A group of Czech deputies has begun a visit to Czech army units in Afghanistan. Ten members of the lower house’s foreign affairs and security committee have travelled to the war-torn state just ahead of a vote on whether to increase the number of Czech soldiers there. The government wants to increase from 415 to 645 membership of a provincial reconstruction team in Lowgar province. If Wednesday’s vote passes, 100 specialised soldiers will also fight the Taliban as part of the US-led Enduring Freedom campaign. Deputies will also consider whether to maintain the Czech mission of 550 soldiers in Kosovo.
The Finance Ministry has signed a contract with the Deloitte Advisory and CMS Cameron McKenna consortium on consulting in the privatisation of the country’s national carrier, Czech Airlines (ČSA). The state holds a 91.5 percent stake in the carrier and is aiming to find a buyer by the second half of next year. ČSA has been estimated as worth 5 billion crowns (close to 260 million US dollars). The successful bidder in the tender will be chosen over two rounds.
The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has given a million crown fine to the Ostrava Transport Authority for failing to act on the dangers of a local tram route, which saw a deadly collision this year. A year earlier, the route saw a number of near-misses on a section of single-track that went unreported. This year, tragedy on the route was not averted: three people were killed and dozens injured when trams collided in April. It is the second time inspectors have handed down the fine: Ostrava’s Transport Authority successfully appealed the first decision with the Transport Ministry. The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has now provided additional information in the case.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition has completed an investigation into the largest tender in the history of the Czech police force, finding no wrongdoing in proceedings. The tender on new police vehicles, worth 1.3 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 68 million US dollars) favoured the Mladá Boleslav-based car manufacturer Škoda Auto. The Ford Motor Company put forward a complaint alleging that the Interior Ministry set conditions which unfairly favoured the winning company.
Police in Plzeň have charged the parents of a one-and-a-half year old toddler in a case of suspected child abuse. On Saturday, neighbours reported the boy’s injuries - heavy burns on both his face and feet - to the authorities. The boy remains in hospital. Both suspects were arrested at the weekend and are expected to remain in custody. If found guilty they could face between two to eight years in prison.
Three Prague police officers face charges for the alleged abuse of power involving blackmail. The three allegedly blackmailed a driver stopped on the road earlier in the year without a driver’s licence. The man was then taken to a remote location, where he was reportedly threatened by the officers before he handed over 10 thousand crowns. The case will now go to court.
Shopping ahead of the holiday season has seen some Czechs travel all the way to Dresden, Germany, for lower prices, the regional German daily Sachsische Zeitung has reported. Clothing and electronic items are reportedly top items of interest. One local shopping centre conducted a study finding that for one hundred thousand consumers per day, three percent were Czech.
Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic are on the verge of signing 18-year-old Czech left-back Milan Mišůn, the player's agent has reported. Currently with FK Příbram in the Czech league, Mišůn spent last week at Celtic's training centre, leaving an impression on manager Gordon Strachan. Mišůn has also attracted attention from Italian giants AC Milan, but after negotiations it appears the highly-rated player will go to Celtic.
The Czech Republic’s budget deficit could rise to CZK 70 billion next year due to a slowing of the economy, the minister of labour, Petr Nečas, said on a TV debate programme on Sunday. He said if there was a recession the shortfall could be even greater. The 2009 budget, which was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, envisages a deficit of CZK 38.1 billion. Minister Nečas said the government would reassess the budget at the beginning of 2009 according to economic developments in the latter part of this year.