The fight against people smugglers and steps to curb the flow of illegal migrants from North Africa to Europe should be the key priorities at the EU’s informal summit in Malta, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists on the eve of the meeting. The prime minister said the Czech Republic fully supports closer cooperation with North African states on ways to stem the flow of refugees and curb the operations of people smugglers in the Mediterranean. He said he did not expect the issue of migrant quotas to be a subject of debate but noted that the Czech Republic’s negative stance to quotas remained unchanged. EU leaders are also expected to discuss Brexit and EU-US relations under the Trump administration.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has welcomed the outcome of the parliamentary investigation into the police reform and called on the leader of the ANO party, Andrej Babiš, to apologize to the police president for suggesting he had tried to block investigations and destabilize the force. Sobotka indicated that ANOs attack on the work of its coalition partner, the Social Democrats, was driven by political interests ahead of the general elections, and slammed the party for resorting to a campaign based on slander and lies which were spread by the media owned by party leader Andrej Babiš. Babiš countered that the work of the parliamentary committee was a farce.
Icy roads have been causing severe traffic problems around the country. The D8 highway to Germany was closed for five hours in both directions on Thursday following a pile-up. A heightened number of accidents are reported from all parts of the country with maintenance crews out in force even in the Czech capital where buses along five routes temporarily ground to a halt around midday. All of the city’s ambulances were in the field with emergency calls from 21 pedestrians who had taken a bad fall within the space of an hour.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has denied claims that hackers who broke into email accounts at the Foreign Ministry over a period of several months had managed to gain access to classified information. At a press briefing in Prague on Thursday, Minister Zaorálek said that while the hackers had accessed information that could be sensitive for persons and institutions, such as from his own email account, they had not managed to break into any classified information accounts. The leak of these mails is unfortunate, but it is not a threat to national security, the minister stressed. The breach of security was announced on Tuesday and the media have since cited security sources as saying thousands of pieces of data – including classified information – had been gradually downloaded from the ministry’s email accounts.
Unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2016 fell to 3.6 percent, the lowest ever in Czech history, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Thursday. There has also been a significant drop in the number of people who have been out of work for longer than a year. Labour offices registered 192, 500 unemployed at the end of 2016, with a slight prevalence of women (101, 900). Economic experts say the drop in unemployment and the lack of skilled workers on the labour market will bring about further wage growth.
Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against the cancellation of a verdict in the corruption case of former Social Democrat governor of Central Bohemia David Rath. The Prague High Court cancelled the verdict on the grounds that it was based on the unlawful use of wiretappings. It returned the case to the Regional Court which will not be able to use the wiretapping recordings as evidence in new proceedings. The Regional Court sentenced Rath to 8.5 years in prison and the forfeiture of some 20 million crowns for corruption in July 2015. The verdict of the Prague High Court’s has also come under fire from the Prague State Attorney’s Office.
A Parliamentary committee set up to investigate a controversial reorganization of the police force in 2016 has concluded that the affected changes were not made in view of interfering with ongoing investigations or removing the former head of the national squad for fighting organized crime Robert Šlachta from his post. The head of the committee, Pavel Blažek, told the lower house on Thursday that the interior minister and police president were not obliged by law to consult an overhaul of the police force with state attorneys, but he criticized the fact that the reform had been prepared in haste and poorly communicated. The investigation likewise failed to confirm allegations of a serious information leak from the ranks of the police and found no evidence of the reform having been driven by lobbyist of political interests. The investigation concerned the merger of two elite crime fighting units into a National Centre against Organized Crime.
Czech scientists have conducted research suggesting that brightly coloured male species do not have any sexual advantage over their more dowdy peers. Research carried out by scientists at the Academy of Biology on zebra fish found that sperm from brighter coloured fish was not healthier than others. In contrast, it was often more lethargic and less healthy. Many male birds and fish use bright colours, usually resulting from the organic pigment carotenoid, to attract partners with the common assumption that brighter meant better sperm.