Czech unemployment fell to 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent in the previous month, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Thursday. The total number of jobseekers fell by 12,000 to 423,000 over the month, it added. In February 2006 the unemployment level had stood at 9.1 percent. Most analysts had expected a smaller drop in the February jobless rate to 7.8 percent.
A new poll by the STEM agency suggests that almost 50 percent of Czechs do not believe in God. More than a quarter of respondents said they were believers, 24 percent of those polled did not express a decisive opinion. According to the poll, 36 percent of women and 20 percent of men consider themselves religious. Women over 60 are the most religious social group while the lowest number of believers is among men under 30.
President Vaclav Klaus who is on a working visit to the United States is due to meet the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid on Thursday; the main issue on the agenda should be the US visa requirements for Czech citizens. On Friday, President Klaus is due to meet US Vice-President Dick Cheney to discuss US plans to station a radar base in the Czech Republic.
A Prague district court has acquitted two Georgian men charged with inciting hatred against the people and political representatives of Russia. They were prosecuted for having displayed a banner showing a Russian soldier with a swastika on his sleeve during a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Prague in October.
The consumption of natural gas in the Czech Republic dropped by 31 percent in January compared to last year to 1.13 billion cubic metres. Consumption was lower for five months in a row in a year-on-year comparison. The Czech Gas Union says the drop has not been caused solely by the mild autumn and winter but also by the implementation of gas saving measures.
Trade and Industry Minister Martin Riman is going to meet the CEO of the Czech power giant CEZ Martin Roman and the head of the State Authority for Nuclear Safety Dana Drabova to discuss the safety situation at the Temelin nuclear power plant. In the last two weeks, the plant announced two leaks of slightly radioactive cooling liquid. Mr Riman said that while the incidents have no effect on nuclear safety, they need to be investigated and measures adopted to prevent such faults in the future as the Temelin plant is a very sensitive topic.
Czech state-controlled airline CSA said on Thursday it had cut its 2006 losses to 397 million crowns (18.5 million dollars). According to international accounting standards, the pre-tax totalled 1.5 million dollars, the airline added. CSA said it counted on making a 42-million-crown profit this year. But it cautioned that the result would depend on further restructuring and sales of non-core assets and that a new labour code could have a negative impact of up to 180 million crowns.
The cabinet is going to discuss on Monday a Communist-proposed draft bill on a special referendum concerning the stationing of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Regardless of the stance of the government, it is up to the lower house of parliament to decide on the bill. In order to be passed the bill would need the support of 120 MPs in the 200-seat chamber. The bill is expected to be rejected by deputies from the Civic Democrat, Christian Democrat and Green parties which have 100 votes in the chamber.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that municipal authorities can issue bylaws banning street prostitution. It said that the presence of sex workers offering their services in public areas seriously harms the moral development of children. The mayor of the northern town of Usti and Labem Jan Kubata said the ruling gives towns new possibilities to curb prostitution or ban it altogether.