Two people were killed and 51 others were injured in an accident involving a Czech tourist bus in Hungary. The accident happened on the M15 highway near a Slovak border crossing in the early hours of Monday and started with the collision of a Slovak and Polish truck after which the Slovak truck was thrown into the opposite lane where it collided head on with the Czech tourist bus. Both the truck and bus drivers were killed on impact. The cause of the accident is being investigated. Seventeen injured Czech tourists remain in nearby Hungarian hospitals.
A Czech police officer was found to have been collecting mobile phone call records of close aides to President Václav Klaus, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday, two days after it was disclosed that he also collected records of phone calls by the Supreme Judge of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychteský. Police officer Martin Hudec, of Varnsdorf in northern Bohemia, apparently bypassed the legal requirements when he flagged the phone numbers as suspicious, and had their interception approved as part of a human trafficking investigation. The Czech police’ internal investigations department is now trying to establish who Mr Hudec was working for. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said the affair was a serious case of abuse of the police force.
In its annual report for 2010 released on Monday, the Czech Helsinki Committee criticized the state of human and social rights in the country. The Prague-based human rights NGO said the number of people at risk of poverty was on the rise due to the government’s austerity measures, and said the country still lacked laws on welfare housing. The NGO also said the situation in the country’s prison system was critical; some 23,000 people are currently serving sentences in Czech jails that are running at 130 percent capacity. The report also criticized the appointment of a nationalist activist, Ladislav Bátora, an advisor to the education minister. The committee’s annual report for 2010 appreciated the authorities’ resolute policy towards extremism.
The trial began on Monday in the case of a 2008 railway accident in which eight people died and 95 others were injured near the north Moravian town of Studénka. Ten employees of various construction firms stand accused of criminal negligence facing up to ten years in prison. The accident occurred in August 2008 when an international train from Poland to Prague crashed into the debris of a bridge that had moments before collapsed onto the railway tracks. The prosecution argues the accident was caused by a combination of many safety shortcomings and omissions, and blames the defendants for violating work safety regulations.
The Czech Republic could participate in a new rescue package for Greece by providing some 3.5 billion crowns, or over 207 million US dollars, in loan guarantees, Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Monday. Speaking at an EU finance ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, Mr Kalousek said however that the Czech Republic had “serious reservations” about taking part in the planned second package. The Czech Republic in the past provided loan guarantees to Portugal and Ireland, worth 7.7 billion and 6.7 billion crowns, respectively.
Czech government officials, labour union leaders and employers’ representatives are set to discuss the details of the planned fiscal and health care reform at their session on Monday. The tripartite, as these meetings are known, is meeting for the first time since a strike of transportation workers in protest against the government’s reform efforts paralyzed the country on Thursday. Union leaders said they wanted the government to change certain features of the reforms. For his part, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said his cabinet was willing to talk but would not give up its reform plans.
A new poll by the STEM agency on Monday confirmed declining trust in the Czech coalition parties. If general elections were held next week, the senior coalition Civic Democrats would gain 50 seats in the lower house, down by three compared to the results of the 2010 elections. The TOP 09 party would win 28 seats, down by 13, while the junior coalition Public Affairs would not cross the five-percent threshold to enter the Chamber of Deputies. The opposition Social Democrats, with 91 seats, and Communists, with 31, would win a constitutional majority in the lower house. The poll, which included over 1200 respondents, took place just before last week’s nationwide transportation strike.
Around one third of Czech drivers are reckless and their number is rising, according to a new poll for the Direct insurance firm released on Monday. Most of the 1,000 drivers who took part in the survey said that the typical Czech reckless driver was a single man aged between 21 and 30 who lived in Prague and had above-average income and a powerful car. Their vehicle is usually a black BMW, Audi or Porsche. A loss adjustment manager for the Direct insurance company said the results were in agreement with the firm’s internal statistics.
Czech brewers have established a “beer fund” to fight rising imports of cheap, low-quality beers, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. Members of the fund include Plzeňský Prazdroj, Heineken, Budvar as well as the Czech Beer and Malt Association. Under the motto “Czech beer - Our Beer”, the alliance plans to stage marketing campaigns to draw attention to the issue, and to support the EU’s protected geographical indication for Czech-produced beers. The head of the Czech Beer and Malt Association, František Šámal, said the project should ensure a long-term sustainability of Czech beer. Imports of foreign, mainly Polish beer, increased nearly three times last year, reaching just below one million hectolitres.
Prague’s Pink Tank, a symbol of the fall of communism in the country, returned to the capital on Monday to be featured in The Week of Freedom, an event marking the 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from former Czechoslovakia. The tank, originally a monument to Soviet tank crews who liberated the city in 1945, was painted pink by the artist David Černý in 1991, and soon thereafter taken to a military museum outside Prague. On Monday, the pink tank will be installed on a pontoon on the Vltava where it will remain until July 1.
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