Petr Hostek has been appointed head of the National Security Office. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who nominated him for the post, described him as a dedicated professional with an excellent reputation. Parliament's defence and security committee approved Hostek's nomination earlier this week. Hostek, 42, graduated from the military academy at Vyskov, was a professional soldier for several years and is now deputy director of the central Bohemian police force. He replaces Jan Mares who resigned as head of the National Security Office when it emerged that he had links with highly suspect individuals. The office itself has been harmed by a number of corruption scandals in recent months.
Waste disposal crews have started clearing out the remains of several dumps of illegal German waste from the town of Libceves. The Bavarian authorities recently acknowledged responsibility for some of the imported waste and have been conferring with the Czech side on how to deal with the matter. Some of the waste dumps were set on fire when the police started investigating and the locals have put pressure on the Czech authorities for them to be removed as soon as possible. Since the beginning of the year over 20 thousand tons of waste has been illegally imported to Czech border areas from neighbouring Germany.
Czech cross country skier Katerina Neumannova, Olympic gold medal winner in the 30 kilometres free event and reigning world champion for the 10 kilometres free, said Thursday she will continue to compete for one more season, which would definitely be her last. Neumannova also revealed that she would split with her long time trainer, Stanislav Fruhauf. The skier's Olympic trophy tally also includes five other silver and bronze medals won in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 games. She also took part in the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics in 1996 in the cross country cycling event.
Talks with Canadian authorities on lifting the visa requirement for Czech citizens are reportedly making headway. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek told reporters on Thursday that he had high hopes the matter would be resolved ahead of the summer holiday season. The Czech Republic has been pressing for years to get the unilateral visa requirement lifted and on a working visit to Canada this week the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda warned his counterpart that unless the matter was resolved soon the Czech Republic would take reciprocal measures. The Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay is to visit the Czech Republic in June and the matter of visas is expected to top the agenda of the talks.
The police have cleared the leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek of suspicion of shady finances. A police spokesperson said an investigation into how Mr. Topolanek had acquired his Prague flat had revealed no irregularities. The investigation was conducted on the grounds of an anonymous letter which claimed that the flat had been paid for by the power company CEZ.
The Czech fixed-line telephone operator Cesky Telecom, 69.4-percent owned by the Spanish phone giant Telefonica, said Thursday its general meeting had approved a merger with the mobile business Eurotel and the renaming of the combined company as Telefonica 02 Czech Republic. The new company is expected to take shape during the middle of the year with the expected benefits being felt from 2007.
France will partially open its labour market to citizens from the new EU member countries as of May 1st. The French ambassador to the Czech Republic Joel de Zorzi said on Thursday that people in selected professions would get work permits automatically as of this date. The opening concerns people with manual professions, mainly craftsmen. At present citizens from the new EU member states can work freely only in Britain, Ireland and Sweden. Spain, Portugal and Finland are also considering a partial liberalization.
A German court has ruled that a Czech fugitive prisoner will be extradited to the Czech Republic if he gets a retrial. Rostislav Roztocil, who was found guilty of murdering an Egyptian student in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, escaped from the Pilsen prison in West Bohemia last November. He turned himself in to the police in Germany a few weeks later but maintains his innocence.
The Chamber of Deputies has decided to lower value added tax on certain basic foodstuffs. VAT on coffee, tea, and chocolate products, for example, is currently 19 percent and is to be lowered to 5 percent. If the plan is approved by the Senate and signed by the President, alcoholic beverages would be the only foodstuffs with 19 percent VAT.
Czech conservationists are trying to determine the value of a large painting that was found stored at a depository of the Valtice Chateau near Breclav, south Moravia. The painting dates back to the second half of the eighteenth century and was believed to feature Prince Joseph Wenceslas Lichtenstein, who owned the estate at the time, and his extended family. More intense research, though, has uncovered that the Prince is standing next to the Empress Maria Theresa and her relatives.