The Czech Republic will begin issuing passports fitted with microchips from August next year, in line with other countries in the European Union, said Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan. In the following two years the chips will include an electronic image of the holder's face. More advanced chips due to be introduced in 2008 will also feature fingerprints.
The government has donated another 40 million crowns in humanitarian aid to the region of Pakistan devastated by a recent earthquake. This brings total aid for Pakistan to 110 million crowns (around 4.5 million dollars). Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said some funds would probably be made available for the treatment of Pakistani earthquake victims here in the Czech Republic.
The Czech football star Milan Baros has said his English club Aston Villa may not allow him to play in the Czech Republic's World Cup play-offs in the middle of November. The club's manager expressed frustration recently when Baros returned from international duty injured and unable to play. The Czech team's other first-choice striker, Jan Koller, underwent an operation recently and is not expected to play for another six months.
The Czech National Bank has raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent, with the benchmark two-week repo rate growing to 2.0 percent to stand level with the euro zone rate. Year-on-year inflation in September reached 2.2 percent, a marked acceleration from 1.7 percent in August. However, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka questioned the central bank's decision, which he said was premature.
The Lower House has postponed by a year a definitive decision on salary increases for policemen, customs officers and secret service agents. The amendment to the law passed by the Lower Chamber on Wednesday limits wage increases in the coming year and lowers the ceilings on allowances and severance pay. The opposition Civic Democrats have criticized the postponement, saying that the police force will now have to do for another year without a new service law that would open the way for its reform.
Frantisek Dohnal is likely to be the new head of the Supreme Audit
Dohnal, whose candidacy was proposed by the Christian Democrats, won overwhelming support from deputies in the Lower Chamber. His nomination will now be put to President Vaclav Klaus. The post of president of the Supreme Audit Office has been vacant since June of 2003 when Lubomir Volejnik died in office. Since then Parliament has been unable to agree on who should replace him.
Ten people were injured, one seriously, when a locomotive ploughed into a passenger train in the eastern part of the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning. Paradoxically the locomotive was on its way to help the passenger train which had got stuck between the towns of Zator and Milotice, where the rails had become clogged with dead leaves. In heavy fog, and possibly due to the state of the tracks the locomotive failed to brake in time and collided head on with the passenger train. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Czech pharmacists' and dentists' associations are refusing to deal with David Rath, the recently appointed deputy health minister, while he remains head of the Czech Medical Chamber, an association of Czech doctors. Pharmacists and dentists claim that this violates the conflict of interest law and is a breach of professional ethics. President Klaus used the same argument last week when he refused to appoint David Rath to the post of health minister. Mr. Rath has said he would suspend his chairmanship of the Medical Chamber only if he is appointed health minister.