The recent lifting of controls on the Czech-German border has led to “a dramatic rise” in the number of cases of illegal migrants crossing the border, the German daily Bild has written, citing statistics by the German police which have yet to be officially published. Internal border controls were lifted in late December when the Czech Republic joined the Schengen zone. According to Bild, more than 600 illegal migrants have been detained in German-Czech border areas in recent weeks alone. By comparison, the daily writes, 480 or so illegal migrants were detained along the German borders with Poland and the Czech Republic during the entire first half of 2007. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek recently discussed the issue of illegal migration with his Austrian counterpart; both sides in those talks pledged more would have to be done to lessen the problem.
Top representatives of the three coalition parties in government - meeting on Thursday -failed to reach agreement on the return of Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek to the cabinet. Members of the Civic Democrats, the Green Party and the Christian Democrats, discussed a number of alternatives, none of which were found acceptable. The Green Party’s Dana Kuchtová said afterwards that Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is now likely to decide on Mr Čunek’s future in government himself. According to reports, both the Civic Democrats and the Greens have tried to dissuade the Christian Democrats from a Čunek “comeback”; while the politician, who stepped down as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development earlier this year, was cleared of corruption in a high profile case, he has been damaged publicly on different allegations of welfare abuse.
Police in the east Moravian town of Zlín have charged three youths – said to be skinheads aged 15 to 17 – for an alleged racially-motivated attack against a Sri Lankan exchange student. The attack against the student took place in Zlín last November. The youths are suspected of having brutally beaten the man by kicking him in the head and stomach. A study commissioned by the police revealed the attack could easily have left serious damage. As none of the three suspects are of age, if found guilty each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The number of applicants seeking asylum in the Czech Republic dropped last year, the Interior Ministry reported on Friday. Fewer than 2,000 foreigners applied for asylum in the Czech Republic in 2007, the lowest figure since 1995. Over a quarter of these were submitted by nationals from Ukraine and Turkey. Of the applications, 191 were successful: 32 came from Belarus, 31 from Russia, 19 from Ukraine and 17 from Iraq. While the number of asylum seekers from Ukraine has traditionally been high, the number of Turkish applicants rose several times since 2006. Now that the Czech Republic has entered the Schengen area, the number of asylum applications is expected to drop. Unlike Poland or neighbouring Slovakia, the country now only shares borders with other Schengen countries, making it more difficult for foreigners to apply. Anyone seeking asylum must legally do so in the first Schengen country they enter.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency, commissioned by the opposition Social Democrats, has suggested that around 52 percent of Czechs would vote for Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar for Czech president, if they could. The results were published in the left-leaning daily Právo on Friday. Incumbent president and rival Václav Klaus fared only slightly worse, with 48 percent support in the poll on the upcoming vote. The election will in not decided by the public but by Parliament. Mr Švejnar has been supported by the Social Democrats, the Greens, as well as a number of senators from smaller parties as well as a number of Communist and Christian Democrat lawmakers. Two-thirds of those surveyed by STEM made clear they consider Mr Švejnar a serious rival to the current president. The election will be held on February 8.
Feature films and series shoots dominated at Prague’s well-known Barrandov Studio in 2007, the firm’s Anna Hanzalková told the Czech news agency ČTK on Friday. According to the representative, demand outnumbered capacity last year, with much of Barrandov being blocked for the second instalment of the blockbuster fantasy film Prince Caspian - part of the Narnia series. Larger TV commercial shoots also dominated. As a result, several dozen smaller commercials and projects reportedly had to be turned away. In recent years Barrandov has been even more high-profile projects, including 2006’s Casino Royale, with actor Daniel Craig in the role of famous British spy James Bond.
The three government parties will assess the impact of the fees newly introduced in health care after six months, Health Minister Tomáš Julínek said on Thursday. The leaders of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens agreed that health care reforms will continue and that possible changes will be proposed under a new bill on health insurance. Mr Julínek said some issues which have come under criticism would be dealt with in the summer. Since January 1, Czechs pay 30 crowns per visit to the doctor’s, 60 crowns per day for visits to the hospital and 90 crowns per visit to the emergency room. The opposition Social Democrats have lodged a complaint against the fees with the Constitutional Court.
Czech international Jan Koller has gotten off to a good start with his new club FC Nuremburg in the German Budesliga, where the player recently transferred from Monaco. In his debut the player scored in a preliminary match against Frankfurt, also home to a new Czech player Martin Fenin. The game ended as a 1:1 tie. Besides Koller, Nuremburg is home to other Czech players, keeper Jaromír Blažek and midfielder Tomáš Galásek.
In NHL action on Thursday evening Czech ice hockey players Rostislav Olesz
and Kamil Kreps helped their team the Florida Panthers down Atlanta 4:3 on
penalties. Former Atlanta goalie Tomáš Vokoun caught the final penalty
for the Florida win.
In other action Patrik Eliáš scored the winner for New Jersey against Carolina: the Devils won 4:1.
The government hopes to ask MPs to vote in April on US plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said after talks in Prague with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk. The vote would ideally take place following a NATO summit in Bucharest, said Mr Topolánek. However, he added that the cabinet would not set a concrete date, because the vote could be delayed by what he called external factors. Mr Tusk, in the Czech capital for a one-day official visit, said Poland and the Czech Republic had the same position on Washington’s plans. His country will play host to US rockets if the project goes ahead.