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.
The Czech Communist Party would support the opposition Social Democrats should they bring a vote of no confidence against the government, said the deputy head of the party Jiří Dolejš in an interview on Sunday. The Social Democrats are looking to instigate a vote of no confidence against the current government, their third since the elections two years ago. The Social Democrats have said that they are unhappy with the government’s stance on building a US radar base in the Czech Republic and the current pensions system. On Sunday, Mr Dolejš waded into the argument by saying that the current government did not enjoy his party’s confidence, and that he would not therefore seek to ‘sabotage’ the opposition’s proposals.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas said on Sunday that the government coalition would further discuss plans to site a US radar on Czech soil before bringing any bill to parliament. In an interview with Czech Television, Mr Nečas said that further negotiation was needed with the Civic Democrat’s coalition partners to maximize the bill’s chances of success. On the same programme, a member of the coalition, Green MP Olga Zubová, said that she did not agree with the construction of the base under the current conditions, and would not be supporting the bill. The government needs a majority in the Lower House – 101 votes – to pass the bill. It currently has less than this number of votes pledged, with two Green MPs, and Christian Democrat Ludvík Hovorka having serious doubts about which way to vote, and Social Democrat defectors Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka also reticent to approve the base.
In the NHL, Czech goalkeeper Dominik Hašek led his team the Detroit Red Wings to a 4:2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The win gives the Red Wings a 2:0 lead in this best-of-seven series against the Predators, in the first round of the NHL play offs. Hašek stopped 25 shots, while fellow Czech and team mate Jiří Hudler notched up one assist.
Over 100 people gathered in Prague on Sunday to march against racism and anti-Semitism. The march started on Franz Kafka Square in Prague’s Jewish quarter and ended up in the Senate’s Valdštejn Gardens, where the crowds were addressed by the head of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka. The march was organized as a protest against recent neo-Nazi marches to have taken place in Prague and Plzeň. Isreali and Czech flags were waved throughout the march, and traditional Jewish songs were sung. European commissioner for Education and Culture Ján Figel’ also addressed those present.
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).
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