The Supreme Audit Office has expressed concern over the Czech Environment Ministry’s use of EU funds awarded to fight pollution and lower emissions. Inspectors from the office said Monday that even though the country does not meet most of the union’s emission limits, only a small portion of funds from the Operational Program “Environment” has been used to fight pollution and lower emissions to date. Inspectors said that while 18 billion crowns had been earmarked for the Czech Republic for the years 2007 to 2013, the total budget of projects approved by the ministry nearly four years after the start of the program amounted to only 1.5 billion crowns. This was connected to the Czech Republic’s unfavorable legal situation regarding air pollution. NKU inspectors have warned that the European Commission may call for sanctions to be imposed on the Czech Republic over its violation of emission limits should the funds not be used by 2013.
Eleven branches of the labor office workers’ union from across the
country have harshly criticized Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír
Drábek and are calling for his resignation over problems connected to the
introduction of a new system of making welfare payments. According to
members, the new computer system that was introduced as part of a
far-reaching social reform is not functional; the minister is downplaying
the situation, which union leaders have called “fatal”. Among the
unions’ main complaints is that the new software is preventing them from
efficiently performing their job and paying out welfare in the necessary
time frame. However, the ministry announced last week that the majority of
welfare payments for January would be dispensed on time.
IT-workers from labor offices across the country have backed the unions. According to a report that they have handed over to the ministry, the new system lacks connectivity between different applications and has failed to fully digitalize the welfare application process.
A Czech student who had been sent to Papua New Guinea for a research trip was killed on January 27th. He was working on his dissertation at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice and was an employee of the university’s entomological institute. His doctoral thesis focused on the ground beetle. He died after a fall into a ravine in Papua New Guinea’s Finisterre mountain range.
A decapitated head that was found in Prague’s Karlín district on Sunday
belongs to the body of a dead woman, whose torso and limbs were found in
Prague at the end of last year, a medical examination confirmed on Monday.
Police are investigating the case and have called on the public to contact
them with any possible clues that would help identify the woman.
The head was found on Sunday at the corner of Pobřežní and Šaldova streets, in an area that is frequented by homeless people. The find was the latest in a series of gruesome discoveries in the Czech capital: at the beginning of December hands cut at the wrists and taped together were found near the Kunratice stream.
A bus collided with a car near the town of Rychnov in the Hradec Králové region on Monday morning. The driver of the car was killed in the accident; another five people were injured. According to police, the accident happened around 7 a.m., when the driver of the automobile swerved out of his lane and into the opposing traffic. Police say it is not yet clear what caused the driver to swerve into oncoming traffic and are investigating the case.
Across the country, temperatures are set to drop to record lows in the upcoming week. The Czech Hydrometeorogical Institute has warned that in areas where deep frost will hit, temperatures can reach up to minus 20 degrees Celsius on Tuesday; with conditions expected to get harsher on the weekend, when in some regions, temperatures could drop to minus 35 degrees. In the Jeseníky district, the lowest temperature record of -16.4 degrees centigrade was broken on Monday; meteorologists measured temperatures of -19.9 degrees Celsius. Near the town of Vsetín, in the country’s Zlín region, railroad tracks broke due to the harsh frost. Railroad dispatchers are expecting weather-related complications across the country.
Thousands of people have been hitting ski hills in the Liberec region, north of Prague. Hills in the area reported more than a metre of snow on trails and ideal skiing conditions. According to the Czech news agency, parking areas at Ještěd Mountain, for example, are full. Other areas seeing a lot of visitors and full parking lots include the Jizera Mountains. Rokytnice nad Jizerou in the Krkonoše (or Giant Mountains) reported snow between 120 and 180 centimetres. The resort said it saw more than 4,000 skiers on Saturday alone.
A hydrogen explosion caused a fire at a hall at Unipetrol’s factory in Litvínov near Most on Saturday morning, which took fire fighters roughly an hour to put out. The explosion took place at around 11 am. Clean-up work, however, continued well into the evening hours. No one was hurt in the incident.
A public demonstration organised by the ultra-right Workers' Party for Social Justice was attended by about 400 people, mostly local residents in Varnsdorf, North Bohemia, on Sunday. After the rally, its participants set out for town districts inhabited by a largely Romany population. There were no incidents, however, during the two-hour event which was monitored closely by the police. The Workers' Party for Social Justice is the successor to the banned Workers' Party. The marchers walked twice past a dormitory primarily occupied by Romanies, considered one of the more difficult areas in the town. Extremists carried placards referencing ultra-right slogans used by some in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, ČTK reported.
Highly-respected literary critic Milan Jungmann, who headed several literary journals in the 1960s as well as the Writers’ Association, died at the age of 90 on Friday; the news was revealed a day later by Libuše Ludvíková of the Czech PEN club. Dr Jungmann, born in 1922 in Hořany near Most, completed studies at Charles University and headed the Czech National Library as well as Literární noviny and other publications in the 1960s. He joined the Communist Party in 1945 but was expelled in 1969 following the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Jungmann received the Tom Stoppard prize in 1989 and the F.X. Šalda award in 1995. The date of his funeral is expected be announced on Monday.