Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake, of Public Affairs, who is to spearhead the government’s anti-corruption drive has announced the members of her new anti-corruption team. The committee, which is to coordinate the fight against corruption and assess proposed legislation with regard to possible loopholes and corruption risks will be made up of eight cabinet ministers –including the justice, interior and finance ministers - and Mrs Peake’s own deputy Robert Vacek. The committee is to meet once a month and will be able to propose legislation, establish working commissions and employ advisors from different fields.
Several dozen environment activists demonstrated outside the Czech Environment Ministry on Monday demanding the dismissal of Šumava National Park head Jan Stráský. Mr. Stráský has come under fire for his radical policy in dealing with bark-beetle infestation in the protected nature reserve, using harsh chemical insecticides and ordering the felling of 5,000 Nordic spruce trees. Environment Minister Tomas Chalupa came out to talk to the demonstrators but insisted that Jan Stráský had his full support. He said the controversy would be resolved by a new law on the national park currently being prepared which would introduce regulations for dealing with similar situations. The Šumava National Park management has organized a round table debate on the issue.
Hundreds of people from Nový Bor on Monday took part in a demonstration to protest against escalating violence in their home town. The town’s inhabitants called on the local authorities and the police to do more to ensure public safety and restore law and order. The town has witnesses a growing incidence of street violence and crime culminating in a brutal assault on a bar last week when a number of attackers armed with machetes and clubs forced their way into the bar and smashed the place up in revenge for the eviction of two miners who were not allowed to play on the bar’s gaming machines.
A Prague court has handed the head of the Supreme Audit Office Frantisek Dohnal an eighteen month suspended sentence for failing to allow an investigation into the office’s financing. After receiving reports about mismanagement of funds from inside the Supreme Audit Office, Czech MPs appointed an independent auditing firm and set up a commission to look into the matter. Mr. Dohnal refused to cooperate with them or provide access to relevant documents, saying he would not bow to political pressure. He has appealed the verdict.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš on Monday promised not to lower the wages of non-teaching staff in 2012, saying that that he would have to find the money in the ministry’s own budget. Following talks with Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek on Monday, Mr. Dobeš said that since there were no reserves in state coffers, he would revise his priorities and find the necessary 700 million crowns from other, primarily investment, sources. TUs had been threatening to strike over the proposed wage reduction which would have lowered the average monthly wage of non-teaching staff to 13,000 crowns a month. The average monthly wage in the Czech Republic is just over 22,000 crowns.
The police have halted an investigation into the detective agency ABL for trailing Prague politicians, the daily Právo reports. Anti-corruption police head Tomáš Martzinec told the paper that the case was dropped in July after it was found that no criminal act had been involved. The charges were pressed by former Public Affairs MP Jaroslav Škárka who claimed that his party had hired the agency to monitor Civic Democrat municipal officials in 2006. ABL was then run by leading Public Affairs’ figure Vít Bárta.
The Czech Mint reports unprecedented interest in investment gold, saying it had sold close to 100 million crowns worth of gold in the past week. The reason behind the heightened interest is the price of gold on world markets and the volatility on stock markets. There has also been a surge in demand for gold coins which are minted annually.
One person was killed and four were seriously injured in an accident involving a packed German tourist bus, truck and car near Buchlov, in Moravia around mid-day on Monday. The accident closed the main road to Slovakia for several hours as police and fire crews worked to release people from the wreckage. The passengers in the car, the truck driver and one bus passenger were airlifted to hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the car died shortly after. More people in the bus suffered lighter injuries. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
An analysis on the grounds of which the Czech Defense Ministry will decide which of its four military airports will be closed down should be ready by September, Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told the CTK news agency on Monday. The minister said at least one, but possibly also two airports, would be slated for closure within a streamlining and modernization process recommended by NATO experts. The ministry should save several hundred million crowns a year in the process, money which can be put into modernization of its fleet and facilities.
Czech pop singer Marie Rottrová has announced she will be retiring after her 2011 autumn concert tour. The singer who started her career in the late 60s has recorded over two dozen albums and CDs. Last year the Music Academy elected her to the Hall of Fame. The singer said she wanted to end her career before hitting 70. An album containing “the best of” is to be released on occasion of her jubilee coming up in November.
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