Czech gross domestic product should fall by 4.2 percent this year, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. The OECD says the Czech economy should return to growth in 2010, predicting a rise of 1.4 percent next year. The Czech Republic is heavily dependent on exports and the main markets for its products are in recession.
Czech President Václav Klaus says he believes the Czech Republic has passed muster during its six-month presidency of the European Union. He told Czech Radio that the fall of the country’s government and its replacement by a caretaker cabinet had not harmed the Czech presidency in the eyes of other states. Mr Klaus conceded, however, that the change of government had complicated the presidency, which comes to an end next week. Mirek Topolánek’s coalition government lost a no-confidence vote in March, less than half-way through the Czech presidency of the EU. It was replaced by an interim government led by Jan Fischer.
Trainer and former international player Ivan Hašek has presented his policy programme ahead of a vote for the position of chairman of the Czech football association on Saturday. He faces only one other candidate for the job, Luděk Vinš. Hašek, who has the support of many in the game, promises to reform the running of the Czech FA, find more money for youth and amateur football and rebuild the organisation’s headquarters.
Two more cases of swine flu have been detected in the Czech Republic, bringing the total number to nine. A health ministry spokesperson said a young woman found to have the respiratory disease had recently been in Canada, while a young man, who is a US citizen, was discovered to have it after arriving in the Czech Republic on Sunday. Nobody has died of swine flu in this country to date.
The Czech presidency of the European Union has called off accession talks with Croatia scheduled for this coming Friday, due to Zagreb’s failure to resolve a border dispute with Slovenia, an EU member. The move is the latest blow to Croatia’s hopes of becoming the next state to join the bloc. Sweden said it had no plans to launch fresh efforts to settle the border dispute, which the EU sees as a bilateral issue, during its presidency.
The head of the Czech Republic’s Supreme Audit Office, František Dohnal, is facing charges of mismanagement of the institution. The chair of the Chamber of Deputies supervisory committee, Vladimír Koníček, told reporters about the investigation on Wednesday, adding that police had request documents linked to the case. The committee voted to commission an audit of the running of the Supreme Audit Office.
A plot to blow up a number of foreign embassies in Islamabad, including the city’s Czech embassy, was foiled by Pakistani police, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported on Wednesday. Sweden’s foreign ministry confirmed the arrest last week of a man armed with two tonnes of explosives and suspected of planning to bomb its embassy and those of five other countries. A Czech ambassador to Pakistan, Ivo Ždárek, was killed when terrorists blew up the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad in September.
The Czech minister for European affairs, Štefan Fuele, says the Czech presidency has left three tasks unfulfilled: the election of a new president of the European Commission, enlarging the EU to take in Croatia, and strengthening relations with the new US administration. He said, however, that Prague had done all it could to deal with those matters, and any shortfalls were not due to a lack of effort. Mr Fuele made the comments after talks in Prague with the chair of the Swedish Parliament Per Westerberg. The Swedes take over the presidency of the EU from the Czech Republic on July 1.
South Korean company Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction is in talks to buy Czech turbine maker Škoda Power for between USD 550 and 630 million, a spokesperson for the firm said, adding that the price had yet to be finalised. Doosan Heavy is South Korea’s biggest power equipment maker in terms of sales.
Close to half of Czech firms say they are planning lay-offs in the coming months in order to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis and increase their chances of survival. In a flash poll conducted among 154 companies, a third of them said they may have to lay off up to twenty percent of employees, while five percent of them said they would have to let go up to thirty percent of employees to stay afloat. Fifty-four percent of firms polled said they were cutting costs elsewhere. The export-oriented Czech economy is feeling the effects of the crisis in neighbouring states, with eighty percent of Czech firms reporting a severe drop in demand in the first quarter. The credit-crunch is making it difficult for them to take out fresh loans, meaning that some will temporarily have to shut down production if the situation worsens.
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