Police say they have arrested seven people on suspicion of bribery; two of them Transport Ministry officials. They are believed to have tried to influence state decision-making at the ministries of transport and agriculture. Under operation Anthropoid, the suspects were monitored by the organised crime department for five months. No charges have been brought against them so far.
The free movement of labour is much more important than many other
freedoms within the EU, the European Commissioner for Employment,
Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities Vladimir Spidla said on
Thursday. Mr Spidla was speaking at a conference hosted by the
permanent representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union in
Brussels. Mr Spidla, a former Czech prime minister, said the EU was on
the right track to have all of its labour markets open by 2011.
Using the example of the Czech Republic, where the average hourly wage is over a third higher than in neighbouring Slovakia, Mr Spidla tried to refute claims that an open labour market will lead to an influx of cheap labour. The number of workers from Slovakia seeking better paid jobs in the Czech Republic has remained at a constant 60,000, Mr Spidla argued.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has criticised the former government of
current president Vaclav Klaus for withdrawing from the Russian market
in the 1990s. Speaking at a meeting with entrepreneurs in Moravia, Mr
Paroubek said the country's economic growth was hindered as a
consequence. With exports to Russia raised by 46 percent in 2005 and
plans underway to export agricultural surpluses and cooperate in the
field of science and research, Czech-Russian economic relations are
picking up, the prime minister said.
President Klaus, who was prime minister in the 1990s, is currently on an official trip to Luxembourg and has not reacted to Mr Paroubek's accusations.
Spain will lift a curb on workers from the European Union's former
communist states on May 1, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
said on Thursday. The only countries of the EU fifteen that have their
labour markets open so far are Britain, Ireland, and Sweden. In a
telephone call to his Spanish counterpart on Thursday, Czech Foreign
Minister Cyril Svoboda welcomed the decision.
Finland and Portugal are also expected to open their doors to labourers when a two-year transition period ends in May. Germany, Austria, and France will most likely uphold their restrictions on foreign workers.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has dropped to 9.1 percent in February from 9.2 percent in the first month of the year. The ministry's news release attributes the drop to the high number of jobless workers on government re-training programmes. The rate of unemployment continues to vary greatly across the country with a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in the Czech capital Prague and an unemployment rate of over 20 percent in the eastern parts of the country.
The Czech Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek will protest in Brussels against proposed changes in EU directives which he fears could lead to poorer EU countries being used as waste dumping grounds by their richer neighbours. Czech environmental inspectors estimate that around 15,000 tonnes of waste has been shipped from Germany and dumped in the Czech Republic over the last few weeks. EU environment ministers are due to have a general discussion about recycling of waste and the proposed waste directive at a meeting on Thursday.
A special anti-corruption police squad will continue to investigate cases relating to senior public officials, judges and state attorneys. An attempt to relegate some of the less serious cases to local police officers encountered opposition from the Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan. Mr. Bublan said that although he was not strictly against the idea, it would first be necessary to clearly specify what kind of cases were considered of minor importance.
The ruling Social Democrats have urged Justice Minister Pavel Nemec to correct a serious lapse in the proposed penal code which would make it difficult to fight large-scale fraud. The proposed bill lacks an article on abuse of information in business relations which was removed at the request of an opposition deputy. The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has asked the justice minister to explain why he had allowed this to happen and urged him to find a way of correcting the lapse as soon as possible. Although a new penal code is badly needed the Social Democrats are uncertain whether to support it in its current form.
Figures released by the Czech Statistics Office show that in January the Czech Republic posted a foreign trade surplus of 11.2 billion crowns (467 million dollars). According to the Statistics Office the result was driven by exports of cars and machinery. The CTK news agency says analysts had predicted a marked surplus of exports over imports.