Outgoing Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek predicted on Tuesday that the country will enjoy a modest growth of 0.5 percent next year. That will follow a decrease of not more than 2.0 percent this year, he added. Even so, Mr Kalousek predicted lower levels of tax income and increased government spending could mean that this year’s budget deficit will exceed 180 billion crowns. He said he would strive to curb the deficit at under 150 billion this year and next. The government originally aimed for the deficit this year to be around 115 billion crowns.
The Czech delegation at the UN’s World Conference Against Racism walked out during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s speech on Monday, when the Iranian leader described Israel as ‘totally racist’. Afterwards, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it, and its ‘democratic partners, both from EU and non-EU states’ could not legitimize these ‘totally unacceptable anti-Israeli attacks’ by hearing Mr Ahmedinejad out. The Czech delegation subsequently announced that it would join the US and several other European states by boycotting the conference. The UN conference runs until April 24.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Personal Data announced on Tuesday that it would probe a leak of ‘sensitive’ data on politicians who attended the recent EU-US summit in Prague. The Czech EU presidency has admitted that a publicly accessible computer in a Prague hotel displayed information on EU officials taking part in the summit on April 5. The cause of the leak was ‘unintentional human error’, it said. A Finnish tourist stumbled across politicians’ passport numbers, flight details and medical information on a public access computer, the Finnish news agency STT reported on Friday. The office said that there was a serious suspicion that a breach of the law had occurred. The maximum fine for releasing confidential material is 10 million crowns, around 500,000 dollars.
In ice hockey, legendary Czech ’keeper Dominik Hašek announced a comeback to the sport on Tuesday. The 44 year old said at a news conference that he will team up with former extra league club Pardubice for the upcoming season. He added that one of the goals for the next season could be participation in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The hero of the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 and twice winner of the Stanley Cup last played for Pardubice 15 years ago. The east Bohemian outfit was his first major club and he helped them it to win the championship in 1987 and 1989.
Energy rich Kazakhstan is to take part in the EU’s ‘Southern Corridor Summit’ on power supplies which will be held in Prague next month, it was announced on Monday evening. The announcement was made by Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin during a visit to Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg. One of the Czech Republic’s priorities at the helm of the EU has been diversifying the bloc’s sources of energy. Prague has been pushing to lower the EU’s dependence on gas supplies from Russia. On a visit to Kazakhstan in February, outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that the EU was interested in purchasing direct deliveries of oil and gas from central Asia. The Prague energy summit focusing on that will be held on May 8.
Former president Vácalv Havel has distanced himself from speculation that he could back the centre-right Civic Democrats in upcoming October elections. Havel said that he was not about to wear a political t-shirt and if he were to so it would be green. Havel sparked speculation following comments to the Lidové Noviny newspaper last week which criticising the Social Democrat led no-confidence vote which toppled the centre-right coalition as a ‘stupidity.’ He added that he sympathised with the Civic Democrats and expected voters would make the Social Democrats pay for what they had done.
The Czech Republic and South Korea signed an economic cooperation agreement during the visit by Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo on Tuesday. The agreement covers research and development with emphasis on nanotechnology, renewables and information technology. Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that the European Union and South Korea hope to seal a free trade agreement by the end of the Czech EU presidency in June. Mr Topolánek also announced that President Václav Klaus will head the EU side at an EU-South Korea summit in Seoul on May 23.
A planned speech by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke at Prague’s Charles University has been cancelled by university authorities, Czech media reported on Tuesday. The university engagement was one of three planned speaking engagement by the former leader of the US racist movement in Prague and Brno on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Outgoing Czech minister for human rights and minorities Michael Kocáb described the speaking tour at the invitation of local neo nazis as alarming. The visit comes at a time of heightened tension following a petrol-bomb attack on a Roma family in the north-east of the country on Saturday night which has left a toddler with 80 percent burns fighting for her life in hospital.
Czech wine makers enjoyed a record year for production in 2008. The 2008 production at 820,000 hectolitres, and possibly up to 840,000 hectolitres, is around double the previous year according to the Ministry of Agriculture. It said the increase was in part due to the expansion of domestic vineyards. Whereas 11,236 hectares were under cultivation in 2000, this has now climbed to 17,000 hectares thanks in a large part to state incentives. Czech wine production in 2007 was also hit by frosts which resulted in a lower crop.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit the Czech Republic between September 26-28, the Czech Bishops’ Conference said on Sunday. The dates are yet to be confirmed by the Vatican, a spokesperson for the conference said. Czech bishops have pushed for the pontiff to visit the country on September 28, which is when the Czech Republic remembers its patron saint, Saint Wenceslas. This year’s papal visit will be the first of its kind for over a decade. Pope John Paul II visited the Czech Republic on three occasions, the last being in 1997.
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