Four Czech soldiers were killed and several more injured in a suicide terrorist attack in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, where the massive Bagram air base is sited, in the early hours of Tuesday, according to Czech Defence Ministry. The attack is reported to have killed ten civilians and two Afghan policemen.The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to the media. Czechs have a contingent of around 150 which helps to protect the air base. Nine soldiers Czech soldiers have died in total during the Afghan mission.
In immediate reaction to the deaths, Czech President Miloš Zeman expressed his deep regret for their deaths to the families and his profound recognition for what he described as their part in the struggle against international terrorism. Prime Minister Bohulsav Sobotka said the deaths was shocking and tragic. He added though that they would not influence the continuation of Czech army missions abroad. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has cut short a holiday to return to Prague and ordered flags at the ministry to fly at half mast.
The Czech unemployment rate slipped by 0.1 of a percentage point to 7.4 percent in June, the national labour office announced on Tuesday. The overall total of those without work still stands above half a million at just over 537,000. The latest fall is said to be largely due to recruitment for summer jobs and the ongoing recovery in the economy. The unemployment total has been dropping consistently since January.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka started a tour of all ministries to check up on their progress on Tuesday. And he said it was not by chance that he selected the Ministry of Culture as the first stop on his ministerial tour. He said that it had become a Cinderella ministry over recent years and had borne the brunt of spending cuts. He said he wanted to change that and by the end the government’s term to boost its budget to around one percent of Gross Domestic Product. The prime minister also said steps would also have to be taken to address lower than average wages in the culture sector although many employed there are graduates. But he also suggested that the ministry become more involved in preparations to marks major events, such as next year’s 600th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus, and a Czech-Bavarian exhibition being prepared.
The Czech weather office warned Tuesday of the possibility of severe storms across the country with the likelihood of hail and rainfall in some places of up to 50 millimetres. Wind speeds could increase to as high as 75 kilometres an hour and flash floods could occur, the office added. Rail links in the Liberec region were already cut on Tuesday. Storms on Monday night felled trees and disrupted transport with even the Prague tram system cut at one point because of flooding.
In spite of the heavy storms, water authorities in the north of Bohemia say they are facing some of the most serious water shortages in the last 50 years. The reservoir at Chomutov, the fifth biggest in the country, is at the lowest level since it was constructed at the end of the 1960’s and tankers with drinking water are being prepared in the case the situation becomes worse. Bans on pumping water from streams and rivers are already in place at numerous localities across the region. The main problem stems from low snowfall in the winter which helps to fill up reservoirs and ground water reserves. Temporary storms will not resolve the problem, authorities say.
Mayors on the German side of the Czech border have warned of the consequences of tolls that Germany intends to impose on foreign drivers from the start of 2016. The proposed tolls were unveiled by Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt on Monday and hit drivers even making short trips across the border on local roads. Mayors from towns and villages along the border have warned that Czech authorities could be tempted to retaliate in kind and impose similar tolls on foreign drivers on local routes and highways. At the moment Czech tolls apply only to motorways and apply to all drivers. The new German toll is expected to cost around 2,400 crowns a year.
The Brno-based travel agency Monmare has announced it has gone out of business and declared bankruptcy. It is the second major Czech travel agency to crash so far this year. The company said that low prices on the travel market meant that it could not cover its costs and continue. The agency said it has 86 Czech tourists abroad at the moment, most in Bulgaria but some in Turkey. They will not apparently be forced to cut short their holidays and special measures to get them home will not be required.
A court in Plzeň has been forced to reopen a murder trial because of a mix-up over the age of the accused. The man, Hieu Nguyen Manh, was originally sentenced to four years for the murder of his girlfriend on the grounds that he was 17 years old at the time of the crime. In now turns out that he is 21 months older than he appears on his passport given out when he arrived in the Czech Republic aged 13. As a result he counts as an adult and could face a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is to pay a series of inspection visits to all ministries in the next few days to be briefed in detail on their plans and priorities. On Tuesday he is to visit the Ministry of Culture where Culture Minister Daniel Herman will inform him on the reconstruction of Czech cultural monuments, support for Czech film and other plans in the pipeline. The Czech government wants to gradually increase financing for culture to 1 percent of the GDP, which is the present European standard.