A meeting of representatives of the Czech Agrarian Chamber and the prime minister has failed to head off a planned blockade for October 13, when farmers will use tractors and other machinery to slow traffic on Czech roads. The protest blockade will last two hours and will not affect highways. Farmers are protesting next year’s proposed Agriculture Ministry budget and calling for an additional 2.8 billion crowns in direct payments. The prime minister told representatives it would be possible to use one billion from the land fund and possible to secure an additional billion crowns from reserves from this year’s agriculture ministry budget.
A new poll by the Median agency has suggested the voter preference gap between the ruling Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democratic Party has narrowed. According to the poll, if a national election were held today the right-of-centre Civic Democrats would get 31.5 percent of the vote, while the Social Democrats would secure 34.8 percent of the ballot. The latter party has slipped by around 2 percent. The poll also looked at the position of the smallest party in Parliament, the Green Party, finding if an election were held today the Greens would not pass the obligatory 5 percent threshold needed to make it into the Chamber of Deputies. The Greens, the poll suggested, would come up just short, with 4.7 percent of the vote.
A fatal shooting took place on Thursday night at a Prague restaurant only hours after it was the scene of the launch of a new book by opposition leader Jiří Paroubek, the head of the Social Democratic Party. Killed was the son of Mr Paroubek’s former advisor and associate Václav Kočka. He was shot by another of the guests at the event. The suspect, Bohumír Ďuričko, is in custody. The shooting followed a verbal dispute: eyewitnesses said the two men argued before Mr Ďurička drew a firearm and fired three shots, killing Václav Kočka jr. The incident happened in the late hours of the evening after the majority of guests, as well as the opposition leader, had already departed the launch.
The town of Hradec Králové, in north-eastern Bohemia, could stand to lose as much as 74 million crowns invested in bonds in Icelandic banks Glitnir and Landsbank, while millions more have already been lost for share investments. The town originally put money into an investment portfolio, valued as worth 782 million crowns on September 30. The town invested funds saved in past years, a spokesman for city hall has said.
Two glass factories in insolvency proceedings, belonging to the troubled Bohemia Crystalex Trading, have not been able to secure funds to pay out workers’ monthly wages, a company spokesman has revealed. The funds for 1,750 employees laid off were to have been paid out this Friday and next week, but the accounts have been blocked since the company announced it would have to close down the two plants earlier this month. Union representatives and company heads have been negotiating a solution with the aim of paying out wages owed by the end of October.
The Cheb region, in the western part of the country, has been hit by a series of light earthquakes, the strongest measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale. The first quake hit on Wednesday night, the strongest came in early hours of Friday morning, waking people from their sleep at 5:30 am. Monitoring devices registered minor seismic activity across the country, though the public only felt the quake in Cheb where it was the strongest registered since 1985. No damages were reported.
The Ministry for Regional Development has announced plans to reconfigure rent deregulation to wrap up not by 2010, as originally intended, but by 2012. The re-pacing means planned rises will not be as sharp as previously expected. Exempt are the towns of Ustí nad Labem, Ostrava, and some towns in central Bohemia. The ministry is currently preparing a subsidies programme for individuals and families who could face financial problems over deregulation. As well, the ministry has said it aims to put together a plan to support the construction of more affordable housing. The Minister for Regional Affairs, Jiří Čunek, has said that the Czechs will also negotiate the housing issue with Brussels.
Trading on the Prague bourse fell by a record 14.94 percent on Friday, reflecting the continuing turmoil on the global stock markets. The day’s losses are the worst since the bourse was founded in 1993. A day earlier, shares on Wall Street dropped to a five-year low, while the Tokyo Stock Exchange was also hard hit. The biggest losers on Friday on the Prague bourse were CME, owners of commercial broadcaster TV Nova, whose shares fell by 29.25 percent. Others hard hit were ECM developers and the Erste Bank Group, the owner of the Czech bank Česká spořitelna.
Car manufacturing concern TCPA (Toyota, Peugeot, Citroen Automobile) has announced plans to increase annual production at its Kolín plant next year to 340,000 vehicles – 20,000 more than expected to be produced there in 2008. Increasing production will require an investment of around 150 million crowns and should result in 100 new jobs, representative shave said. TCPA made the announcement on Friday, saying demand for cars in production had increased in Western Europe. 99.5 percent of the vehicles at the plant are made for export, with key markets including Italy, France, and Great Britain.
Interior Minister Langer has presented the cabinet with a plan to increase spending on the teaching of Persian, Arabic and Chinese, according to press reports. Mr Langer said the Czech Republic’s security services needed officers skilled in such languages in order to function effectively. He and the education minister, Ondřej Liška, are due to hold talks on the plan during the next week, before the cabinet considers it again.
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