The number of employed Czech residents has exceeded 5 million for the first time in the country's history, the Czech Statistical Office reported. Unemployment has dipped to 4.3 percent, which is the lowest figure in 12 years. Some 220,000 people are currently unable to find a job. The lowest rate of unemployment – currently at 1.8 percent - is in Prague, while the highest rate is in the region of Moravia-Silesia, with 7.6 percent of people out of work. Employers complain increasingly of a lack of skilled workers.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém will not run for the post of chairman of the Civic Democratic Party at the party’s national conference in the autumn, the E15 internet daily reported. Mr Bém said the party conference should confirm Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in the post. The Prague mayor, who is considered to be the prime minister’s main rival in the party, said his potential victory over Mr Topolánek could spark a confrontation that could weaken the governing coalition.
The number of Czechs who think courts are impartial is the lowest since 1999, according to a recent poll conducted by the STEM agency. Only 28 percent of Czechs believe that local courts are impartial and that they perform well. The work of judges was appraised by mere three percent of respondents. The survey by the STEM agency suggests people’s views are largely influenced by their political preferences, with supporters of the governing Civic Democrats being the most optimistic.
The Czech Republic posted a foreign trade surplus of 13.9 billion crowns in June, according to preliminary data released by the Czech Statistical Office. The figure is 5.8 billion higher than in the same month in 2007. Exports grew by 1.7 percent while imports fell by 1 percent. The surplus has been attributed mainly to increased exports of machinery and transport equipment. Analysts expected the figure to be much lower due the strengthening Czech crown.
A Czech army contingent has left for Afghanistan where it will replace Czech troops who have ended their mission in the province of Logar, serving on a provincial reconstruction team. The change of guard will take place in several stages. Two hundred Czech soldiers and civilians will spend six months supporting the central government and Afghan security services in the province of Logar, as well as working on humanitarian projects and reconstruction. Two Czech soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Logar earlier this year.
Prague municipal police have collected littering fines amounting to 200,000 crowns (or 13,000 US dollars) from almost 5000 people since a strict regulation to prevent littering was introduced last month. Tossing a cigarette butt was the most common offence. Nearly 700 people have also been fined for drinking alcohol in alcohol-free public places. As of July 1, those caught spitting out gum, tossing cigarette butts, not cleaning up their dog’s mess and even feeding the pigeons face a fine of up to 30,000 crowns.
Barbora Snopková, assistant to former finance minister Ivo Svoboda, has been released from prison on parole. Mrs Snopková and Mr Svoboda were sentenced to five years in prison in 2005 after being convicted of having unlawfully transferred 6.5 million crowns (around 400 000 US dollars) to their own private company from the now bankrupt baby carriage manufacturer Liberta, while on the company’s board between 1996 and 1998. Mr Svoboda is the first member of a post-Communist Czech government to be handed down a prison sentence. The release of Mrs Snopková was proposed by the head of Prague’s Ruzyně prison where she served her sentence.
The Prague Zoo plans to repair two wooden Cubist houses built by the renowned Czech architect Josef Gočár, relocate them to an upper part of the garden and open them to the public. The houses were damaged by flood water in August 2002 and they have been in bad shape since then. The renovation will cost around 30 million crowns.
There are plans to make a feature film about the controversial Christian Democrats leader and deputy prime minister Jiří Čunek. The movie will be directed by Robert Sedláček, who is best known for the 2006 picture Rules of Lies. While the lead role has yet to be filled, the director told the idnes.cz website that the part of Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg would be played by the Slovak actor and director Martin Huba. Minister Schwarzenberg had at one point seemed ready to quit the cabinet if Mr Čunek remained in government. The latter has been the subject of financial scandals and also made headlines over evidently racist comments he made about the Czech Republic’s Roma minority.
The musician Michael Kocáb has confirmed he is going to stand for the Green Party in elections to the Senate this autumn. However, he said he would withdraw his candidature if the Greens moved to the left under Dana Kuchtová, who is set to challenge chairman Martin Bursík for the leadership next month. Mr Kocáb, who leads the rock group Pražský výběr, played a leading role in the Velvet Revolution and was a Civic Forum deputy. He oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia and was an advisor to Václav Havel during Mr Havel’s presidency.