The Czech military base in the Afghan province Logar came under rocket
fire on Monday night. No injuries are reported. Six rockets were fired at
the base, home to the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team, but only one of
them hit its target. Czech troops fired back and detained four insurgents
whom they later handed over to the Afghan authorities. This is the fourth
attack on the base in the past two weeks. Ten Czech soldiers were injured
in two of the previous attacks.
The Czech government wants to send 200 more troops to the base to improve
security. However, it is not clear if the plan will win approval since the
opposition parties are unwilling to support it, saying that the country
needs to review its goals in Afghanistan and even consider withdrawing its
troops from the country.
An opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency suggests that the majority of Czechs are against sending more troops to Afghanistan. Two thirds of respondents said they did not agree with the government’s plan.
The Czech Army has dismissed reported complaints by Czech soldiers in Afghanistan who say their Dingo 2 armored vehicles are not fit for purpose. The newspaper Lidové noviny quoted soldiers as saying the Dingo had a weak engine and was very sensitive to the type of fuel used. However, the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Vlastimil Picek, said that the problems could be caused by bad quality diesel fuel and that the army was now waiting for the results of an analysis. The Ministry of Defense in September signed a contract to buy another 15 Dingos for more than 30 million crowns (1, 600 000 US dollars) each.
The Czech Finance Ministry has announced a plan to raise guarantees for bank deposits to 50,000 euros, in line with a decision by EU finance ministers. European Union finance ministers agreed at a meeting on Tuesday to raise minimum bank deposit guarantees in Europe to 50,000 euros from 20,000 euros currently. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the Czech measure was permanent, unlike the EU deal which is valid for a year. The Czech government will also guarantee the full amount of deposits, against the current limit of 90 percent.
The head of the Czech Doctors’ Association Milan Kubek has warned that the level of health care in Czech hospitals could soon drop due to a severe lack of doctors and nurses. He says the problem lies in low expenditures on health care and that both doctors and nurses are leaving the country for better paid jobs abroad. In late June, Czech hospitals registered 628 vacancies for doctors. Mr. Kubek said the lack of staff led to employees being severely overworked. He also pointed to the aging of doctors, two thirds of whom are over 50, one fifth over 60 and a mere 7 percent under 40 years of age.
The Central Bohemian branch of the Social Democratic Party is demanding a pledge of loyalty from all candidates running in local elections, due to be held in ten days’ time. If elected Social Democrat representatives should vote against a party resolution or are not present at key votes without a valid reason, they may be fined up to four million crowns. The proposal was put forward by the Central Bohemian election leader David Rath and approved by 85 percent of votes at a regional party conference. Although critics say that the pledge is unethical none of the party’s candidates have publicly opposed the move.
The head of the National Anti-Drug Centre Jiří Komorous has confirmed that he plans to leave his post on February 1st of 2009. Mr. Komorous is leaving at his own request. He has headed the centre since 1995 and told journalists on Tuesday that after 17 years in office it was time for a change of guard. He said he intended to continue working in the field of drug law-enforcement but would not disclose his plans for the future.
The current cult of economic growth at all costs may harm civilization, the former Czech president Václav Havel said in an interview for Z1 TV, a Czech digital television channel, on Monday. Reflecting on the global financial crisis, Mr. Havel said the cult of consumerism, growth and permanent change could lead civilization into an abyss. The dissident-playwright-turned-president suggested that a certain degree of market regulation here and there could help prevent serious economic crises but it would not change people’s growing obsession with money. He said an existential revolution of some kind was needed to make people recover their wits and re-think their priorities.
An exhibition of rare photos showing the crushing of the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968 is on display at a gallery in Vienna. The photographs were taken by Austrian photographer Franc Goess who worked for Paris-Match magazine and happened to be in Prague at the time of the Soviet led invasion. He made 100 shots of the groundbreaking event but they were never published, languishing for decades in an archive. Following an April premiere in Prague – to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia – the collection is now on show at the Westlicht Gallery in Vienna. It will remain on display until mid-October.
The Prague Stock Exchange on Monday registered the biggest daily loss since it was established in 1993, with shares falling by a record 8.46 percent. The PX index fell to a three-and-a-half year low of 1,102.9 points. Financial analysts say it is possible that the decline will continue. Markets worldwide retreated sharply on Monday amid concerns that the spreading financial crisis may push the global economy into recession.
The Czech Finance Ministry is currently not considering raising guarantees for bank deposits due to the word financial crisis, its spokesman Ondřej Jakob has said. Bank deposits have been insured up to 25,000 Euros, which is in line with the law on banks from the year 2001. The Czech National Bank said it didn’t see any reasons for raising the limit either. Ireland and Germany have recently said they would guarantee all deposits in banks in order to raise confidence in the banking sector. Denmark and Austria too plan to adopt these measures.