin or methamphetamine has been on a rise in the Czech Republic.
Former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has continued to come under media scrutiny for the purchase of a luxury apartment near Miami, Florida. Czech newspapers have been looking into the apartment complex, called Hidden Bay which boasts 24 hour security and high fences. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes has estimated the flat to be worth 12 million crowns - or more than 800,000 US dollars. Mr. Gross was forced to stand down as the country’s Prime Minister in 2005 partly as a result of an inability to explain where he got 1.2 million crowns to purchase a luxury flat in the Czech capital.
On Monday morning, the Czech crown broke a new record, exchanging at a rate of 23 crowns for 1 Euro. Although this is considered to be something of a blip, the underlying strength of the Czech crown has been a key issue in recent months and even years – at the same point last year, the rate was 28 crowns to the Euro. Although a strong crown favors Czechs traveling abroad, but has a detrimental effect on Czech exporters in Europe, who find that they get fewer Euro for exporting the same amount. The Czech government has long promised to take measures to avoid a further strengthening of the currency, said to partly be the result of market speculation and increasing Czech overseas investment.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called for greater cooperation between Czech and Brazilian investors during a visit to the Czech Republic largely aimed to promote trade. In a joint press conference with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus on Saturday, Lula called upon Czech businessmen to visit Brazil more frequently, and said that Brazilian entrepreneurs should set out to familiarize themselves with the Czech economy. Brazil is Prague’s top Latin American trading partner, with Brazilian exports of mostly agricultural goods in 2007 totaling six billion crowns (380 million USD).
Tomáš Berdych was forced to retire with a leg injury in the first of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup matches on Sunday, sending opponents Russia into the tournament’s semi-finals. Nikolay Davydenko recorded his seventh win over Berdych in as many matches and gave Russia an unassailable 3-1 advantage in the quarter-finals of the tournament, being held in Moscow. The Russians had gone 2-1 ahead yesterday when Davydenko and Igor Andreev beat Radek Štěpánek and Pavel Vízner in the men’s doubles. On Friday, the scores were one apiece with Russia’s Marat Safin battling from two sets down to get the better of Berdych, and Štěpánek experiencing few troubles beating Andreev in straight sets. Russia will now face either Sweden or Argentina in the semis.
The head of the Czech Confederation of Industry, Jaroslav Míl, has said that he thinks it is unrealistic to talk about the country’s entry in the European single currency before 2013 at the earliest. In an interview with Václav Moravec for Czech Television, Mr Míl said that the government should set a date for euro adoption, but stressed that adoption of the common currency would not be possible before overhauling further the healthcare and pensions systems. The Czech Finance Ministry planned to have the Czech Republic ready for euro-entry by 2012, but that date has been postponed indefinitely. Governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, has said that the country could feasibly adopt the single European currency as late as in 2019.
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