According to the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, the Czech Republic
will not back the idea of the European Union monitoring the Rafah border
crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The incentive for just such an operation
was discussed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, one day after the EU
commissioner for the Middle East, Marc Otte, met with senior Israeli and
Palestinian officials. Guarding the border to prevent, for example,
against the smuggling of weapons, would mean unprecedented EU involvement.
Appeals to the European Union have been made by both Israeli and
So far, the EU's foreign ministers have approved to dispatch 50 senior police officers to the Palestinian territories, to take part in training Palestinian police. The Czechs reportedly will have two officers in the group.
Czech police have reported breaking up a drugs gang allegedly organised by prisoners at a maximum security prison. Two men, serving 18 year sentences for double murder are said to have run the gang - which produced methamphetamine - from behind the bars of Valdice prison, making use of cell phones and visits by family members. Seven others have been arrested. According to drug law enforcement head, Jiri Komorous, gang members smuggled methamphetamine, known locally as pervetin, to neighbouring Germany, where they earned the equivalent of about 20,000 US dollars. If found guilty, each of the suspects could face a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.
The Interior Ministry has announced its intention to implement changes at a number of refugee camps. The reason is the fewer number of applicants seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. In 2005 so far some 2,300 have applied for asylum, down markedly from last year and by more than three-quarters since 2003, when 11,400 applied. The aim of changes backed by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan is to improve living conditions for asylum seekers at a number of facilities, while at the same time lowering overall spending. A refugee camp in the Central Bohemian region of Pisek, will be closed down permanently.
The country's largest state-owned health insurance company, VZP, has promised to shorten the length of late payments to hospitals and especially privately-run emergency clinics. The head of the VZP, Jirina Musilkova, said on Monday that until now the insurer had shortened the length of late payments from 45 days to 29, saying she expected the trend to continue. The VZP owes unpaid millions of crowns to doctors and health facilities. Newly-named Health Minister David Rath said at the weekend that the VZP - which he accused of not cooperating with previous administrations - needed to improve its financial situation in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has come out in support of acting Supreme State Prosecutor Renata Vesecka, in particular her plans for fighting corruption. The prime minister met with Mrs Vesecka on Monday prior to her naming to the post of Supreme State Prosecutor later this week. Renata Vesecka replaces Marie Benesova who was dismissed by the government in September. In coming to the post Mrs Vesecka has made clear she will aim to improve state attorneys' records in bankruptcy proceedings, as well as will create special teams to combat terrorism, organised crime, and corruption.
The deputy leader of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Ivan Langer, has called on to interior minister Frantisek Bublan to resign. In a Czech TV discussion programme on Sunday, he accused Mr Bublan of failing in key areas, primarily the passing of a new service law and the stabilisation of the police force. With officers not trusting their superiors, lacking guidance, and being highly inefficient, the police force is in deep crisis, Mr Langer says.
The head of the VZP, the largest state-owned health insurance company, faces dismissal if she fails to take steps to get the company out of its bad financial situation. According to health minister David Rath, who was named into the post on Friday, VZP management - which is battling with growing debt - has not been cooperating with other administrations and fails to fulfil tasks that are stated by law. He says he fears the days of Jirina Musilkova (VZP director) are numbered if she does not improve the company's finances in the next few weeks.
The Czech Republic's Land Fund will review around fifty-five real estate contracts closed from June 7 to July 1. The Fund, which primarily manages state-owned real estate, is looking into allegations that it transferred some 600 hectares of lucrative land to speculators, in deals that profited them two billion crowns. The deputy director of the Fund's executive committee, Karel Machovec, says two employees have already been fired in connection with the affair. The opposition Civic Democrats called onto agriculture minister Petr Zgarba, who chairs the Fund, to resign from the post of minister last week.
The member of the lower house of parliament and former transport minister, Martin Riman, has proposed to move some ministries and state institutions from Prague to the north Moravian city of Ostrava. The opposition Civic Democrat says the decentralisation of important state administration bodies is the only way in which the wide gap between the wealthy capital city Prague and the rest of the country can be reduced. The idea has been dismissed by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek.
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