The Czech Republic’s Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has been named as the “Finance Minister of the Year 2008.” The award comes from the Washington-based magazine Emerging Markets and specifically covers the areas of post-communist Europe, Turkey and post-Soviet states including those in Asia. Mr Kalousek received the award in person on Friday, while in the US attending a World Bank summit of world finance ministers convened to address the ongoing global financial crisis. Mr Kalousek has been criticised at home in some quarters for an excessively lax approach the financial crisis, stoked by recent comments that the Czech Republic was an “oasis” of calm in the financial and economic spheres.
Two spectators at a race car derby in the Czech city of Ostrava have been seriously injured after a race car lost control and ploughed into them. A fifty-three year old man and a forty-one year old man were injured when the driver of one of the cars skidded off the track and into the audience. The two men were taken to hospital and are said to be in a serious condition.
Around 150 demonstrators gathered in the northern Czech town of České Petrovice, near the Polish border to demonstrate against plans to construct up to 400 wind turbines in the area. The protesters were both Czech and Polish and their action was designed to highlight their belief that a mass of two-hundred metre high wind-turbines will spoil the picturesque beauty of the area as well as create excessive noise. České Petrovice is located near the picturesque Orlické Mountain range. Many of the demonstrators belonged to NGOs formed to oppose the construction. The local authorities in the area have approved the plans and have rejected calls for a referendum on the matter.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek is preparing to seek a confidence vote in the government prior to completion of upcoming elections. The plans were announced in a radio interview by Mr Paroubek on Saturday, in which the main opposition party leader announced that the vote would be sought prior to the second round of elections to the senate. The first round is scheduled for 17-18 October, with a second run-off round to be held a week later on 24-25 October. Previously, the party had announced that a no-confidence vote would take place after the elections. The move represents a ratcheting up of pressure on the government by the Social Democrats, who believe that they will be in a stronger position following the upcoming elections.
Unknown perpetrators shot dead a 34 year-old Ukrainian man in Prague 5 on Friday night. Details remain sketchy, but it is believed the man was with his wife and young son at the time, and may have been involved in a financial dispute. The widow of the man is believed to have told police that her husband was killed by a marksman using a rifle with a telescopic sight.
Czech and German fire-fighters have joined forces in the west Bohemian border town of Rozvadov for a simulated exercise involving a burst oil pipeline. Around two hundred fire-fighters from both countries were involved in the simulation, which involved the bursting of the 347 kilometre long Ingolstadt-Waidhaus-Nelahozeves pipeline, built in 1995, which runs thorough the region. The simulation is one of the largest ever undertaken in the area and is designed to test preparedness and existing plans in the face of a real-life accident involving the pipeline. Although smaller-scale training exercises are undertaken regularly, this was the first major training exercise to revolve around an oil-related disaster. In reports following the simulation, it was announced that the exercise had gone to plan, with Czech fire-fighters reaching the scene within 21 minutes and German fire-fighters arriving within 37 minutes of the simulated accident being announced.
Farmers in the Czech Republic have called off a planned nationwide blockade of roads after reaching an agreement with the Prime Minister over financial subsidies to the industry. The breakthrough came after a meeting on Saturday between representatives of the Agrarian Chamber and the government. During the meeting, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek offered that the government would make up for a planned four billion crown shortfall in the Agriculture Ministry’s budget. The original protest action was called after the Agrarian Chamber sought an additional 2.8 billion crowns in direct payments, something which the government initially refused. The Agrarian Chamber argued that these subsidies, which are at 90% of levels in surrounding countries, were essential to the survival of farming in the Czech Republic. Monday’s planned protest, would have seen farming vehicles coming to a halt on roads (though not motorways) across the country.
A number of labour unions in the Czech Republic have announced a strike over working conditions in the retail giant Tesco. Specifically, the unions believe that Tesco stores are being under-staffed leaving employees chronically overworked. They say that with the upcoming Christmas season, the situation is expected to get worse. Tesco Stores have defended themselves saying that the striking unions represent only a small fraction of its total 13,700 employees.
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.
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