Interior Minister Jan Kubice plans to save half a billion crowns on policemen’s wages next year. The plan will reportedly be made next month in a proposal to the government on changes to organisation and the number of police officers. According to a comparative analysis that the ministry released on Wednesday, the Czech Republic leads Eastern European countries in numbers of officers and there are more officers handling the same workload compared with neighbouring countries. Mr Kubice indicated that the reorganisation of the force would primarily involve higher managerial positions with higher salaries.
The new vehicle registration system crashed yet again on Wednesday morning. The nationwide collapse made it impossible to connect to police and international vehicle databases, prolonging a crisis that has caused major problems for drivers since the system was launched on July 9. The new problem comes just a day after the Police Presidium announced that it had solved the problem by reinforcing its infrastructure and servers. Prime Minister Nečas has given the Transport Minister, Petr Dobeš, until Friday to resolve the problem or else resign. Latest reports suggest the system could take years to fully fix, while the company behind the work, ATS Telcom must still be paid a promised 37 million crowns for the faulty system.
Overall confidence in the Czech economy fell again in July, according to the Czech Statistical Office. The statisticians also reported a decrease in the composite confidence indicator of 1.6 points compared to June while the consumer confidence indicator was up. Among entrepreneurs, confidence increased in trade and in construction. In selected services and in industry it declined. In industry in July, the assessment of the current overall economic situation went down while that of current total demand remained unchanged and foreign demand also decreased. The most important obstacle for production remains insufficient demand, as stated by more than half of respondents.
The prime minister has praised the new justice minister’s plan to hold competitions for state attorneys’ posts. Regarding Justice Minister Blažek’s reluctance to appoint popular prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová to the post of Prague High State Attorney, Prime Minister Nečas said Wednesday that the competition will be good for the Czech judiciary. There has been abundant speculation in the last month that the former justice minister was fired because he planned to appoint Bradáčová, who is considered a strong anti-corruption prosecutor. The prime minister also praised Blažek for withstanding media pressure to follow through with the appointment.
Czech anti-corruption police are to limit the number of staff who will be able to access files related to investigations of politicians. The announcement was made by Tomáš Martinec, head of the Czech anti-corruption squad, following a meeting on Tuesday with the head of the Czech parliament’s immunity committee Bohuslav Sobotka. Both men are said to back the changes, which are designed to battle leaks such as those which recently occurred during the investigation of Social Democrat MP David Rath for corruption; in this case, surveillance tapes of Rath were leaked to the media. Reflecting on the move, Sobotka noted that the possibility of leaks was multiplied by providing all members of the parliamentary immunity committee with copies of transcripts of police surveillance tapes. But he also insisted that the changes would in no way impact the ability of committee members to access crucial documents relating to potential acts of corruption by politicians.
Municipal authorities in the Prague 7 district are considering taking DNA samples of dog poop not cleared up by irresponsible owners in an effort to identify offenders. Though the district is collecting 1.7 million crowns annually in fines from dog owners, it is spending 8 million crowns on cleaning up the mess. Frustrated officials have had enough and say that since all efforts have failed to engender a sense of public responsibility in dog owners, they are seriously considering resorting to the extraordinary measure of asking them to voluntarily submit samples at a cost of 600 crowns, which would then create a central database against which offending samples could be checked. Last year, Prague 7 authorities undertook a high publicity advertising campaign targeted at dog owners. Feedback is currently being solicited from locals on the DNA plan via a newly launched website.
A section of the green-labelled “A” line of the Prague Metro, running between Malostranská and Dejvice will be closed this weekend as engineers undertake repairs. The repairs to the line’s electrical system will cause yet more disruption: passengers at Můstek station will be forced to change trains for the remaining few stops to Malostranská. A special tram service is set to enable passengers to travel to Dejvická. According to a spokesperson for the Metro service, the repairs are essential in order to connect existing stations on the “A” line to the extension, currently underway, which will add four new stops beyond Dejvická by 2014 and an ultimate extension towards Prague’s by then re-named Václav Havel Airport some time around 2020.
Czech President Václav Klaus is to attend the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics of Friday, while several Czech ministers, including Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, Education Minister Petr Fiala and Minister of Health Leoš Heger are also preparing to attend the Games. While in the UK, Klaus will also be opening a new Czech centre in London and will attend a reception with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. He is scheduled to remain in London until Monday, supporting the efforts of several Czech Olympians. PM Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg are not expected to attend the tournament in London.
A study undertaken by the British University of Bath and released last month claims to demonstrate that tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco are successfully influencing Czech policy makers. The study suggests that lobbying efforts targeted at top officials have resulted in tax structures that favour their brands. The study, which was led by the University of Bath’s Risako Shirane and Professor Anna Gilmore, notes that the Czech Republic is also the only European Union Member State to not yet have approved a World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adding “tobacco control has remained extremely weak in the Czech Republic, with the country’s policies recently being ranked the fourth least effective in Europe.” Meanwhile, analysing the report, news site IHned.cz pointed to a recent decision by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek to raise duties on cheap cigarettes by five crowns, while the more expensive cigarettes produced by tobacco giants such as Philip Morris, were only increased in price by two crowns. Responding to the accusations, Philip Morris said that governments were entirely free to choose how they legislate.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has given Transport Minister Petr Dobeš until Friday to repair ongoing issues with the country’s vehicle registration system - or resign. The PM called the situation unacceptable as the two men met to discuss the debacle on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake also expressed frustration with Dobeš over the new computerized vehicle registration system launched a fortnight ago, calling a meeting with the minister on Tuesday and telling the media that she was disappointed that Dobeš did not carry out a recent threat to revert to the old pre-upgrade registration system if problems were not repaired within two days. That deadline came and went as the Central Vehicle Database (CRV) continued to malfunction across the country on Monday, with reports coming in of security guards and police having to restrain upset visitors to the CRV offices in the city of Brno. The Transport Ministry is undertaking crisis meetings over the affair. The latest reports suggest the database could take years to fully fix, while the company behind the work, ATS Telcom must still be paid a promised 37 million crowns for the faulty system.
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