New charges against gang
THE so-called Robert O.gang from Košice has been accused of another three attempted murders, the Slovak Organized Crime Bureau announced on February 3.
This brings the total number of attempted murder charges against the gang to five, in addition to five murder charges.
Police have also charged the gang with stealing, illegal firearms possession, blackmail, unlawful confinement, and disorderly conduct. "We have managed to achieve another success against organized crime in eastern Slovakia," former Interior Minister Vladimír Palko said after the arrests.
Last year, the Robert O gang gained notoriety after being barred from attending the funeral of alleged gang leader Jozef Eštók.
"Those people who murdered Eštók and his friends wanted to attend his funeral with great pomp and circumstance," Slovak Police First Vice-President Jaroslav Spišiak said.
Slovakia hypermarkets more responsible
RETAIL chain stores advertised more responsibly during this New Year's discount sales period, the Slovak retail inspection authority recently confirmed, but a lot of room for improvement remains.
Last year, retail chains caused a scandal by advertising huge sales on merchandise that inspectors later discovered had never been in stock at all. Of 486 such instances, French chain Carrefour alone was found guilty of almost 200.
This year, fewer "mistakes" occurred, but retail chains again lied about their prices, having artificially raised them just before the sales began. There were also some missing goods. The only real positive change this time was that the chains did not sell all their best goods to a select few customers before the sales had even begun, Pravda wrote.
This slight improvement was probably due to a reduction in the number of huge discounts, and the effect of fines, which amount to millions of crowns.
A one- or two-million-crown (€27,000-54,000) fine is not much for a multinational chain, but negative publicity can cause the chains to lose their customers' trust. This will become an ever-more important factor as competition increases, according to the daily.
Last respects paid to archbishop
ARCHBISHOP Nikolaj, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, was laid to rest on February 4 at the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the eastern Slovak city of Prešov.
President Ivan Gašparovič and Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda, as well as representatives from 13 Orthodox churches around the world and other dignitaries, were present to pay their last respects to the top spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, TASR news agency reported.
Archbishop Nikolaj died in Prešov on January 30, aged 78, after suffering from declining health for some time. A native of Hanigovce village in the eastern Slovakia district of Sabinov, he was ordained in 1950 before being elected bishop of Prešov in 1965 and archbishop of Prešov in 1987.
Bratislava's Primate's Palace hosted a workshop of cleaning staff with eight cleaners from the Presidential Palace, City Hall, and the Einsteinova Secondary Grammar School on January 31, SITA news agency wrote.
The seminar, entitled Cleaning Buildings: Environmentally Frien-dlier, More Effective, and Healthier, was financed by the EU and the regional government of Lower Austria. Slovakia provided the premises.
Participants received certificates and a so-called start-up package, which included ecologically friendly cleaning tools. Every participating building also received a double bucket with a carriage, measuring glasses, dosage bottles, and cleaning towels.
City getting new buses
SLOVAK developer HB Reavis is making good on its pledge to invest Sk450 million (€12 million) into new buses for the Bratislava bus company (SAD) earlier than originally planned, the Pravda daily wrote.
"There will be 129 new buses, including 120 for local transport, and the rest for long-distance and international routes," HB Reavis spokeswoman Petra Lajdová said.
Most of the buses will be supplied by Czech manufacturers Karosa and Sor. "Some 90 buses from the current fleet will be kept on, preferably those four to five years old. Those 10 years old and more will no longer be on the road. We will say goodbye, for example, to Ikarus [the Hungarian bus manufacturer which supplied many of the country's older buses, - ed. note]," said SAD spokesman Emil Binda.
HB Reavis chose to buy buses ahead of its April 2007 deadline under a contract with the state privatization agency FNM.
Binda expects the new buses to reduce fuel bills and time lost through breakdowns.
Greenpeace concerned over plant completion
ON FEBRUARY 1, the Slovak branch of environmentalist group Greenpeace criticized statements by Economy Minister Jirko Malchárek on the economic advantages of completing the Mochovce nuclear power plant's
Mikuláš Bagar from Práznovce, a municipality near Topoľčany, seems not to have lost his good spirits despite having his cellar flooded. Water from melting snow has flooded 30 houses in Práznovce. A third degree flood warning, given when property and lives are in danger, has been issued in 10 municipalities in the Topoľčany district.
Greenpeace insists the minister cannot know whether EMO's completion is economically advantageous until the project's financial feasibility analysis is completed in spring 2007.
Greenpeace also fears that the government will financially support the project, despite the minister's statement to the contrary. Greenpeace's Jan Beránek said the government has already obliged itself to provide hidden subsidies to Enel worth tens of billions of Slovak crowns.
Recently, the Economy Ministry and Italian energy company Enel, which will acquire a 66-percent stake in Slovak dominant power company Slovenské elektrárne (SE), agreed to draw up a schedule for the completion of the third and fourth reactors of the Mochovce nuclear power plant. A feasibility study will specify the security, financial and technical parameters of the completion and also contain its timetable. The study should be completed by May 2007.
On February 17, 2005, Italian company Enel acquired 66-percent of SE's shares for €840 million, approximately Sk32 billion. Enel settled 20 percent of the purchase price in February last year and will pay the remaining portion upon closing the transaction. Enel is also considering acquiring one of the three local electricity distributors.
Tourists to pay for rescue operations
TOURISTS and mountain hikers will soon have to cover the costs of a rescue operation themselves, if health insurance companies fail to do so.
As of July 1, those who disobey Mountain Rescue Service (HZS) rules could also face fines of up to Sk100,000 (€2,670), HZS Director Jozef Janiga said at a press conference in the High Tatras mountains recently.
A single rescue operation typically costs Sk3,500 to Sk4,000 and more extreme operations can cost Sk7,000 to Sk11,000, according to the SITA news agency.
Expenses reach hundreds of thousands of crowns, though. For example, the rescue operation in Spálený žľab in the West Tatras at the end of 2005, where an avalanche killed seven Czech climbers, cost almost Sk300,000. The Air Rescue Service and voluntary rescuers reported further costs.
Janiga said that in alpine regions tourists themselves are responsible for 70-80 percent of all accidents. In Slovakia, this ratio is even higher, at around 90 percent.
An amendment to the Mountain Rescue Service Act introduced compulsory payment for rescue operations as of mid-2006. The cost of medical treatment covered by health insurance will be excluded. It is expected that commercial insurance companies will be ready to offer insurance products covering the potential costs of such operations by July 1.
In 2005, 26 people died in Slovak mountain areas, 13 of them from the Czech Republic. The deadliest accident was the Spálený žľab avalanche, which only one of eight climbers survived.
Last year the Mountain Rescue Service reported 1,585 rescue operations.
27. Feb 2006 at 0:00