Seven Czech soldiers were injured in the Afghan province Logar at mid-day Wednesday when terrorists opened rocket fire on a Czech convoy returning to base. None of the soldiers are reported to be in critical condition. The Shank base which is home to the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar has come under fire three times in the past ten days. Three Czech soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in the past two years. Close to 400 Czech troops currently operate in the country, half of them are part of the provincial reconstruction team building hospitals, schools and waterworks in Logar.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved a plan which should see more Czech troops deployed in foreign missions in 2009. While the Czech Republic is gradually withdrawing its troops from Iraq, it plans to strengthen its military presence in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The now 200-strong reconstruction team in Logar is to have 330 members next year. Under the plan, for which the Defense Ministry has earmarked 24 billion crowns, the number of Czech soldiers serving in foreign missions should rise from the present 900 to 1386. The plan still needs to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Several hundred police officers, firefighters and customs employees demonstrated outside the Interior Ministry on Wednesday in support of higher wages. The unions are demanding a 4 percent increase in salaries next year and want the ministry to approve new base pay charts for 2010 which would do away with the existing discrepancy in wages between officers serving in different parts of the country. The Interior Ministry says Wednesday’s protest action was unwarranted since a solution had been found to most of the problems outlined.
The government has earmarked several million crowns to help the thousands of glassmakers who have found themselves out of work after their companies were forced out of business. Bohemia Crystalex Trading, the country’s largest glass producer, said on Tuesday it was forced to close down two big glassworks in Svetlá and Poděbrady, which together employ 1,800 people. The aid money is to be used for re-qualification and in support of new job opportunities.
Traffic in the vicinity of Prague’s Ruzyně airport was disrupted throughout the day by a taxi-drivers’ blockade on Wednesday. The taxi drivers’ union said it was protesting against the conditions of a contract between taxi operators and the airport and would continue to block traffic every work day until the deal was reviewed. Fifty taxis blocked traffic around the airport on Wednesday making life difficult for thousands of passengers. They cleared the way only for ambulances and fire-crews. It is not clear how long the protest will last. Prague Airport management said it was surprised by the move.
Two trains came close to colliding near the town of Olomouc early on Wednesday after one of the train drivers apparently ignored a red light. Disaster was narrowly averted also thanks to the trains’ low speed in the close vicinity of Olomouc railway station. Both were on the same track, traveling in opposite directions. The trains ground to a halt 500 meters apart. One was a passenger train carrying children on their way to school. The incident is being investigated.
Martin Červíček, the former head of the country’s traffic police, was appointed head of the Prague police on Wednesday, replacing Petr Želasko who was assigned to a different position in view of his upcoming retirement. The change of guard was made at the instigation of the Czech Police President Oldřich Martinu. Mr. Želasko has been assigned to deal with new police tasks stemming from the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in the first half of 2009.
One of the four new recordings of the Czech national anthem, made on the initiative of the Czech prime minister, is marred by an extra drumbeat, not a sneeze or cough as assumed earlier. The four new recordings were an effort to spruce up the country’s national anthem and make it more suitable for the present day and age. However, the musicians and sound engineers involved in the somewhat hastily made recordings were embarrassed to learn on Monday that one of the versions was marred by a disruptive sound. According to the daily Lidové Noviny the mistake was noticed by a listener who downloaded the music from the internet.
Shares on the Prague Stock Exchange seesawed on Tuesday. In the first
since US lawmakers rejected a proposed financial rescue deal, share prices
on the main PX index tumbled by 6 percent on Tuesday morning. However, the
decline in share values was later reversed, and prices at the close of
trading were just 0.07 percent below those on Monday evening.
The Czech National Bank reiterated on Tuesday that the Czech economy was relatively isolated from the ongoing financial crisis, saying there was no reason for disquiet.
Banks in the Czech Republic have started limiting the repayment period for loans to one another to a week, the newspaper Hospodařské noviny reported. However, Czech banks have enough cash to finance themselves, by contrast with those in a number of other countries. One analyst told Hospodařské noviny the worst banks in the Czech Republic could expect was a slow-down in profits.