In more business news, the number of credit cards issued in the third quarter of this year was up by more than 25% on last year’s figures. There are now more than 1 million credit cards in use in the Czech Republic, alongside some 8.3 million debit cards. In the last three months alone, over 300,000 new credit cards have been issued. According to Jan Carny of MasterCard, more dynamic growth is expected in the sector in coming years.
Head of the Green Party, Martin Bursik, has said that he is willing to negotiate with his senior coalition partner the Civic Democrats on the subject of next year’s presidential elections. But, he has emphasised, that the Civic Democrats’ candidate for the post, the current president Vaclav Klaus, will not be receiving the endorsement of the Greens. The Green Party find Mr Klaus’s views on global warming particularly unacceptable, and their leader, Mr Bursik has previously accused President Klaus of ‘living on another planet’. Mr Klaus is reported as wanting to negotiate with the Greens about his presidential bid, but the party has already come out in support of his potential rival, the economist Jan Svejnar. The Civic Democrats unanimously voted for Mr Klaus to represent them as their presidential candidate at their party conference on Saturday. Some factions of the party want prime minister Mirek Topolanek to put pressure on his coalition partners - the Christian Democrats and the Greens - so that they back Mr Klaus for the presidency as well.
Czech-born Canadian skier Jan Hudec won the opening downhill race of the Alpine ski World Cup at Lake Louise on Saturday. Hudec blitzed down the men’s Olympic course in a time of 1 minute 42.8 seconds to become the first Canadian to win the Lake Louise downhill. In last year’s World Cup, Hudec ranked fifth. He called his win on Saturday ‘incredible’. Hudec left the Czech Republic when he was only nine months old - his parents fleeing the communist regime. He is now a Canadian citizen.
Prague mayor Pavel Bem was honoured on Saturday evening for having
successfully climbed Mount Everest earlier this year. He was presented with
an award by the head of the Nepalese Mountaineering Association, Ang
Tshering Sherpa. Mr Bem was also given a new state-of-the-art climbing
jacket at the ceremony. The Mayor of Prague said after the ceremony that he
wasn’t sure he really deserved the award, but that he was very happy with
Pavel Bem took two months unpaid leave to climb Everest in March of this year. Reaction to Mr. Bem’s expedition was mixed, with some criticising the mayor for neglecting his duties at Prague Town Hall.
Czech households can expect to pay up to 10% more for their electricity next year, said Josef Firt of the Energy Regulatory Office in an interview with Czech Television on Sunday. He attributed this to the increased cost of electricity distribution, as well as the rise in cost of base load power. In the interview with Czech Television’s Vaclav Moravec, Mr Firt said that gas prices would also rise in 2008. But, he said this price-increase would be below the rate of inflation, which the Czech National Bank has predicted will be between 4.4% and 5.8% next year.
The Czech Republic has been drawn alongside its neighbour Slovakia in qualifying for World Cup 2010. Also in the Czech Republic’s group – group 3 – are Poland, Slovenia, Northern Ireland and San Marino. The Czech press has reacted to the draw by calling the group ‘manageable’ and identifying the Poles as the Czech Republic’s biggest threat. Only the outright winner of the group is guaranteed to go through to the World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in 2010. On Sunday, the preliminary draw for the qualifying stage of the competition was held in Durban.
The Czech Medical Chamber continued its two-day congress in Brno on
Sunday. On the agenda was the government’s recent reform package, which
brings in medical fees, and raises the number of hours that doctors are
expected to work each week. The Czech Medical Chamber also discussed the
problem it was having electing a deputy president. The post has been open
for the last two years, and so on Sunday, doctors tried to change the
selection procedure for the post so that it would be filled at least at
next year’s congress.
The Czech Medical Chamber represents the country’s 40,000 doctors. Membership is compulsory for those practicing medicine in this country. Over the course of its two-day conference, health minister Tomas Julinek and shadow health minister David Rath have both addressed the chamber.
The search for a new education minister, which has been dividing the Czech
Green Party for the last two months, has claimed another victim. Dalibor
Strasky has resigned from his post as chairman of the Green’s National
Council, unhappy with the lack of influence the council has been able to
exert on the selection procedure. The head of the Green Party Martin Bursik
has said that he wants the party leadership, alongside Green Party mps, to
decide who should become the next education minister. He has dismissed the
National Council’s favoured candidate, Olga Zubova, saying he would
rather appoint someone with more experience in the education sector.
The post of education minister has been open since Dana Kuchtova resigned at the beginning of October. The search for a successor has split the Green Party, with some mps calling for Mrs Kuchtova to be reinstated. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that he wants the Greens to decide upon a candidate by the end of next week.
Meteorologists have warned of the risk of snowdrifts on higher ground on Sunday evening. A band of low pressure coming in from Scandinavia is threatening to bring snow and strong north-westerly winds to altitudes over 800m above sea level. It is expected to snow in most parts of the country until Tuesday night at the earliest, and even lower-lying ground can expect between 2 – 15cm of snow. Forecasters predict that higher ground could see as much as 30cm of snowfall. As a result of the winter-y weather, motorists have been warned to drive with extreme caution.
Police involved in the clampdown on a neo-Nazi rally in Prague city centre a fortnight ago are to face legal action. Prague lawyer Klara Slamova has lodged a criminal complaint against the police force which detained several hundred neo-Nazis on their way to a protest in the city’s Jewish quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Nazi pogrom. Mrs Slamova has also brought charges against Prague Mayor Pavel Bem and his deputy Rudolf Blazek. She maintains that city councillors abused their power when they banned the neo-Nazi march, and that police curtailed protestors’ personal freedom when they clamped down on the rally. The protest took place on November 10th, and led to nearly 400 arrests – both far-right extremists and anarchists were detained.
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
Czech Republic faces court action over freedom of movement
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
Prague prepares for launch of annual light show