Representing the Czech presidency of the European Union, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said in Israel that the EU considered the building of houses in Jewish settlements on the West Bank a serious obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Mr Kohout made the comments after talks with Israeli and Palestinian politicians on Wednesday. He said a recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he for the first time acknowledged the right of Palestinians to their own state was a first significant step towards a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East.
Czech women on average earn almost a quarter less than men, according to the results of a survey released by management recruitment company Anderson Willinger. It found that Czech women’s average wages were 23.6 percent lower. This is slightly better than the worst placed country – Austria – where the difference was 25.5 percent. The company said the difference was in part caused by the fact that in some countries wage differences between men and women are clearly defined as illegal. Also women tend to switch jobs less than men and often prefer that their working day does not exceed eight hours, it added.
The government called a meeting of its security council to discuss the flood situation on Thursday morning. The meeting decided to immediately release 54 million crowns to help those hit by the floods. It also decided to send in 1,000 soldiers to dealing with the emergency. Most of these will be engineers. A call for soldiers to be dispatched had been made earlier by the regional governor of Moravia and Silesia, Jaroslav Palas. President Václav Klaus was also updated earlier on the disaster by Interior Minister Martin Pecina.
Czech electricity giant ČEZ signed a 20 billion crown contract on Thursday to build its first major gas-fired power plant in the country. The power plant will have a capacity of 841 MW and should start supplying power from 2013. Construction will be supervised by ČEZ engineering daughter company, Škoda Praha Invest. ČEZ is switching power production out of polluting coal-fired plants. However, the move into gas-powered plants is controversial since the country’s biggest supplier of natural gas is Russia.
Czechs are on average the 17th poorest citizens of the 27-strong EU according to figures released by its statistics office Eurostat. Czechs come in around a third as wealthy as the EU’s wealthiest citizens, the Luxembourgers, and below the EU average. But they are the second richest citizens of the new member states in Central and Eastern Europe after the Slovenians and are twice as wealthy as the EU’s poorest, the Bulgarians.
At least 10 people are known to have died after flooding hit parts of Moravia on Wednesday night. The latest victim was announced at one in the worst hit areas, Nový Jičín. Earlier the ninth victim - from Valašské Meziříčí - apparently died from a heart attack after his car was inundated. Three people drowned when their house in Jeseník nad Odrou was flooded. Others drowned in the nearby towns of Žilina, Žitovice and Černotín, while two elderly people died when they were unable to receive medical assistance because of the high waters. Hundreds of homes were flooded, people evacuated and roads, power, and rail links cut. The same region suffered nearly 50 deaths in flooding in 1997. Forecasters say the situation is unlikely to improve on Thursday as heavy rain and storms are expected to continue in Moravia and Silesia.
Organisers of the Nordic World Ski Championships held near Liberec in February say they could be facing a 116 million crowns shortfall. The head of the championships’ organising committee, Kateřina Neumannová, told town representative that costs were around 30 million more than originally planned and income so far 86 million lower. Legal proceedings to recover some outstanding debts could mean that the event breaks even, she said, adding that the process to get the money would be long and complicated. The 12-day event was the first time the Czech Republic has hosted a world championship ski event. The organisation of the event has long been the subject of criticism.
Civic Democrat leader and former prime minister Mirek Topolánek described the Czech EU presidency as a wasted opportunity on Thursday. He blamed the fall of the coalition government at the end of March. In spite of that, Mr Topolánek highlighted three successes: the April EU-US summit, opening up a debate about energy security in the EU, and avoiding protectionism as the economic crisis hit the continent. He added that the caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer had helped saved some Czech face following the government’s fall.
Confidence in the Czech economy fell back in June after edging up during the previous three months. The national statistics office announced on Thursday that the overall confidence index fell by 0.9 of a percentage point in June to 78.4. The index stood at a 100 a year earlier. Confidence of consumers fell by one point and that of businessman by 0.9 of a percentage point compared with May
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.
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