Czech Minister of the Interior Ivan Langer has declared that the country is not looking to take in prisoners from the US Guantanamo detention facility. Langer’s comments to Czech Television came as he headed an EU fact-finding trip to Washington to consult with US officials about conditions for accepting the prisoners. The US reportedly wants EU states to take in around 60 of the 245 inmates who are controversially being held as terrorism suspects without trial. Langer together with EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Jacques Barrot, continue their US trip on Tuesday.
A move to cut noise and exhaust pollution on one of Prague’s central transport arteries, Legerova Ulice, has hit problems. A section of the road was cut from four to three lanes at the weekend by local authorities in a bid to deal with one of the capital’s worst pollution blackspots. Predictions of traffic chaos became reality for drivers heading from the centre of Prague southwards across Nusle Bridge during the Monday evening peak hour when a top, level five, traffic snarl up was declared. The scenario was repeated again on Tuesday morning with some reports claiming noise pollution is even worse following the measure.
The Czech presidency of the EU claimed Tuesday a breakthrough in removing barriers faced by citizens living and working abroad when claiming social benefits in their host country. New rules for coordinating of EU social security systems have been hammered out between the presidency and European Parliament after years of wrangling, it said. Electronic data exchange between administrations is one of the main planks of the compromise deal allowing benefits applications to be dealt with faster. The deal still requires final ratification.
A special session of the lower house of Parliament during which the government will face a no confidence motion will take place on March 24, the house’s press office told Czech News Agency late on Tuesday. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, tabled a no confidence vote over the so-called Wolf affair. This centres on attempts by the Prime Minister’s close aid, Marek Dalík, to try and put pressure on Czech Television to drop a programme about former Social Democrat deputy, Petr Wolf. The programme focused on allegations he obtained millions of crowns illegally. Mr. Wolf has sided with the fragile governing coalition in key votes. The confidence motion is the fifth attempt by the Social Democrats to unseat the government.
The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, succeeded Tuesday in tabling a debate in the lower house of Parliament Wednesday over the installation of a US radar on Czech soil. The move to debate the bilateral agreement was opposed by the governing coalition. The small Green Party in particular called for a longer delay to give more time to understand the new US administration’s stand on anti-missile defence and defence alternatives within the North Atlantic alliance. The Greens were able to push in February for a postponement of the debate. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said over the weekend that the US radar would be built, but probably with a delay compared with original plans. The government later withdrew ratification of the agreements from the lower chamber in a move to sidestep the chance that they would be voted down.
Up to 3,000 police will be deployed in Prague for US President Barack Obama’s Prague visit on April-4-5, Prague police director Martin Červíček announced on Tuesday. Earlier police estimates said that around 2,500 police would be on duty. Mr. Červíček said the scale of the police operation corresponded with that undertaken for the NATO summit in the Czech capital in 2002, which cost around 1.0 billion crowns with two thirds of that spent on security. The first of a series of meetings between Prague City authorities, police and public transport chiefs to make preparations was due to be held on Tuesday.
Shares in the real estate developer Orco Property Group plunged when they resumed trading on the Prague Stock Exchange on Tuesday. At one point in morning trading the shares had shed 22.4 percent of their value, falling to around 81 crowns, before rallying somewhat. Trading in the shares were suspended on Monday at the request of the company. It afterwards announced that 2008 results would be delayed until the end of the month. Analysts expect Orco, one of the leading office, hotel and flat developers in the Czech Republic, to eventually declare a loss of around 2.65 billion crowns for last year.
Czech local authorities have voiced their opposition to environment ministry plans to push through an ambitious shake up of the country’s waste and recycling rules, saying they are poorly thought out and will be costly to implement. The Ministry of Environment has tabled a plan calling for obligatory recycling of plastics, paper, glass, metals, drinks cartons and bio-waste with households paying lower waste charges if they recycle more. The Union of Towns and Municipalities together with the Association of Regions have attacked the waste initiative and also called for higher rubbish removal charges to help fill their coffers.
Prague city council decided on Tuesday that it will go ahead alone and rebuild the gutted left wing of the landmark 19th century Art Nouveau Industrial Palace after it was gutted by fire in October last year. Rebuilding costs are estimated at around 1.5 billion crowns. Two-thirds of that will be spent on the devastated wing with the rest earmarked for other improvements. The council has been involved in negotiations with the company that rented the historic site, exhibitions organizer Incheba, to fund the renovation from insurance payments. It has now opted for the faster route of going ahead with reconstruction before wrapping up a deal with Incheba.
The government has approved 30 million crowns to help pay employees at glass works who have not been paid for several months by crisis-hit companies. Unions will help distribute the cash to the most needy cases. The aid comes ahead of an amendment to the current insolvency law which is aimed at tackling such situations in the future.