The Czech Republic’s gross domestic product fell by 5.5 percent year on year in the second quarter of 2009, according to revised government figures released on Tuesday. That is the largest quarterly decrease year-on-year in the country’s history, and one percentage point higher than a forecast from the Czech central bank. But the economy has also shown some slight signs of recovery, as it rose by 0.1 percent compared to the first quarter of this year. The biggest factor behind the plunge is the decrease in manufacturing industry output, which fell by 12.8 percent. Analysts believe that increased government spending in the second quarter of 2009 prevented an even greater fall in GDP.
Police have charged one person with defamation and hate crimes over election commercials run by a right-wing extremist party on Czech Television earlier this year. The commercial, which offered a “final solution to the Gypsy question” ahead of elections to the European Parliament in May, was broadcast once on Czech Television before it was pulled and criminal charges were filed against the party. The accused faces from six months to three years of prison if convicted.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament revived at its session on Tuesday
a Senate bill to amend the constitution and bring about early elections.
MPs also shortened the procedure so that the amendment can be approved on
the second day of the session. Under the new provision, the president would
dissolve the Chamber of Deputies if requested by three fifths of MPs.
The Constitutional Court decided last week to postpone early general elections over a complaint from an independent MP. If it rejects the petition in a public hearing on Thursday, the elections will be held on October 9 and 10, as originally planned.
A poll conducted by the Centre for Analysis and Empirical Research suggests that 81% of Czechs believe their politicians abuse the constitution to promote their own partisan and personal interests. The results of the survey also indicate that a majority of people are in favour of adhering to October elections in spite of questions over whether that date could lead to the elections results being disputed. 46% of respondents did not consider the current situation a “constitutional crisis”.
Scientists from Masaryk University in Brno have genetically modified proteins to create a new substance capable of degrading toxic waste. The discovery was published in the American scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology. The new substance is grown from a soil bacterium that is entirely non-toxic, and is currently being further researched to determine potential use in medicines. The team is also testing the substance on the hazardous DDT pesticide, which was banned in 1972 but cannot be removed from the soil.
In related news, the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose to 8.5 percent in August, which is the highest rate in over three years. Last August, the jobless rate was at 5.3 percent. In total, there are more than 480,000 people out of work in the country, according to data released by the government on Tuesday. The areas hit worst by the rising unemployment include the north Bohemian district of Most with over 16 percent and the northern Moravian district of Karviná with almost 15 percent. The lowest number of unemployed was registered in Prague, with 3.4 percent.
The ceremonial opening of the new National Technical Library in Prague’s Dejvice district took place on Wednesday. The six-story design, which proudly displays its own dimensions on its facade, provides room for nearly two million books, 250 public computers and a large cafe. The library expects annually up to 900,000 visitors who its director says should feel free to use the building “as a source of information, or as their own second living room”. The building received the prize of the Club for Ancient Prague for best modern building in an historic locale.
The Czech Republic and the Principality of Liechtenstein have established diplomatic relations. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout and his Liechtenstein counterpart, Aurelie Frick, signed a joint memorandum to that end in Prague on Tuesday. The two countries had not recognized each other over a dispute concerning the post WWII confiscation of property of the Liechtenstein family in former Czechoslovakia, particularly in Moravia. The country disowned property of almost all ethnic Germans but the principality argued that members of the family were Liechtenstein citizens. However, Ms Frick told reporters her country’s recognition of the Czech Republic did not mean the Liechtenstein family would drop its property claims. The Czech Foreign Ministry said that the only remaining two countries with which Prague has no diplomatic relations with are Bhutan and the Marshall Islands.
The Chamber of Deputies has overturned a presidential veto to pass a law supporting economic growth and social stability. The law will introduce scrap automobile incentives and other anti-crisis measures. It passed the lower house with 101 votes, the minimum needed in order to overturn the veto. The bill was primarily advocated by the Social Democratic Party on the grounds that it included not only scrap incentives but also temporary tax allowances and unemployment benefits. Czech President Václav Klaus vetoed the package in July, complaining that it was discriminatory and unsystematic. The scrap incentive he said favoured one sector with a powerful lobby at the expense of other parts of the economy.
Representatives of the eight Czech Airlines unions meeting with the company management and Finance Minister Eduard Janota have rejected wage decreases. The unions will now have one week to submit their own proposal for the company to save one billion crowns annually. Tensions have run high recently between the airline unions, which have threatened to go on unlimited strike, and the company management, some of whom have offered their own resignation in exchange for blanket wage reductions across the company.