The Czech Republic has agreed with other European states to make it possible for 33% of children under the age of three to attend nursery. There is currently only room for 5% of children in that age group in Czech nurseries, and the state budget does not allow for the expenditure. Prime Minister Fischer’s cabinet has tasked experts from the relevant ministries to assess the situation. According to the website Aktualne.cz, the team intends to propose opening nurseries to all children over two years of age – the current age limit is three – with smaller classes for the smallest children, and more education requirements on teachers. Much of the expected three-billion-crown expense of such an expansion would likely come from EU funds. Nonetheless, the proposal will not likely have an easy passage through Parliament as the two strongest parties differ in their support for it.
Hundreds of clients of one of the largest Czech travel agencies, Sunny Days, may end up grounded without compensation, as the company’s insurer has refused to extend its bankruptcy policy. Spokesman of the Association of Czech Travel Agencies Tomio Okamura said Saturday that Sunny Days has transformed its trade status from a licensed to a free business, to which bankruptcy does not apply. The company will therefore be unable to sell trips, but may only intermediate them. According to Mr Okamura, clients who are not reimbursed for purchased excursions by the company itself will have to have their cases tried in court. Sunny Days is one of the largest Czech travel agencies, and had roughly 50,000 clients when it began facing financial troubles resulting in flight delays in mid-2009. A number of Czech travel agencies have gone bankrupt over the last year, including the largest, Tomi Tour.
The 14th annual Šediváčkův Long dog sledding race, considered one of the most difficult in Europe, has ended in the Orlické Mountains in the north of the country. 92 mushers with some 620 dogs competed in the four-day, 200-km race; only 48 completed the challenge. The race was intended to run 222 kilometres, however it poor weather conditions on Friday required that the route be shortened. The Šediváčkův Long is one of four extreme-sport dog sledding races for the Iron Sled Dog Man title, the rest of which are held in the Swiss and Austrian Alps.
A census of waterfowl in the Czech Republic carried out in January has shown a decrease the number of swans and White-Tailed Eagles, and a rise in the number of cormorants. Ornithologists say that the changes are part of a trend of several years, whereby swans have been pushed out by competing wild geese and, like the White-Tailed Eagle – the largest bird of prey in the Czech Republic – have taken to wintering farther south due to colder winters and icier ponds in the country. Cormorants however have benefited greatly from protected status and currently number roughly nine thousand. The birds have caused considerable damage to the Czech fishing industry by consuming an estimated half-tonne of fish a day.
The automobile manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroën is recalling tens of thousands of Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1 vehicles produced in their plant in Kolín. PSA informed the media on Saturday that the vehicles, which are only made in Kolín, would be called in for repair due to suspicions of faulty accelerators. The move follows only a day after Toyota, which shares the plant with PSA, announced it would be recalling 1.8 million vehicles, including the Aygo model manufactured in Kolín, for the same reason. The company said that the recall would apply to “less than 100,000” vehicles. The accelerator pedal problem has forced Toyota to recall eight million cars since last year, more than it sold in 2009.
The European Court of Justice in Luxemburg will be reviewing a case involving pensions paid by the Slovak state to Czechs who worked there when the two countries were united. The court, the highest in the European Union, has been asked to hear the case by the Supreme Administrative Court in Prague, which suspended proceedings on the matter due to legal ambiguities. The outcome of the suit against the Czech Social Security Administration would affect thousands of Czechs who worked in Slovakia or for Slovakia-based offices and now receive pensions for work abroad. The Czech Constitutional Court has already ruled that such work carried out in the former Czechoslovakia cannot be considered “work abroad”. The pensions currently received by such workers are several thousands of crowns per month less than they would receive under the Czech pensions system.
Tomáš Paprstka has won the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, which was held at the weekend in the South Bohemian town of Tábor. The Czech Republic’s Matěj Lasák also finished fourth place. Paprstka set the pace for most of the second half of the race, however ended neck and neck at the finish line with Frenchman Julian Alaphilipp. The last victory for a Czech in the world juniors’ championship was that of Martin Bína nine years ago, when the event was also held in Tábor.
The owners of a small forest near Hradec Králové have been fined 360 thousand crowns for not completing an order to fell 320 square metres of trees infected with the bark beetle, which has devastated forests around the country. The order was issued in the summer of last year, and much of the forest was felled accordingly, however the beetle still spread to neighbouring forests. The owners appealed the fine unsuccessfully to the Ministry of the Environment on the grounds that they wanted to create a wilderness using the method of non-intervention employed in the Šumava National Park in Southern Bohemia, a protected wilderness that has been particularly hard hit by the bug.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy is continuing his first official visit to Prague after meeting Friday with the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, and President Václav Klaus, the latter a well known opponent of EU integration and the Lisbon Treaty. Notably neglecting to use the title of EU President, Mr Klaus told journalists that he was receiving Mr Van Rompuy as he would any other “high-ranking EU official”, and said that the meeting had done nothing to change his view of the European Union. After talks with Prime Minister Fischer, Mr Rompuy said they had agreed that the EU must continue with aid to Haiti even after media attention begins to wane, and that an upcoming international conference would be key to organising long-term support for the earthquake-stricken country, which the European Union has promised 429 million euros in immediate humanitarian aid. Mr. Herman Van Rompuy took up the post of EU President on January 1 and has since conducted a tour of EU member states.
17-year-old Karolína Plíšková has won the girls’ singles event at the Australian Open Juniors Championship in Melbourne, defeating the UK’s Laura Robson. After a pronounced win for the Czech in the first set, Robson came back in the second but lost a tie breaker to end the match 6:1, 7:6. Plíšková’s twin sister, Krystína, was ousted by Robson in the semi-final. In other tennis action, Czech player Jaroslav Levinský and his playing partner, Russian Jekaterina Makarova, have made it to the final in the mixed-doubles.