The Interior Ministry has for the first time admitted that some 800 agents of the former communist secret service are still working in the country's police force. The new interior minister Ivan Langer said that he wants all former StB officers to leave the police as soon as possible. He plans to use a new civil service law which is to take effect on January 1 2007 to carry out the planned personnel changes. The former interior minister Frantisek Bublan has criticized Mr. Langer's plan saying that the people in question had been given a chance to serve the new democracy and that sacking them 17 years after the collapse of the communist regime seemed unjust.
Jan Kohout, the Czech Republic's ambasador to the EU, accused the European Commission on Tuesday of deceiving the bloc's 10 new member states over the timing of their entry into the EU's Schengen border free zone. The Commission said earlier this month that the 10 new states' entry into the Schengen area, originally scheduled for October 2007, would be delayed by at least a year. Mr. Kohout rejected the Commission's argument that the delay was due to technical difficulties in setting up a new police data base, saying opening borders was a political issue and the delay reflected "the political views in some member states." The Czech diplomat said the EU must keep the October 2007 date or risk losing public confidence among people in the new EU states.
Czech and Austrian border guards have started joint patrols of the two country's common border. This form of cooperation enables them to move freely over a ten-kilometre zone on both sides of the border and should improve their chances of detaining criminals and foreign migrants. The border guards have had to pass tests in the other country's language and laws.
The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes suggests in its Tuesday edition that one of the four men arrested in Norway - a Pakistani with Norwegian citizenship - had close links with a Kosovo Albanian drug dealer Princ Dobrosi who was arrested in Prague and extradited to Norway in 1999. He was released from jail early for good behaviour and often visits the Czech capital where his wife and children have permanent residence. Dobrosi allegedly met with one of the four terrorist suspects in Prague over the summer. The authorities have refused to comment on a possible connection.
The new Czech government will ask Parliament for a vote of confidence on Tuesday, October 3rd. The minority Civic Democrat cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was appointed to office on September 4th and in line with Czech legislation has 30 days in which to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence. Political analysts predict that its chances of gaining support are slim since at present it can only rely on its own 81 deputies. Intense behind the scenes negotiations are now underway to win support from other parties. The cabinet would need 101 votes to win support.
The Czech branch of Transparency International says that the roots of corruption in the Czech Republic are embedded in the workings of Czech political parties. In a study published on Tuesday the Czech branch of the international watchdog criticizes the lack of transparency in the system of funding of political parties, the high level of immunity which parliament deputies and senators benefit from and the low effectiveness of criminal investigations against politicians. Transparency claims that Czech law-makers can often influence the investigation into their own criminal activities.
Tougher security measures remain in place around key sites in Prague as the country's intelligence services investigate the heightened treat of a terrorist attack. The government introduced the measures on Saturday night on the grounds of what it said was "the most serious threat of a terrorist attack the country had ever faced". Prague's mayor Pavel Bem told the press on Tuesday that the extraordinary measures would last for at least one week. There is speculation that the terrorist threat is linked to the arrest of four men in Norway who are suspected of planning terrorist attacks on the US and Izraeli embassies in Oslo.
A new poll suggests that Vlasta Parkanova, the chairwoman of the Christian Democrat parliamentary party, is the most popular Czech politician. The poll, carried out by the STEM agency suggests that Ms Parkanova is followed by Prague Mayor Pavel Bem of the Civic Democrats and the chairman of the Green Party, Martin Bursik, in the third place. Civic Democrat head Mirek Topolanek came fourth and Social Democrat chairman and ex-PM Jiri Paroubek ended in sixth place.
The government has approved a state budget proposal for 2007 with a deficit of 91.3 billion crowns, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told reporters on Monday afternoon after an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet at Kolodeje Chateau outside Prague. The budget has yet to be approved by the lower house of parliament.
Spanish police have detained a boat off the coast of Ibiza which was transporting 2.4 tons of cocaine. There is one Czech citizen among the three people arrested; the others are Croatian and Bulgarian. It is one of the largest drug busts in the region, and police believe that they have detained people working for an international drug cartel.