Representatives of various Czech non-governmental organisations, who met in Prague on Thursday to discuss living conditions in the Czech Republic, stressed that the fight against poverty cannot be won without a simultaneous fight against the bad attitude of most of society towards poorer citizens. According to NGOs like Hope and the Olga Havlova Foundation, the Czech Republic is also in need of a law that would help poorer citizens integrate into society. They point out that some places of residence still lack effective waste management and a proper canal system and any attempts to lead a better life are therefore hindered by bad living conditions. Czech Statistical Office figures show that 1.2 percent of Czech households have an income that is well below the living wage.
The Czech Republic beat Armenia 3:0 away on Wednesday night in a qualifying game for the 2006 football World Cup. Two of the Czechs' goals came from Jan Koller, who is now just two short of the national record of 34 goals set by Antonin Puc before World War II. The Czech Republic's next World Cup qualifier is against Macedonia next month.
If the Czech Republic fails to introduce mandatory retirement savings plans as part of the reform of the pension system, it will soon find itself bankrupt, according to leading Czech economists. During a presentation of the basic parameters of pension reform on Thursday, economic analyst David Marek estimated that the Czech Republic will accumulate a debt of 280 percent of its GDP in the next fifty years, and 1000 percent by 2075, if mandatory savings plans are not enforced. The planned reform of the pension system is scheduled for 2006. The country's debt currently totals 40 percent of the GDP.
The attempt of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to fight corruption with the help of anonymous reports, has failed to bear fruit. Since a special telephone line that citizens can call to file corruption cases was set up in September, only three people have dialled the number; all three, however, had no corruption cases to report but many complaints. One man for example, who also sent the ministry an e-mail, called to complain about the bad labour market in the Bruntal region.
Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill which will substantially increase the salaries of police officers, customs officers and fire fighters. As of January 2005 people in these professions will receive an average 32,000 crowns (around 1,000 euros) per month. The bill was strongly opposed by the Christian Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats who argued that it would raise mandatory expenditures to an unacceptable level. The head of Parliament's budget committee, Miroslav Kalousek, failed in his attempt to get the pay increase postponed by two years.
Police President Jiri Kolar has dismissed the statement by regional state attorney Zlatuse Andelova who said on Tuesday that the arrest of two men suspected of trying to bribe MP Zdenek Koristka was unlawful. Two close associates of opposition Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek were dramatically arrested two weeks ago on charges of a corruption attempt but were later released. The regional state attorney Zlatuse Andelova also cast doubt on the lie-detector test that MP Koristka passed, saying that some of the results were not clear. Following Ms Andelova's statement, the Civic Democratic Party called on Police President Jiri Kolar and Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan to resign.
Four people died in a car accident near the town of Plzen on Tuesday morning, after a collision involving two cars and a van. A further three were taken to hospital with injuries. The accident was the latest in a series of road fatalities in recent days, and the last week has been the worst in terms of road deaths since July 2003.
President Klaus has granted pardon to a man who shot dead a thief in his backyard. The thief was allegedly armed and had tried to run the owner over with his car. According to the president's spokesman Mr. Klaus felt that the trial and sentencing were sufficient punishment for a man who had acted in self defence. This is the second time that the president has pardoned someone sentenced for manslaughter. In the first case he pardoned a twenty two year old boy who killed his father in a fight after suffering years of beatings and brutality from him. In both cases the local community appealed to the President to grant a pardon.
The state attorney's office in Ostrava has recommended that the charges of bribery against Marek Dalik and Jan Vecerek be withdrawn. State attorney Zlatuse Andelova said on Tuesday that the two men had been detained and charged on insufficient grounds. She likewise challenged the results of the lie detector test which parliament deputy Zdenek Koristka undertook to prove that he was telling the truth when he said that Dalik and Vecerek had offered him ten million crowns in return for a no-confidence vote in the present government. Koristka said he found the state attorney's statements scandalous.
The Spolchemie chemical plant in the northern Czech town of Usti nad Labem has confirmed that was a leak of hydrogen chloride on Monday morning. Local residents noticed a strong smell at the time of the leak, but the plant's management says that no special safety measures were needed. They said that the leak occurred while pipes were undergoing routine repairs and was brought under control almost immediately. There have been several chemical leaks from the plant in recent years, and there has been growing pressure in the town for the more dangerous parts of the plant's production to be moved to a site more distant from residential areas.