A significant reorganisation of the Czech police force has come into effect on Monday with the creation of the National Headquarters Against Organised Crime. The move sparked a major row in the coalition government between the Social Democrats, who backed the change, and ANO, who were fiercely opposed and threatened to quit the government over the issue. On Sunday President Miloš Zeman added his voice to the reorganisation’s critics, saying state attorneys should have been consulted more on the matter. The establishment of the new agency follows the merger of the police’s organised crime and anti-corruption units.
Robert Šlachta, the former head of the country’s now defunct anti-organised crime unit, (streamlined into the National Headquarters Against Organised Crime) could reportedly take up employment with the country’s Customs Administration instead. Mr Šlachta left the police over the planned reorganisation of the police forces which got the go-ahead from Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and came into effect Monday. The new head of the Customs Administration Milan Poulíček has said the bureau is trying to secure broader rights similar that of the police. The Deputy Finance Minister Alena Schillerová confirmed the possibility of talks with Mr Šlachta although those have yet to take place. The weekly Euro has reported that Mr Šlachta could take up the post of the deputy head of the Customs Administration on October 1.
Security is to be beefed up at Prague Castle with the Office of the President to receive CZK 100 million to that end from the Ministry of Defence, Lidovky.cz reported. President Miloš Zeman said on Sunday that his seat, like other spots where large numbers of people gather, was a potential terrorism target. Part of the Castle’s Southern Gardens beneath the president’s office were closed this year as a security precaution, while airport style walk-through metal detectors are to be installed at the entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral.
The Finance Ministry saw the state budget surplus rise to 75.6 billion crowns in July from 41 billion the previous month – the best July result since the founding of the Czech Republic in 1993, the ministry reported on Monday in a press release. Last year, the surplus registered in July was 25.7 billion crowns. The state budget for this year is counting on a deficit of 70 billion crowns. The ministry credited the surplus rise to record tax revenues.
The last weekend in July was the most tragic on Czech roads so far this year; according to preliminary statistics released by the police, 13 people lost their lives in traffic accidents between Friday and Sunday. Seven people died in accidents on Sunday alone. Overall the number of road fatalities over the course of July dropped to its lowest in five years, at 63. The government’s road safety department BESIP said that many of the accidents over the summer holidays were head-on collisions at high speeds where there was little time to brake and little chance of survival.
Forty Czech police officers departed for Macedonia on Monday where they will help guard the Greek-Macedonian border in connection with the migrant crisis. The officers are replacing colleagues who have served in the area since the end of June. Their mission will last six weeks.
The first Czech to allegedly have tried to join the terrorist organisation Islamic State has been remanded in custody since July 20, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday, saying he was being investigated on charges of trying to join a criminal organization. The suspect has filed an appeal against being held in custody; the Regional court in Plzeň will review the decision. If the suspect faces trial and is found guilty, he could face up to 12 years behind bars. The weekly Respekt reported on Monday that the man had been arrested in January in Turkey, bound for Syria. The suspect, a Plzeň resident, is not believed to have been part of a larger group.
Studio Znamění čtyr – Architects has won an architectural competition for the design of a new university research centre planned in Prague’s Albertov. The centre represents the largest university project of its kind in Prague in 100 years, Charles University’s rector Tomáš Zima confirmed. The university facility (which will reportedly cost some 2.5 billion crowns to build) is to be used for research in the areas of health, biotechnology and biodiversity and is to staff around 1,200 people. It is to begin operation in 2022. The runner-up in the competition was Atelier M1 Architects.
Czech-American economist Jan Kmenta, professor emeritus in economics at the University of Michigan and long-time guest lecturer at CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) in Prague, passed away on July 24 at the age of 88, the institute’s Kateřina Břízová confirmed on Monday for the Czech News Agency. The funeral for the economist was held on Friday. Mr Kmenta was highly respected in his field and was the author of the textbook Elements of Econometrics. Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar, former presidential candidate and fellow colleague at CERGE-EI, described Mr Kmenta as a close friend, saying he had had close ties to CERGE-EI since the school was founded and had been an inspiration for many.
Czech road cycling racer Roman Kreuziger has signed a two-year contract with Australia’s Orica-BikeExchange from the Tinkoff Team which is set to fold at the end of the season. Kreuziger, 30, has finished repeatedly in the top 10 in the Tour-de-France, including this year (at 10th spot). The team’s directeur sportif, Matt White, called the signing “game-changing” and said the addition of the rider to the roster would be “key for years to come”.