The European Commission has advised the Czech Republic to cut its number of public service employees. In a review of how the country was progressing towards adoption of the single European currency, the EC said that the Czech Republic still had work to do on cutting its public spending. It recommended saving money by lowering the number of public service employees and freezing their pay. The evaluation was, however, more positive than last year’s with the commission praising the country for slashing its public finance deficit. The Czech Republic originally wanted to adopt the euro as early as next year, but it is expected that the country will now adopt the single European currency in 2012 at the earliest.
The Czech Communist Party announced on Tuesday that it would field a candidate in Friday’s elections for a new head of state, a move considered likely to help outgoing President Václav Klaus win reelection. The candidate to have been put forward by the Communist Party is the European Parliament lawmaker Jana Bobošíková, who has agreed to stand, the party said. Mrs Bobošíková will now join Václav Klaus and Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar in a new round of voting for the country’s next president scheduled for this Friday. The communists’ candidate admits to holding rightwing views - she was once an advisor to Mr. Klaus, himself the founder of the rightwing Civic Democratic Party. Analysts say that Mrs Bobošíková’s candidacy will actually boost Mr Klaus’s chances of reelection, as it splits the vote of the leftwing parties in the Czech Parliament and Senate.
Three Czech men were sentenced on Wednesday for attempting to sell a child to a British couple. The child involved was the nine-month-old daughter of one of the convicted. The three men were caught in a sting, when the couple they tried to sell the child to turned out to be a pair of British investigative journalists, reporting on the sales of children abroad. Petr Zemianek who organized the deal was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Dušan Čonka, whose task was to find a fake birth certificate for the child, was handed a three and a half year suspended sentence. Vladimir Ščasný, who lent Mr Čonka a birth certificate and photos of his daughter Karolína, was dealt a two year suspended sentence.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party candidate for the presidency, Jana Bobošíková has said that she realizes her chances of being elected are small. When asked why she had agreed to run for the presidency in an internet Q & A for iDnes news website, Mrs Bobošíková said that it was to prevent incumbent Czech President Vaclav Klaus from being reelected. But Mrs Bobošíková’s rival for the anti-Klaus vote, Jan Švejnar, has said that if the Communists really want to prevent Mr Klaus from a second term at the castle, then they have no other option but to vote for him. Mr Švejnar has said that the communists’ decision to back Mrs Bobošíková amounts to ensuring Mr Klaus a second term in office.
Czech women’s tennis number one Nicole Vaidišová has announced that she no longer wants to play in the country’s Fed Cup team. She made the statement to the Czech newspaper Sport on Wednesday, adding that for now, she wanted to concentrate on her own career. Vaidišová, who ranks sixteenth in the world, said that she was proud to have played for her country in the past, but right now she had to put all of her energy into her standing on the women’s singles circuit. She added it had been a very hard decision for her to make. The captain of the Fed Cup’s national team Petr Pála said that he was saddened by the news, and that the team now found itself in a much weaker position. The Czech team’s next match in the Fed Cup is a play-off against Israel in April.
The leadership of the Christian Democratic Party has urged its members to push for a secret ballot in this Friday’s presidential elections. This is a u-turn on the part of the Christian Democrats, who, in the first round of presidential elections last week, pushed for a public vote. The governing Civic Democrats are also for a secret ballot, which is said to favour their candidate for the presidency, Václav Klaus. It is thought that if both the Christian and the Civic Democrats vote in favour of a secret ballot, then they should have enough votes to push this method of election through. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, said that he had changed his stance on the way the elections should be conducted because of the ‘undignified character’ of last week’s public vote.
Czech lawmakers Wednesday backed increased use of undercover police to combat the country’s problem with corruption. Lower house lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the first-reading of a bill which would allow undercover operations in a much wider range of cases, provided the courts give their approval to the police intervention. Until now, Czech police have only been cleared to operate in the most serious corruption cases covered by international conventions. The government insists that the new proposals will not mean the creation of ‘agents provocateurs’ – or those who incite suspects to commit illegal acts – whose use is permitted in neighbouring Slovakia in corruption investigations. Anti-corruption organization Transparency International last year put the Czech Republic in 41st place on its corruption index, ranking worse Botswana and the United Arab Emirates, but improving on its joint 46th position in 2006.
The Communist Party has said, however, that it will still support Mr Klaus’s rival Jan Švejnar in this Friday’s elections on three conditions. Firstly, it wants the parties currently backing Mr Švejnar – the Social Democrats and the Greens – to oppose the building of a U.S anti-missile radar base on Czech soil, which is currently being discussed. Secondly, the communists are demanding that the Social Democrats and the Greens enter into a ‘non-aggression pact’ with their party. They want more recognition from both of the parties, and warmer bilateral relations. Finally, the communists are demanding that presidential candidate Jan Švejnar himself treats the party with more respect. The Social Democrats have responded that they are willing to enter into negotiations with the communists, while the Green Party has said that it is not willing to change its stance.
The Czech koruna hit a new high point of 25.48 koruna to the euro early on Wednesday, fuelled by an easing of worries about the risk of holding Central European currencies. But analysts predict that the Czech currency is likely to drift lower in the next couple of weeks and there are mixed views on whether another interest rate rise can be expected after last week’s quarter point increase to 3.75 percent.
Czech police officers are to help Czech tourists in Croatia during the summer season, the Czech and Croatian Prime Ministers Mirek Topolánek and Ivo Sanaders announced after their meeting on Tuesday. Mr Topolánek said the Czech-Croatian negotiations were accelerated by the case of two Czech female tourists, who were reportedly beaten up by Croatian police in September. The Czech police officers are to assist their Croatian colleagues in cases involving Czech tourists. Croatia is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Czechs. About one million Czech tourists visited the country in 2006.
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