The Czech government on Wednesday approved the closure of five embassies within extensive cost-cutting measures in 2010. The Czech Republic will be closing down its diplomatic missions in Congo, Venezuela, Kenya, Yemen and Costa Rica. The CTK news agency says that the Czech consulate in Bombay, India may also have to be closed. The planned closure of selected embassies has come under fire from the opposition Social Democrats who claim it will hurt Czech exports. Originally the foreign ministry had proposed closing down as many as ten diplomatic missions. Negotiations are also underway on an embassy sharing scheme within the Višegrad group of states.
Police officers and firemen are planning a joint protest action on September 21 against Interior Minister Radek John’s austerity plan. The minister outlined earlier this week how he expected the ministry to operate on a smaller budget in 2010. He said the priorities were to save on operational expenditures and investments, and decreased pay for police and firemen. Other measures will include cancelling plans for modernizing police and fire departments and purchasing new equipment. The announcement has met with anger from the ranks of police and firefighters who claim that the minister lacks experience in the field and has no idea how his proposals will impact the work of the security forces.
The Senate on Wednesday nominated two candidates for the post of Ombudsman, left vacant following the death of Otakar Motejl in May of this year. They are former constitutional court judge Pavel Varvařovský and the head of the Prague Jewish community Frantisek Banyai. President Klaus, who is also entitled to make nominations to the post, on Tuesday proposed the former governor of south Bohemia Jan Zahradník and civic activist John Bok. The lower house is to elect a new Ombudsman on September 7th.
The Czech Republic has expressed readiness to take in some of the Cuban dissidents who were released from prison following negotiations between the Cuban leadership, Spain and the Catholic Church. The Czech Foreign Ministry says the country can take in as many as ten dissidents with their families. If they decide to accept the offer the Cuban nationals would be given political asylum in the Czech Republic, residence permits and assistance in finding jobs and placing their children in local schools.
Undercover inspectors at Prague Airport have found that one in two taxi-drivers rip off passengers. The inspection was conducted by city hall officials in cooperation with city police who issued over 200 fines. Czech taxi-drivers are notorious for overpricing with Prague city hall getting hundreds of complaints about the problem. The trip from Prague Airport to the city centre should cost around 600 crowns, inspectors say some taxi drivers charged double and in one case the requested fee was 5,000 crowns.
A clean-up operation is underway in the Moravian town of Olešnice which was hit by a small tornado on Tuesday night. The tornado damaged twenty roofs –in one case lifting it and throwing it onto a neighbouring dwelling – and uprooted a number of trees. No one was injured. Tornados are fairly rare in this part of the world but they have been known to occur.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Wednesday addressed the Senate for the first time since taking office. He informed the upper house on the position of the Czech government regarding issues to be discussed at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels in mid-September and responded to questions from senators. The prime minister faced criticism from the opposition benches for making Roman Joch one of his advisers. Mr. Joch raised an outcry last week when he told the media that he would advise the prime minister to scrap the post of government human rights commissioner since he considered it redundant. Mr. Nečas said Mr. Joch was not in an executive post though he admitted that as his advisor he should have expressed his views in a more moderate fashion.
In an interview for the Austrian daily Kurier, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, ruled out a renewed debate on two controversial issues in Czech-Austrian relations: the Benes decrees, sanctioning the expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from post-war Czechoslovakia, and the Temelín nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Mr. Nečas said both issues were closed and there was nothing further to add to the matter. Austria has long pushed for the Benes decrees to be rescinded and as a non-nuclear state, would like to see the Temelín nuclear power plant closed down.
Police investigating the shocking case of an aggressive driver who sent another car flying off the road because the woman driving it was holding him up say they have enough evidence to send the man to court. The incident which was filmed by another driver and later appeared on you tube shows the aggressive driver swerving sharply into the right lane and sending the offending Mazda flying through the air. It landed in a field after turning over several times. Miraculously, the two people in it suffered only light injuries. If found guilty, the aggressive driver could face from five to twelve years in jail.
Czech league champions Sparta Prague face an uphill battle to qualify for the group stage of the lucrative European Champions League on Wednesday night. Sparta travel to Slovak club Žilina where they have to overturn a 0:2 defeat from the first leg last week. Sparta should be helped by the return of star Ivory Coast striker Bony Wilfried but will be missing two other first team players who were yellow carded in the first leg.