Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff on Thursday during a working visit to Berlin. The official visit is the Prime Minister’s first in Germany since taking power. The main themes for discussion were expected to be the economy, energy relations and energy security. The German press agency reported that the Czech PM told journalists that he had no intention to raise the issue of the Beneš Decrees, saying that Czech-German relations must focus on the future. Germany is the Czech Republic’s biggest trade partner and accounts for around a third of Czech exports.
The excavation of a field where over a dozen Germans civilians are thought to have been murdered and buried immediately after World War Two has resulted in the discovery of six bodies. Local police investigating the event in the village of Dobronín near Jihlava say the remains have been removed for DNA identification and that the dig is now over. Local journalist Miroslav Mareš, who requested the investigation, said Thursday that he was surprised that more bodies had not been uncovered, but that he had full confidence in the work of the police. Testimonies given by the children of the alleged victims suggest that between 11 and 15 Germans were beaten to death by local Czech residents in May of 1945, just weeks after the end of the war. Police detectives opened the case as a murder investigation in September of last year.
Meanwhile, the leader of the displaced Sudeten Germans, Bernd Posselt, welcomed the efforts of the Czech authorities to cast light on crimes relating to the displacement. In a statement to the press, Mr Posselt also called upon Prime Minister Nečas to support investigations into post-war offences and annul so-called impunity laws that sanctioned numerous offences again German civilians in the aftermath of the war.
The region of Liberec was reported to be entirely accessible to traffic on Thursday, nearly two weeks after severe flash floods caused more than two billion crowns in damages to local road infrastructure. A number of detours are still in place and drivers are warned that some roads remain in poor condition. Road connections to many parts of the region were completely severed immediately after the floods, which destroyed seven bridges and left another 112 damaged. Some 830 firemen and 660 soldiers are currently aiding in the ongoing cleanup. Electricity has been returned throughout the region, however 330 households remain without gas and 230 of those lack drinking water.
The Czech Army has announced it will be sending its first Pandur armoured vehicles to Afghanistan in the autumn. The four personnel carriers were custom-modified as combat versions for use by the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar at a cost of tens of millions of crowns. Another 14 Iveco army vehicles will also be sent for use by the training and advisory team in the south of the Wardak province. The armoured carriers in question are currently at the centre of a corruption investigation by Czech and Austrian police, who believe the Austrian manufacturers may have arranged kickbacks on the sale of the vehicles for Czech political parties.
The City of Prague has adopted new regulations for holding public tenders, putting the City Council in charge of tenders worth more than six million crowns. According to the new rules, municipal departmental directors will only be able to announce tenders up to that amount, and companies without clear ownership structures will be excluded from participation. Until now, departmental directors could announce tenders of up to 20 million crowns. The changes are the result of a new anti-corruption strategy passed by the council in June and will apply not only to City Hall but also to the companies owned by the local government, including the transit company, the congress centre and the Municipal House. A new and stricter code of conduct for city councillors is also being prepared.
Labour Minister Platy Jaromír Drábek has put forward a proposal for amendment that would see salaries for state employees decreased by 10% across the board as of 2011. State employees’ unions are strongly opposed to the plan, which they say entails real wage losses of far more than 10% and a considerably lower part of their pay guarantees by law. Chairwoman of the primary union of state employees, Alena Vondrová, told reporters on Thursday that the ministry had broken the law by failing to negotiate the matter with its social partners, and said that workers should turn out in the streets en masse if the proposal is implemented.
The television station Nova reports that last month’s burglary of the Czech Army’s General Staff building was apparently committed by a drunken man who went in through an open window. The station said that the man’s wife had notified the police after she recognised him as the perpetrator in televised security camera footage. While some media at the time of the burglary suspected the involvement of foreign spies, the only missing property was four commemorative medals worth several thousand crowns. If convicted the suspect will face up to two years in prison.
Foreigners who are citizens of the other 26 countries of the European Union with permanent residence in the Czech Republic will be able to vote and stand for office in local elections in October, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The current law on local elections states that citizens of countries with the appropriate bilateral treaties may participate provided they are 18 years of age and have permanent residence in the Czech Republic, however the ministry says that this currently applies only to EU nationals. Eligible foreigners must register to vote at the town hall of their place of residence by October 13. More than 56,000 non-Czech EU citizens have permanent residence in the country at present; nearly half of them are from Slovakia.
Unknown perpetrators severely damaged a battleground monument near Hradec Králové during the night on Wednesday. Police believe the culprits were trying to steal a part of a statue commemorated to fallen Austrian soldiers in the 1866 Battle of Königgrätz when part of it fell on to the road below. Authorities estimate damage to the memorial, which was restored just six years ago, at between 500,000 and a million crowns. The battleground is an officially preserved area where nearly half a million troops met in a decisive episode of the Austro-Prussian War.