Foreign Minister against EU guarding Rafah border

According to the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, the Czech Republic will not back the idea of the European Union monitoring the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The incentive for just such an operation was discussed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, one day after the EU commissioner for the Middle East, Marc Otte, met with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. Guarding the border to prevent, for example, against the smuggling of weapons, would mean unprecedented EU involvement. Appeals to the European Union have been made by both Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

So far, the EU's foreign ministers have approved to dispatch 50 senior police officers to the Palestinian territories, to take part in training Palestinian police. The Czechs reportedly will have two officers in the group.

VZP to shorten length of late payments

The country's largest state-owned health insurance company, VZP, has promised to shorten the length of late payments to hospitals and especially privately-run emergency clinics. The head of the VZP, Jirina Musilkova, said on Monday that until now the insurer had shortened the length of late payments from 45 days to 29, saying she expected the trend to continue. The VZP owes unpaid millions of crowns to doctors and health facilities. Newly-named Health Minister David Rath said at the weekend that the VZP - which he accused of not cooperating with previous administrations - needed to improve its financial situation in the coming weeks.

Police move in against "Valdice" drugs gang

Czech police have reported breaking up a drugs gang allegedly organised by prisoners at a maximum security prison. Two men, serving 18 year sentences for double murder are said to have run the gang - which produced methamphetamine - from behind the bars of Valdice prison, making use of cell phones and visits by family members. Seven others have been arrested. According to drug law enforcement head, Jiri Komorous, gang members smuggled methamphetamine, known locally as pervetin, to neighbouring Germany, where they earned the equivalent of about 20,000 US dollars. If found guilty, each of the suspects could face a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.

Prime Minister backs Vesecka, anti-corruption plan

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has come out in support of acting Supreme State Prosecutor Renata Vesecka, in particular her plans for fighting corruption. The prime minister met with Mrs Vesecka on Monday prior to her naming to the post of Supreme State Prosecutor later this week. Renata Vesecka replaces Marie Benesova who was dismissed by the government in September. In coming to the post Mrs Vesecka has made clear she will aim to improve state attorneys' records in bankruptcy proceedings, as well as will create special teams to combat terrorism, organised crime, and corruption.

Interior Ministry to implement changes at refugee camps

The Interior Ministry has announced its intention to implement changes at a number of refugee camps. The reason is the fewer number of applicants seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. In 2005 so far some 2,300 have applied for asylum, down markedly from last year and by more than three-quarters since 2003, when 11,400 applied. The aim of changes backed by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan is to improve living conditions for asylum seekers at a number of facilities, while at the same time lowering overall spending. A refugee camp in the Central Bohemian region of Pisek, will be closed down permanently.


Tuesday is expected to see sunshine with a daytime temperature of around 7 degrees Celsius.