Consumer prices in the Czech Republic in June showed the highest year-on-year growth in more than two years, rising by 2.9 percent compared with June 2003, according to official figures released on Monday. The price of goods and services was up in most sectors, largely influenced by a rise in value added taxes earlier this year from five to 19 percent. Cigarette and alcohol prices rose particularly in June. For the first few months after January's VAT hike retailers had been selling old stock at the same price as before but a 7.5 percent rise on new stock kicked in last month. The overall rise in prices, the highest since April 2002, was slightly below analysts' forecasts of three percent. Compared to May, consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent in June, also slightly below predictions of 0.3 percent.
The heads of the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union are due to meet on Tuesday. It will be their first meeting since President Vaclav Klaus asked the acting leader of the Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, to begin talks on forming a new government earlier this month following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. The vice-chairman of the Social Democrats, Zdenek Skromach, has said Tuesday's meeting will be the first of a series this week. The most likely scenario appears to be that the new cabinet will arise from the current coalition which has a slim majority of 101 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament. Mr Skromach said that the vote of confidence in the new government could take place in mid-August.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic remained flat at 9.9 percent of the workforce in June, the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Monday. Most analysts had predicted a slight rise compared to May to 10 percent. Economists attribute the flat rate to a fall in the number of school leavers this year and the availability of seasonal work.
President Vaclav Klaus has met his Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic who is on a one day visit to the Czech Republic. The Slovak head of state, who took office last month, is thus fulfilling an unwritten agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in that their presidents always schedule their first visit abroad to the former "sister state". After their meeting the two presidents said that relations between the two countries were exceptional and were to remain so. The Czechoslovak federation broke up in 1993 in what the papers described as "a velvet divorce" and the two countries have maintained above-standard relations ever since. They supported each other in their ambition to join the EU and NATO and they cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group of four Central European states.
The Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic will pay a one day visit to the Czech Republic on Monday. The Slovak head of state, who took office last month, is thus fulfilling an unwritten agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in that their presidents always schedule their first visit abroad to the former "sister state". The Czechoslovak federation broke up in 1993, but it was what the papers described as "a velvet divorce" and the two countries have maintained above-standard relations ever since. They supported each other in their ambition to join the EU and NATO and they cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group. On the eve of his visit to Prague, President Gasparovic described Czech-Slovak relations as problem-free and said he was greatly looking forward to the one-day visit.
The Czech Republic has come under fresh criticism for allowing the practice of "cage" beds in its psychiatric institutions. The beds have bars on all sides and the top is covered by netting from which the patient cannot escape. Joanne Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books, has written a letter to the Czech embassy in London protesting against what she described as an appalling and cruel practice, most especially with regard to child patients. The British Sunday Times brought an in depth report on this practice some time ago, writing that children were trapped in these cage beds for hours without the presence of an attendant or nurse. The practice has also been criticized by Human Rights Watch.
The 39th Karlovy Vary Film Festival ended with a gala evening and prize awarding ceremony on Saturday night. The main prize - the Crystal Globe - went to the Italian film A Children's Story. The best director Award went to Xavier Bermudez of Spain for his film Leon and Olvido. The best documentary award went to the Russian 2003 documentary Wedding of Silence. The week long festival attracted over 100.000 visitors and showed over 230 films from around the world, many of them premieres.
A ten year old girl who was badly mauled by a Doberman just outside her home north of Prague is reported to be in stable condition. She was badly bitten on the face, back of her head and shoulders and was operated on shortly after being rushed to Prague's Motol hospital. The child was reportedly playing out in the street with a friend when the Doberman attacked her from behind. Its owner has been charged with causing bodily harm through negligence. The locals told the police that this was not the first time that the dog had been allowed to run lose unattended.
Czech politicians joined world leaders in paying their last respects to the late Austrian President Tomads Klestil. Among the two dozen heads of state and royals who attended President Klestil's funeral in Vienna on Saturday were Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and the former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who was a personal friend of Mr. Klestil's. Here in the Czech Republic, the media have run special coverage and profiles documenting the late president's life and work. He is remembered as a great statesman and a skilled diplomat who did much to advance Czech-Austrian relations.
Two of the three parties which are to form the new Czech government have asked for safeguards against future cooperation with the communists. The Christian Democratic Party and the right-wing Freedom Union have said they will do everything in their power to curb the influence of the Communist party on the Czech political scene. Their concern stems from the fact that some members of the strongest coalition party - the Social Democrats - have spoken in favour of a more leftist policy programme and closer cooperation with the communists. The party's acting chairman Stanislav Gross met with Communist Party representatives last Thursday to negotiate support for the new government, but no agreement was reached.