A Czech soldier has died in Afghanistan along with three Danish troops as a result of a suicide bomb attack which killed 11 other people. The bomb attack occurred in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in the south of the country and was aimed at NATO troops operating in the area. The Taliban has admitted that it was behind the attack. Two other Czech soldiers were reported injured in the blast which occurred at a local marketplace. The Czech soldiers were members of a special forces unit working under the umbrella of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) operating in the country.
The Czech government has approved draft legislation which would enable Czechs who were forced to surrender their citizenship to become Czech citizens again. The draft law, which would also extend to the children of former Czechs, would no longer require applicants to surrender citizenship of their “new” home country. If approved by Parliament such legislation would cover many Czechs who went into exile following both the Nazi and communist regimes, and subsequently lost their Czech citizenships. Parliament deputies who are now debating the proposed changes will also consider whether those applying for Czech citizenship must be able to speak the Czech language and demonstrate a basic knowledge about the country’s history and culture.
A newly released survey from the Czech polling agency STEM suggests that Czechs are losing faith in their parliament as well as in their president. The poll suggests that only 24% of Czechs are satisfied with Parliament’s performance, a four percent decrease on the previous month. Analysts suggest that these figures reflect public dissatisfaction in the wake of last month’s fiasco surrounding the presidential elections, in which the incumbent Václav Klaus was ultimately re-elected by Parliament for a second term. The STEM data also suggest that only 29 percent of Czechs have a favourable view of the current government, while the president still enjoys the support of 59% of Czechs – though the figure represents a 14 percent fall in popularity from June 2007.
Newly released data from the Czech Interior Ministry suggests that last year 238 police officers were found to have committed crimes. This represents a 16 percent increase on the previous year’s figures, and the first rise in officially catalogued police criminality since 2003. According to the data, the most transgressions were committed by the riot, transport, criminal and foreign police. The data also suggests a 12 percent rise in the numbers of police found to have taken bribes – from seven in 2006 to twelve in 2007.
The Czech National bank has asked people to be extremely cautious of and not respond to emails that claim to be from the bank. The news comes after it was announced that fraudsters had secured an email account that mirrored the email address of the national bank. The email address email@example.com has been highlighted as not belonging to the bank. This comes in the wake of a number of similar “phising” scandals in recent days, in which Czechs gave away bank details to criminals operating fake websites after receiving bogus emails.
Unsuccessful Czech presidential hopeful Jan Švejnar has added his voice to the debate over the recent award given by the Czech Prime Minister to the Mašin brothers. In an interview with the website novinky.cz, Švejnar stated that this was an issue that divided Czechs more than any other and added that although he valued the Mašin brothers, he would not personally have rewarded them with a Prime Ministerial medal. Josef and Ctirad Mašin achieved notoriety for escaping communist Czechoslovakia during the 1950s – they are criticized by some for the excessive violence used in their escape, which allegedly includes terrorism and murder.
The Czech post office is reeling from a discovery on Friday of 71 bags of undelivered letters in a former postal depot in the Czech town of Břeclav. In total, the sacks are believed to contain approximately 63,000 letters. Since the news broke, the scandal has intensified with the discovery that around half of the letters have been opened by unknown persons. At present, the police are investigating the matter, while the Czech Post Office attempts to make sure that the letters reach their intended recipients. The sacks are believed to contain letters that were posted from abroad by air-mail between 2001 and 2006.
The Czech government has failed to approve a proposed law that would enable fines of up to 10 million crowns to be levied on retail chains that abuse their dominant position in the marketplace. The proposed regulation, put forward by the opposition Social Democrats, along with the Alliance of Czech Food Producers, would have mandated that retail giants negotiate fair deals with suppliers and would also mandate an ethical codex be put in place for stores doing more than 5 billion crowns worth of business of year. The ruling Civic Democrats have insisted that current legislation is sufficient to deal with this issue. Despite not being supported by the government, the proposed legislation will still be debated in the lower chamber.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has admitted the country’s new system of healthcare fees may see changes following detailed analysis. Speaking on a TV debate programme on Sunday he said that he was willing to make some concessions on the issue but stressed that the more exceptions there were, the less effective the system would be. Fees for visits to the doctor’s, hospitals, and emergency wards were introduced in January as part of the government’s reform package. Since then, they have been strongly criticised by the opposition. This week a deputy leader of coalition member the Christian Democrats put forward her own proposal for the abolishment of fees for newborns in hospitals, a proposal the prime minister expects will be withdrawn.