Two officers in an elite army unit serving in Afghanistan who wore Nazi
emblems on their helmets have been suspended with immediate effect. Czech
Defence Minister Martin Barták announced the punishment on Monday. He said
the behaviour was unacceptable and tarnished the reputation of Czech units
The newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported the officer’s conduct the same day. It said the two officers wore the emblems of two SS units for almost the whole of their tour in Logar. One of the officers has expressed regret over the matter, saying he put a Nazi symbol on his helmet for a joke because it contained the letter H and his name was Honza.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer will join around 30 heads of state and government in Berlin to commemorate the 20 anniversary of the Berlin Wall on Monday evening. The Czech Prime Minister will take part in a symbolic dismantling of a wall near the Brandenburg Gate. The end of the Berlin Wall signalled the start of the end of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the end of the more than 40 year division between East and West. The Czechoslovak Communist regime began to crumble following the suppression of a students’ protest 8 days after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Czech unemployment fell for the first time in a year in October. The jobless rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 8.5 percent compared with September according to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The total number of Czechs out of work ready to take up a job fell by just over 2,000 over the month, dropping below the half million mark. Some analysts warn that the decrease is mainly due to seasonal factors with the unemployment trend still upward and likely to reach 9.3 percent by the end of the year.
Talks between unions representing Prague public transport workers and the city’s public transport authority broke down on Monday increasing the risk of a public transport strike. The unions and a crisis committee created to deal with the transport authority’s problems failed to agree on a series of demands put forward by unions. Talks are due to resume on Wednesday with unions warning they will start strike preparations if there is no breakthrough. The unions are angered by threatened lay offs and a mooted 7.0 percent pay cut being planned by managers. They want the city to give a new cash injection to the operator of Prague’s bus, tram and metro network. Prague mayor Pavel Bém has offered an extra 900 million crowns but unions say this is insufficient.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Security Forces Archive on Monday announced the publication of details of the Communist regime’s intelligence service on the internet. The step is the first of its kind in a former Communist country according to the institute. It said the list of names includes 985 staff out of the total 1,028 working at the end of November 1989. Staff worked in foreign embassies and trade offices, in television and radio and at international institutions. The intelligence service was wound up in February 1990.
Defence Minister Barták also announced the dismissal of a soldier who helped found and train a neo-Nazi organisation. Lukáš Sedláček’s involvement in the White Justice movement was revealed last week. The movement was alleged to have been involved in preparing attacks on power stations and the kidnapping of highly placed police officers and Jewish personalities, including Prime Minister Jan Fischer.
The Czech government failed on Monday to agree on the Czech candidate to be its next European Commissioner. The government will now meet for an extraordinary session on Tuesday morning to try and make some progress. Selection of a candidate to fill the plum post has been complicated by the main parties refusing to budge from their demands that their man gets the job. Prime Minister Jan Fisher made the surprise suggestion over the weekend that central bank governor Zdeněk Tůma could get the post. That suggestion got the brush off from the main parties. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek said on Monday that parties should advance new candidates at the latest by Wednesday if there is no breakthrough beforehand. He added that the country’s European reputation is at stake.
Archaeologists have finished what has been the biggest excavation ever in the Czech Republic. The work on a 40 hectare site near the city of Kolín in Central Bohemia uncovered three large Neolithic ditched enclosures or roundels, one is believed to be the biggest of its type in Europe. The function of such buildings is unclear with theories advanced that they could have served a religious purpose, used for protection during war or were facilities for trade or as a workshop. Excavation of the site began in April 2008 with around 80 workers involved. The site forms part of a bypass round the city.
Consumer prices fell in October by 0.2 of a percentage point compared with October 2008 in what is the first year on year fall in prices since August 2003, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Monday. The drop was largely thanks to lower housing costs and cheaper natural gas. Prices also fell by 0.2 of a percentage point compared with September. The latest figures take average inflation over the last 12 months to 1.6 percent compared with September’s figure of 2.1 percent.
A strike by workers at the Prague transport authority provisionally planned for Tuesday looks likely to be averted. Union leaders said that the city’s branch of the Civic Democrats were electing a new leadership on Tuesday and a strike could influence voting. The workers say they will not accept a mooted pay cut of seven percent. The Civic Democrat mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, said on Sunday that city hall would provide the struggling transport authority without 900 million crowns in reserves in order to help it overcome its dire financial situation. Mr Bém has set up a crisis committee to help deal with the problems at the company; however, union leaders said they found unacceptable the make-up of the committee, which features executives who they say helped bring about the company’s current problems.
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