Germany is not opposed to the idea of Czechs having visa-free relations with the United States, the German Minister for Europe Guenter Gloser said in Prague on Tuesday after talks with the Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra. Mr. Gloser was at pains to clear up a misunderstanding between the two countries after the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes wrote that the German ambassador to Washington Klaus Scharioth had sought to complicate the Czech Republic's efforts to be included in the US visa waiver programme. This was allegedly a misunderstanding that arose after Germany, as the EU president, sent Washington a letter on behalf of all the EU newcomers stating their reservations with regard to the US visa legislation and forgot to include the Czech Republic. The Czech Foreign Ministry officially protested against this but the mistake was later clarified.
A defense ministry official has been demoted after reporting dubious transactions at the ministry, according to the internet site Novinky. When the police raided the defense ministry several weeks ago on suspicion of extensive fraud, the head of military construction Robert Bochnicek was reportedly the only high placed ministry employee who spoke openly about dubious transactions, proffered bribes and undercover deals at the ministry. He was demoted shortly after, on the grounds of an old transgression - for using a defense ministry car for other than work purposes. Bochnicek says he paid a 17 thousand crown fine at the time and considered the matter closed. He is now considering filing a lawsuit against the ministry.
Workers at the Skoda Auto car plant in Mlada Boleslav have gone on strike
in demand of higher pay. Thousands of employees downed tools for two and a
half hours during the first shift of the day, with later shifts planning to
do likewise. The strike means no cars will be produced at the factory on
Tuesday; the company says it expects to lose 55 million crowns (over 2.5
million USD). On Friday Skoda Auto management withdrew an offer of a
13-percent pay rise for employees, and returned to an earlier proposal to
increase wages by 7.5 percent.
Figures released on Monday showed that March was the most successful month in the history of the company. Last month Skoda Auto recorded over 60,000 vehicles sold, which represented a year-on-year rise of almost 15 percent. Over half of sales in the first quarter of this year were in western Europe.
The Czech state-controlled airline CSA carried 1.06 million passengers during the first three months of the year, 5.9 percent more than during the same period in 2006, the airline announced on Tuesday. Last year, CSA carried 5.5 million passengers, a 4.7-percent increase on 2005. The cash-strapped airline hopes to return to profit in 2008 following a major restructuring programme launched in 2006 which includes the shedding of non-core activities.
The planned stationing of a US radar base in the Czech Republic and the
abolition of U.S. visas for Czechs will be the main topics of Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg's upcoming visit to the United States.
Foreign Minster Schwarzenberg leaves for the US on Wednesday for four
days of talks with US top officials. The Czech Republic recently
complied with a US request to start talks on the possible stationing of
a radar base on its territory. The base would be part of a US missile
defense shield stationed jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland. No
commitment has as yet been made and the talks are expected to last
until the end of the year. The Czech political scene is divided on the
issue and opinion polls suggest that the public is against it.
Critics say the US missile defense shield will not meet Europe's defense needs and Russia views the US missile base as a threat to its security. Washington has promised Moscow "detailed discussions" about the plan.
The Czech Republic has made the most progress in reducing drink-driving
deaths in Europe but the number of victims has risen in other
countries, including Britain, according to a report published by the
Brussels-based European Transport Safety Council. Deaths from
alcohol-related accidents in the Czech Republic fell 11 percent faster
than other road deaths between 1996 and 2005, followed by Germany and
Poland with falls of about 6 and 5 percent, respectively, the report
said. Keys to bringing down the death rate were the blood-alcohol
limits for legal driving, which vary from country to country, as well
as testing of drivers by police, which remains patchy in many EU
Drink-driving and speeding is still the most frequent cause of road accidents in the Czech Republic but the traffic police regularly test drivers within big road safety operations. Last year the Czech Republic introduced a strict new road legislation with tough penalties for both speeding and drink-driving.
Fourteen Romany organisations and around 100 individuals have filed a criminal complaint of defamation against Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Mr Cunek appeared to malign Romanies in a recent newspaper interview and came in for criticism from across the political spectrum. The Christian Democrats leader is also under investigation for alleged bribe-taking; he has repeatedly resisted calls for him to step down.
March was the most successful month in the history of car maker Skoda Auto. Last month the company recorded over 60,000 vehicles sold, which represented a year-on-year rise of almost 15 percent, according to figures released on Monday. Over half of Skoda Auto's sales in the first quarter of this year were in western Europe.
A new statue of the first Czechoslovak president T.G. Masaryk is to be erected in front of the Masaryk museum in Lany, central Bohemia within three years. The bronze statue will be slightly larger than life-like and will be the first to feature the founder of Czechoslovakia on a horse, said a museum representative. It hopes to raise money for the statue through a national public collection, and has set up a special bank account. Masaryk, who was president from 1918 to 1935, is buried in Lany.
Collapse of Prague footbridge raises concerns regarding state of other bridges
Some like it hot: Czech Republic sees rise in number of household saunas
ANO leader Andrej Babiš appointed Czech prime minister
Czech wage rises continue apace, low earners seeing larger increases
Czech protesters run out of patience as Prague brutalist building faces demolition