The politician that Czechs hold the highest regard for is Václav Havel, who was elected the country’s first post-communist president twenty years ago on December 29, serving three successive terms in office. A new survey by the STEM agency reveals that 75 percent of those polled believe that Mr. Havel did more for the country’s positive development than any other politician. The survey focused on the achievements of 28 Czech politicians active after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Among the other top rated politicians are President Václav Klaus and the former head of the Christian Democrats Josef Lux.
A water sample from the Czech Bílina river revealed that the river’s waters are severely contaminated. After oily substances had leaked into the river from a nearby Unipetrol RPA plant on December 23, water samples from the river were sent to a laboratory. On Tuesday, the samples have been shown to contain a hundred to a thousand times higher levels of certain poisonous substances than is legally permissible for rivers, lakes and other bodies of water in the Czech Republic. A spokesman of the local water authority told journalists that those levels will have decreased by now, since the samples were taken a day after the leak.
Despite the ongoing global financial crisis, the Czech automobile industry is doing better than ever, registering in 2009 the highest sale of cars in the country’s history. Car sales in the Czech Republic have grown by about 11 percent this year, with 1,125 million vehicles sold in 2009. The lion’s share of automobiles was sold by the company Škoda Auto, which retailed 675.000 cars this year. The director of the Automotive Industry Association told journalists that the record numbers had two reasons: an increase in production at the Czech Hyundai plant in Nošovice, and a dramatic growth in production of Škoda cars in China.
From January 2010, the Czech Republic will see an increase in value added and consumer tax. Part of a new package of austerity measures, the increased taxes are expected to generate an additional 23 billion Czech crowns. The Ministry of Finance hopes that the changes will lower the state budget deficit from 230 billion to 163 billion Czech crowns. Most affected by the tax increase are alcohol, cigarettes and automobiles. The price of a half a liter of beer will increase by 50 halers, the price of a package of cigarettes will rise by about 2 crowns in February. Value added tax will increase by one percentage point starting January.
Eighteen-year-old student Nguyen Mai Anh was voted Miss Vietnam Czech Republic in Prague on Tuesday. Mrs. Main Anh and four other finalists will represent the Czech Republic at the Miss Vietnam European Union contest that will take place in Germany in January. Mr. Mai Anh, who received a money price along with the title and crown, told journalists that her success in the competition would give her an opportunity to visit Vietnam. Fourteen girls participated in the competition, which is said to be a stepping stone to a modeling career for women of Vietnamese descent.
The Czech division of the internet search engine Google is expecting a threefold increase in revenue in 2010, the director of the Czech branch of the company Tat’ana le Moigne told the CTK news agency on Tuesday. Mrs. Le Moigne added that Google was one of the fastest growing companies and that next year, thanks to the internet becoming an increasingly popular advertising space, growth in revenue would be very progressive. In 2007, the company saw a revenue of 28 million Czech crowns.
The former leader of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke is planning another visit to the Czech Republic. On his last visit in April of this year, Mr. Duke was arrested and deported just a few hours after his arrival. The police charged the white supremacist with propagating the suppression of human rights. He had been invited to hold a public speech in Prague by Filip Vávra, a member of the National Resistance group, who is also behind the latest invitation. Mr. Duke is set to arrive in the Czech Republic in late January. The precise date has not been made public. Mr. Vávra told journalists that the reason Mr. Duke wanted to return to the Czech Republic was to get a satisfactory explanation from the Czech state regarding his arrest and deportation, which he says was not based on evidence. Police have announced that once Mr. Duke arrives, they will be monitoring him closely.
Ornithologists in the Moravian town of Přerov mourn the disappearance of a precious Whooper Swan that they had been observing for years. The bird, which went missing in early December, might have returned to its original winter migration destination in Germany, the head of the Moravian ornithologist association told journalists. He added that ornithologists would be grateful for any information on where the bird may be. Whooper Swans can be recognized by their yellow necks and the fact that they let humans approach them quite closely.
Both Mirek Topolánek, head of the Civic Democrats, and Jiří Paroubek, head of the Social Democrats, have addressed the public on their websites. Wishing visitors a happy New Year, both politicians also addressed political issues, with Mr. Topolánek calling the year 2009 “the worst for the country since the Velvet Revolution.” He added that he hopes the next year will bring the country more luck. Mr. Paroubek, in his well-wishes, mentioned that he hopes Czech citizens will live under a government that takes care of them and added that he thinks May’s election will be a step in that direction.
The Czech ambassador to the European Union, Milena Vicenová, says she considers it essential to work on correcting the Czech Republic’s Eurosceptic reputation. In an interview for Czech Radio, Ms Vicenová said this widespread view was in many ways undeserved since it does not reflect the opinions of the general public, which are overwhelmingly pro-EU. The Czech ambassador said this negative image was hard to fight and stemmed largely from President Václav Klaus’s anti-EU sentiments, but also from the country’s frequent inability to present its views clearly and at the right time. She said it was time to convince the EU member states that the Czech Republic was trustworthy, willing to pull its weight and was capable of listening to others.