Russia has responded to a warning made by the Czech EU presidency, urging Belarus not to recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions, as ‘politically shocking’. The remarks were made by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzeberg earlier this week. Speaking in Brussels, Mr Schwarzenberg said that Belarus would face a ‘very, very difficult situation’ if it did recognise the independence of pro-Moscow Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has moved to improve relations with the EU recently after years of isolation. Last week, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana made his first ever visit to the country. If Belarus were to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it would become only the third country to do so, after Russia and Nicaragua.
Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík would like to ban shops from distributing free plastic bags, he said on Friday. According to Mr Bursík, plastic shopping bags create nine tonnes of waste in the Czech Republic alone each year. Mr Bursík’s suggestions came as part of a plan to reform the country’s waste-disposal legislation. According to the environment minister, the distribution of free plastic bags in shops leads to consumers using far more of them than is required.
Following Škoda Auto’s announcement on Thursday that it would resume a five-day working week in Mladá Boleslav, carmaker Hyundai has said that due to a rise in demand it will now seek to increase its workforce in Nošovice, north Moravia. The South-Korean concern said it would start advertising for new employees on March 2, and while it would not specify how many new jobs it was seeking to create, a spokesperson did suggest that the factory would increase its workforce by up to 50 percent. Hyundai has decided to step up operations in its north Moravian plant as incentives to buy new cars start to make an impact in other European countries.
Czech banks snubbed the prospect of international financial aid on Friday, saying they were well capitalized and did not need any financial assistance. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank announced a 24.5 billion-dollar two-year plan to provide capital to central and east European banks. But two of the three largest Czech banks, Komerční Banka and Česká spořitelna responded immediately that they did not need such financial assistance. The Czech government and National Bank have been keen to stress that the national economy does not need outside support.
In tennis, two Czechs are through to the semi-finals of the WTA tournament in Acapulco. The country’s number one women’s tennis player, Iveta Benešová, beat France’s Mathilde Johansson in straight sets on Friday and now goes on to meet the tournament’s number two seed, Flavia Penetta, in the semi-finals. The Czech Republic’s Barbora Záhlavová Strycová, meanwhile, is set to meet tournament favourite Venus Williams after beating Maret Ani 4:6, 7:5, 6:1. Fellow Czech Petra Cetkovská is out of the tournament, however, after losing to Italy’s Pennetta at the quarter-final stage.
Czech farmers made some 9.7 billion crowns (435 million USD) last year, reported the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. This sum is around 30 percent less than the record amount generated by Czech farmers in 2007. The majority of Czech farmers’ revenue came from cereals, followed by milk products. Despite producing more cereals in 2008 than in previous years, profits from such crops were lower as the crops’ market value fell, the Statistical Office said.
The Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra has come out in favour of the Czech Republic joining the eurozone as soon as possible. Mr Vondra said in an interview with the business daily Hospodářské noviny that getting on board what he described as ‘the steamship’ would be better than keeping the crown in the mid-term. The government is expected to set a date for adopting the euro in the autumn. The Czech Republic’s neighbour Slovakia, meanwhile, adopted the European single currency at the start of 2009.
The Karel Gott Museum in Jevany, just outside Prague, is to close, it was announced on Friday. The museum dedicated to the life and career of the father of Czech pop is closing after three years of operation, in which time it has attracted over 30,000 visitors. ‘Gottland’ was housed in the singer’s former home, a lakeside villa in the forest outside Prague. The museum’s closure follows the closure of ‘Gott Gallery Restaurant’ formerly on Prague’s Spalená Street, in January this year.
The country’s biggest bank in terms of client numbers, Česká spořitelna, said on Friday that it had raised net profits by an annual 30.2 percent to 15.81 billion crowns (around 712 million USD) in 2008. The profit was generated by the sale of the bank’s insurance unit in particular, a spokesperson said. Česká spořitelna, which is owned by Austria’s Erste Bank, has over 5.3 million clients and almost 11,000 employees. Erste Bank, meanwhile, said on Friday its bottom-line profit fell by 26.8 percent in 2008.
The Czech minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, says it is possible European Union states will adopt a common position on accepting detainees from America’s Guantanamo Bay prison. Mr Langer made the comments in Brussels, where he was chairing a meeting of EU interior ministers as part of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the bloc. He said the ministers first needed to know what the US expects and wants from EU states. President Obama has ordered the closing of the controversial prison, raising the question of what to do with its inmates. The subject will be on the agenda next month when the US secretary of state visits Brussels and Mr Langer and the EU justice commissioner visit Washington.
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