The association of towns and cities wants to take effective measures against metal theft which has become a serious problem around the country. Thieves steal objects made of lead, copper, iron, steel, and aluminum, selling them in scrap yards which generally accept the goods without question. Mayors are proposing that scrap yards should only be allowed to buy metal from companies not individuals. In the course of last year thieves stole metal objects worth half a billion crowns, mainly copper cables and rail tracks.
New screening technology is enabling EU airports to roll back the tight restrictions on passengers carrying liquids, aerosols and gels in their carry-on luggage. The heightened security measures, effective as of February 1st, are in line with an EC directive. Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport has acquired 18 stationary and two mobile scanners for gels and liquids worth ten million crowns. A spokesman for the airport said the new checks have not led to significant delays or caused any problems.
The Lochkovsky tunnel on the Prague ring-road is closed for repairs over the weekend and drivers have been asked to use the cities southern ring road instead. The tunnel was seriously damaged by a burning truck in mid-January after which it remained open to traffic in one lane only. The damage was estimated at 6 million crowns. The tunnel should be open to traffic by mid-day Sunday.
The National Security Office has protested against a wave of security clearance requests from soldiers in the Czech military for whom a clean screening certificate means a higher salary. The office says it is unable to process such a vast number of requests and needs to give priority to those who require security vetting for a given post. While in 2011 the military asked for close to 1,800 security screenings, last year it sent over 3,000 requests.
Czech EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fulle says the EU has not closed its doors to Ukraine but the country’s drawn out crisis must be resolved ahead of an association agreement with the EU. In an interview for Czech Radio Mr. Fulle said that if the EU wanted Ukraine’s transformation then it should offer Kiev an association agreement and eventually EU membership since enlargement was the strongest transformation tool available. He said however that further steps in this direction were not possible until Ukraine found a lasting and democratic solution to the present crisis.
Police in the town of Liberec are bracing for possible problems in connection with an ultra-right concert which is to take place at the Rock Pub club in the city centre. The concert by the nationalist group Sons of Bohemia is expected to attract extreme right supporters from around the country. Other clubs in town are closing their doors in protest of the event.
Clean up work is underway in north Bohemia where hurricane-force winds damaged roofs and uprooted trees on Friday night. Fire crews were called out to deal with twenty-three emergencies in the course of the night and emergency crews have been clearing fallen trees from roads and rail tracks. A hurricane warning remains in force for the eastern parts of the country until Sunday morning.
The new labour and social affairs minister, Michaela Marksová-Tominová of the Social Democrats, is planning to disallow payments into private pension funds by 2016. The introduction of the so-called second pillar of the pension system was a key feature of the previous centre-right coalition government’s efforts to reform the pension system. Ms Marksová-Tominová told reporters a team of coalition and opposition politicians along with experts should start working on a new reform of the system. Around 84,000 people have joined the second pillar, sending part of their monthly social insurance payments to private funds.
Meteorologists have issued a hurricane warning for the eastern parts of the country. Hurricane force winds of up to 145 km per hour are expected to hit the Jeseníky, Krkonoše and Beskydy mountain regions late Friday or early Saturday. Cable cars and ski lifts are expected to be out of operation and drivers have been warned to exercise caution.
Slovak prosecutors in the case of Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš have presented the court with documents indicating that in the 1980s Babiš may have informed on some of his colleagues in the company Petrimex. However the documents in question were administered by the former stb officer Andrej Kulha who told the court earlier that Babiš had not knowingly collaborated with the former communist police. Andrej Babiš, who took the issue to court asking he be struck off the list of stb agents, claims that while as an exporter he could not avoid questioning by the stb he had never betrayed anyone or knowingly informed on them. The case has been adjourned until April 14.
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