Czech President Václav Klaus will not protest or seek to block the re-admission of Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek back into the cabinet. In an interview with Czech public television, Mr. Klaus stated that this decision was solely in the hands of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. Despite the president’s assurances, Mr Čunek’s return to government remains in the balance, as various factions within the governing coalition remain strongly opposed to the idea. The Christian Democrat leader was forced to leave his ministerial post following a series of corruption allegations last year.
Newly released figures suggest that unemployment in the Czech Republic fell in February from 6.1% to 5.9%. According to the figures from the Czech Labour Ministry, the number of Czechs out of work currently stands at 330,641. Meanwhile, inflation levels continue to cause concerns as the prices of many household goods continue to climb. For the second month in a row, prices have risen by an average of 7.5%. Worldwide increases in basic food costs are partly blamed for the figures – the Czech Republic has seen the average price of a loaf of bread increase by 33% from the previous year. Energy prices have also gone up, with petrol, electricity and gas costs increasing by between 9 and 17% on the previous year. Analysts predict that high inflation figures will continue to pose a problem in the Czech Republic throughout the year.
A newly released opinion poll by the Median polling agency indicates the opposition Social Democrats have the support of 33.3% Czechs, while the governing Civic Democrats enjoys 30.3% support. The figures suggest a slight loss of support for the Social Democrats on the previous month’s figures. According to Median, the Communists are in third place with 14.9%, the Greens have 8.8% and the Christian Democrats have 6.8% support. These figures are likely to worry the Christian Democrats most, as they are hovering close to the 5% threshold required for a political party to attain seats in parliament. The next scheduled parliamentary elections are in 2010, although any number of factors could result in early elections being called.
Turf wars between Caucasian, Armenian and Chechnyan mafia gangs are becoming a serious problem in Prague – this according to Jan Šubert a spokesman for the Czech Security Service BIS which deals with the problem of organized crime in the Czech Republic. The comments came after an incident in the centre of Prague on Saturday in which two Russian-speaking men were apparently gunned down by members of a rival gang. This incident follows in the wake of a series of similar tit-for-tat attacks last November in which a Russian-speaking businessman was stabbed to death in Prague’s Wenceslas square.
The Czech Ministry of Defence has been ordered to pay a fine of 30,000 crowns (around 1800 USD) by the country’s Anti-Monopoly Authority. The fine relates to the avoidance of a mandatory public tender in which the rules were bypassed by breaking down a building contract into two separate smaller entities. Specifically, the fine relates to building work undertaken at a military facility in the region of Hradiště v Doupovských horách in 2005. The verdict by the Czech Office for the Protection of Competition, allows the Ministry of Defence to appeal in the courts.
Independent Senator Liana Janáčková could face criminal prosecution for a series of allegedly racist comments made in 2005. The comments, made while she served as mayor of the Czech region of Marianské Hory and Hulváky, allegedly included calling Roma gypsies “over-bred” and suggested their removal with dynamite. Czech police have formally requested that Ms Janáčková be stripped of her immunity from prosecution. The proceedings have come as a result of legal action taken by a number of NGOs and private citizens, which include Roma organisations. Ms Janáčková has declined to comment on the matter.
Members of the Ne Základnam or No to Radars campaign undertook a publicity stunt today to highlight the fact that public money is being used to promote the proposed US military system being located on Czech soil. The protesters handed out symbolic bills to individual government ministers for 882,000 crowns. These bills are said to represent the average amount that each minister has spent of an estimated 15 million crowns of public money to promote the US radar base. The campaigners plan to hold a march through Prague on the 15 March. Opinion polls consistently indicate that a majority of Czechs appose the Bush administration’s plan to locate an anti-missile radar system in the Czech Republic
The Jeseníky Mountain rescue service has called a third-degree avalanche alert, warning skiers not to stray from marked ski-trails. The service said the thaw over the past couple of days had loosened a twenty-centimeter layer of snow in the mountain’s five avalanche areas and the weight of a single skier could set off an avalanche. Holiday-makers have been warned not to underestimate the danger.