The group of foreign workers, among them one Czech, who went missing after an attack on a Libyan oil field are being held hostage by Islamic State militants, the APA news agency reported on Monday, citing the Austrian Foreign Ministry. The Czech Foreign Ministry which is cooperating closely with Austria on the case has sent two envoys to the region. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Monday that by all accounts the Czech national was being held hostage, but gave no further details. Both countries’ governments have assembled crisis groups to deal with the situation.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday appealed to the public to take into account the international situation and respect the recommendations issued by the Czech Foreign Ministry regarding which states or areas are considered high-risk. Libya is on the list of high-risk states and the Czech Foreign Ministry has advised all Czech nationals who may still be in the country to leave as soon as possible. In view of the fact that the Czech embassy in Tripoli has been temporarily closed down Czech nationals will be unable to seek assistance there. They have been advised to turn to the Czech embassy in Cairo.
The Czech government on Monday approved the sale of 15 of the army’s surplus light-combat fighter planes to Iraq for the price of 750 million crowns. The L-159 planes are to be delivered within two to three years. In line with Czech law, the deal is to be conducted via Aero Vodochody, the company which produced the planes. The Czech government acquired 72 of these planes from Aero Vodochody back in 1997, when the Czech Republic was not yet part of NATO, and army strategists believed a strong air force was a necessity. However the military put to use only 25 of the planes and had to mothball the remaining aircraft. Another fourteen planes were sold to the American firm Draken International for training purposes last year.
The Czech judiciary performs at the EU average, but should be more efficient in implementing computer and data systems, European Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová said on Monday reporting on the outcome of a comparative study of EU member states. The commissioner said that while the speed at which individual member states dealt with court cases varied, they all had a gender problem in the judiciary with fewer women serving as judges in high instance courts. The survey revealed that while a court case in Luxembourg takes on average 53 days, in the Czech Republic it takes 187 days and in Malta it drags for an average 750 days.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has proposed that all public institutions should have to publish the details of contracts signed worth over 50,000 crowns, including still valid contracts signed in the past, the ctk news agency reports. The minister told the news agency he is pushing for greater transparency in public spending both at the national and regional level and will propose a draft amendment to that effect in April of this year. According to the proposal public institutions would have to make public certain in-voices as well.
The Carpathian Mountain service in Ukraine has retrieved the body of a Czech mountaineer who was fell into a deep ravine after he and his friends lost their way in bad weather last week. According to the mountain service the group left the marked trail and failed to inform anyone about their plans. The other five persons were brought down safely by the rescue service after spending the night in a tent.
The flu epidemic which killed 41 people in the Czech Republic this year is reported to be over. According to the health authorities the number of infected patients is well below the threshold of an epidemic in all regions. Hospitals and old people’s homes have lifted bans on visiting and the regional health authorities will stop issuing regular updates on the number of infected. Doctors say this year’s flu strain was particularly aggressive and vaccination proved only partially effective.
The Czech unemployment rate was at 7.5 percent in February down from January´s 7.7 percent, the Czech Labour Office reported on Monday. The number of job seekers reached 548,117 while the number of vacancies increased slightly 68,971. Last February the unemployment rate was at 8.6 percent.
The Paul Simon and Sting concert at Prague’s O2 Arena scheduled for March 14 has been postponed, the agency Live Nation announced on Monday. According to the organizers Sting is reported to be confined to him home in New York with a bad flu. The concert in Krakow scheduled for this week has also had to be postponed. Fans have been advised to hold on to their tickets until new concert dates have been set.
Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková was crowned the World Allround Speed skating Champion in Calgary, Canada, on Sunday. The long-distance specialist won the women’s final 5000-metre race in six minutes, 51seconds. It is the third career world title in the ladies’ tournament for the Czech speed skater; she previously won the championship in 2009 and 2010. Sáblíková’s biggest rival Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands finished second and Norway’s Ida Njåtun took the bronze.