The growth of the Czech economy reached 6.2 percent in the first quarter of 2007, according to a European Commission forecast. This differs slightly from an estimate by the Czech Statistics Office, which puts growth at 6.1 percent in the same period. This growth rate places the Czech Republic eighth of all 25 member states. The list is topped by Latvia and Estonia with 11.2 and 9.8 percent of growth respectively.
No bird flu has been detected at three large chicken farms situated close to epicentre of the disease in the Pardubice region in East Bohemia where the H5N1 strain of the flu had been confirmed at five different farms last month. The fact that no infection has been found at these farms will not affect an earlier decision by veterinary officials and the Czech agriculture ministry to exterminate all of the 68,000 birds located at the farms.
More than 80 artists from several countries have sent in their projects so far for a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty monument which will be erected at the Radio's new seat in Prague-Hagibor. Since 1995, the radio station was based in the former federal parliament building in the centre of Prague, but is now relocating. The monument is to be unveiled in May 2008 and according to the RFE, it should represent the fundamental values of the Prague-based radio station such as freedom, openness and solidarity.
The Czech Republic is filing a lawsuit against the European Union over a fine of CZK 350,000,000 (just over USD 17,000,000). The EU penalized the Czech Republic for having too large supplies of some foodstuffs before joining the Union in 2004. The European Commission holds that some of the new member countries, for speculative reasons, accumulated great supplies of food under lower customs duty than was valid within the European Union at the time. In the Czech Republic, this refers to excessive reserves of tangerines, pineapples, tinned mushrooms, rice and chicken.
Fifty Czech public figures including the singer and former dissident Marta Kubisova and film director Vera Chytilova sent an open letter to President Vaclav Klaus requesting that a referendum be held to decide about the building of an U.S. radar base in the Czech Republic. The signatories also complained about the lack of information concerning health risks associated with the radar. In a reply, Mr Klaus said the demands were "legitimate", but warned of underestimating security risks.
Poland seeks to establish an air force training base in cooperation with the Czech Republic in Deblin, some 90 km south-east of Warsaw. The intention was debated in Warsaw by Czech and Polish defence ministry officials. The Polish defence ministry is now considering that the Czech L-159 aircraft would be used for the training, but it remains to be seen whether Poland will buy the planes or if they will be vested by the Czech side. Other Central European countries expressed interest in the project as well.
The anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe expressed concern over the use of chemical and surgical castrations in the Czech Republic for sex offenders convicted of murder. Following several visits to Czech prisons and psychiatric facilities earlier this year, members of the committee questioned the concept of free and informed consent to castration when prisoners are given a choice between castration and confinement in a psychiatric hospital. Czech authorities claim these procedures are carried out in accordance with the law, but more detailed legislation on the matter is expected to come into focus later this year.
Czechs have "distance-adopted" more than 20,000 children in some of the poorest regions of the world since the beginning of the project in 1993, says the Archdiocese Charity of Prague that introduced this kind of development assistance programme to the Czech Republic. People support individual children annually with about CZK 6000, or USD 300. This allows the "adoptive parents" to have control over the use of the money. Most children sponsored by Czechs live in India and Uganda.
24,300 foreigners came to the Czech Republic to work during the first six months of this year, according to a statistics published by the Czech labour ministry. At the end of June, more than 200,000 foreign nationals were holding Czech work permits. Most foreigners working legally in the Czech Republic come from Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland. Compared to 2004, there has been an increase of over 100,000 foreign labourers.
Czech citizens' approval of European Union membership fell in the first half of this year, suggests a new national survey prepared for Eurobarometer. In the second half of 2006, 51 percent of respondents in the twice-annual poll said EU membership was a good thing; however, that figure fell to 46 percent this year - the first time that rating has dropped below the 50 percent mark in a Eurobarometer poll. As for what worries Czechs, the health service was regarded as the biggest problem - almost 40 percent said it was a concern, twice as many as the EU average.
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