The Czech Republic will have a programme of events for its six-month
presidency of the European Union ready by the end of this year, the deputy
prime minister for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, told the lower
house’s European affairs committee on Thursday. The Czech prime minister,
Mirek Topolánek, will present the schedule to the European Parliament for
approval in the second week of January, Mr Vondra said. The Czech Republic
will assume the presidency of the EU for the first time in the country’s
history on January 1.
On Thursday the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, said his party would co-operate with the government on some matters during the EU presidency to ensure that it runs smoothly. Mr Paroubek said the presidency should not be a show of one party, government or individual, but was a matter for the whole of the Czech Republic, including its regions and citizens.
The Czech National Bank has surprised analysts by lowering the benchmark
interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point – far more than the
expected cut of one quarter of a percentage point. Thursday’s decision
was influenced by subsiding inflation and fears of an economic downturn in
the wake of the global financial crisis. At 2.75 percent, the Czech
Republic’s key interest rate is the lowest in the whole of the European
Union. The last time the central bank intervened so strongly was in 2002,
when it cut rates from 3.75 percent to 3 percent.
The Czech National Bank has also revised its prediction of growth in the Czech economy next year, from 3.6 percent to 2.9 percent.
Karel Gott is marking 50 years in the music business with a tour around the Czech Republic. The hugely successful pop singer drew 4,000 people to the opening show in his hometown of Plzeň on Wednesday night. Gott, who is 69, denied rumours that it is a farewell tour, telling the audience he would sing for them until he fell down.
The famous Czech brewer Plzeňský Prazdroj has launched an 11-degree version of its brand Gambrinus. A 10-degree version of Gambrinus is the Czech Republic’s best selling beer. The brewers, who make Pilsner Urquell, say they are bringing out Gambrinus Excelent to meet a growing demand for slightly stronger 11-degree lager. The new brew will cost one crown more than ordinary Gambrinus.
Around 350 fire officers fought a huge blaze at one of Prague’s biggest markets on Thursday. The fire spread to a large area of the SAPA market in Libuše in Prague 6 after breaking out at a clothing and footwear store on Wednesday night. People living in the area were told to keep their windows closed because of dangerous fumes emanating from the market. The smoke could be smelled across a large area of Prague and the blaze caused traffic delays. A spokesperson for the city’s fire service said it was one of the biggest fires seen in the capital for several decades.
A new exhibition dedicated to Karel Čapek has been launched at the Czech National Library at Prague’s Clementinum, 70 years after the great Czech writer’s death. The show recreates aspects of the era in which Čapek lived, as well as offering an insight into his personal life. There is also a special section dedicated to his co-operation with the founder of Czechoslovakia, President T.G. Masaryk.
Following recent regional elections, the Communist Party has entered coalitions with the Social Democrats in the Moravia-Silesia and Karlovy Vary regions. It is the first time the Communists have been in power on any of the Czech Republic’s 13 regional authorities, which were set up in 2000. The coalition in Karlovy Vary also includes a group called Doctors Movement. Coalition talks are continuing in several other regions. The Social Democrats came first in all the regional elections held in mid October, while the governing Civic Democrats suffered a complete whitewash.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, is due to meet George Bush
before he steps down as US president on January 20, the news website
ihned.cz reported. Mr Topolánek cancelled a meeting with the American
president planned for last week due to tensions within his party the Civic
Democrats following poor election results.
The two leaders had been due to discuss the financial crisis and US plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia, as part of a global missile defence system. The rescheduled meeting is expected to take place at the end of this year or in January.
Almost half of Czechs are proud of their nationality, suggests a survey conducted in the first six months of this year by the Median polling agency. Forty-six percent of respondents said they felt very or quite proud of being Czech. Four percent said they were not proud whatsoever of their nationality.