President Václav Klaus on Monday met with Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Defense Minister Martin Barták to discuss a possible increase of Czech troops in Afghanistan and organizational changes to the army ensuing from budget cuts. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last week urged the Czech Republic to increase its presence in Afghanistan by 51 solders who would provide helicopter training and operate two clinics. Although the Czech government has already approved the increase, the plan is likely to meet with opposition in Parliament where left-wing parties are planning to reject it. The Czech Republic currently has over 500 soldiers in Afghanistan, serving on the provincial reconstruction team in Logar.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said on Monday he was aware of the problem of there being too few women in Czech politics and that he personally, would support quotas for women on his party’s list of candidates for the upcoming general elections. However, the Social Democrat leader said the time was clearly not ripe for such a move. He was referring to the fact that although his party’s statutes say that at least one post in the party leadership should be reserved for a woman, that post has been empty for some time and is likely to remain so. The only candidate for the post Alena Borůvková failed to win enough votes to get elected last autumn.
Czech unemployment rose to 9.9 percent in February, hitting a five-year high, official data showed on Monday. The rate rose from 9.8 percent in January 2010 and from 7.4 percent in February last year, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said. Employment offices registered over 500,000 job seekers ready to start work immediately. Analysts expect unemployment to hit 10 percent before the end of this year. The Czech jobless rate has been rising steadily since the global crisis hit the economy in November 2008. At that time, it stood at 5.3 percent.
The police are investigating a gas explosion in Prague’s southern district of Radotin that damaged two building early on Monday. The explosion happened in one of the apartments which was completely destroyed by the blast. Two men – a father and son - were rushed to hospital with severe burns. According to preliminary findings it appears that the son turned on the gas in an attempt to commit suicide and the father caused the explosion by walking into the room and lighting a cigarette.
The former Bavarian premier, CSU deputy, Gunther Beckstein, said on Monday that road checks on Czech drivers in Bavaria could not cease, since they were an essential tool in curbing crime. Speaking after a meeting with the Czech Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek, Mr. Beckstein promised to appeal to his party colleague, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann, to moderate the road checks and make sure they were fully in line with Schengen regulations. Czech politicians recently demanded an apology from Germany after receiving more than 100 complaints from Czech drivers saying they had been searched and questioned in a humiliating manner by German traffic police, particularly in Bavaria. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle who visited Prague last Thursday promised to look into the matter.
A survey conducted in connection with International Women’s Day suggests that the majority of Czechs feel it is an occasion worth marking. A quarter of respondents said they see it as a nice opportunity to give women in their close vicinity flowers and chocolates. Thirteen percent say it is a day of acknowledgment for all the extra work women do in running the house and looking after the kids. Only 11 percent of respondents said it was a day dedicated to the fight for women’s rights and should be marked as such. Young people generally had no idea that March 8th is International Women’s Day and a few suggested it was Mothering Sunday.
Plans are afoot for the dismissal of the country’s ambassador to the EU Milena Vicenová, Respekt reported on Monday. The weekly says that the news has been confirmed by politicians in the two strongest parties, the Civic and Social Democrats. Foreign Minister Jan Kohout himself has refused to comment. According to Respekt the official reason given was Ms. Vicenová’s lackluster performance in office. The diplomat herself said she had received no official information on her possible dismissal.
A Czech snow-boarder has been critically injured after tumbling more than 100 meters down a steep slope in the Austrian Alps. He was rescued by helicopter and is reported to be in serious condition in a Salzburg hospital. Emergency workers said the 32-year-old had put himself at great risk by leaving the marked trail and snowboarding in unknown terrain.
Trade unions have publicly distanced themselves from homophobic statements
made by transport unions leader Jaromir Dušek. Mr. Dušek evoked outrage
on the Czech political scene when he said in an interview for Saturday’s
Lidové Noviny that the transport sector was run by a clique of homosexuals
who had people both in the cabinet and the office of the government. He has
refused to apologize for the remarks, despite coming under severe criticism
from Prime Minister Jan Fischer. Transport Minister Gustav Slámečka
accused Mr. Dušek of Nazi rhetoric, while the minister for human rights
and minorities, Michael Kocáb, said he was shaken by Mr. Dušek’s stand.
The trade union leader has found himself in growing isolation; both the prime minister and transport minister say they no longer consider him a partner for negotiation and many trade union leaders are now calling for his head. A decision is expected on Tuesday.
The Czech government has refused to loan a ton of gold from the national bank for a Czech exhibit at this year’s Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The gold was needed for the so-called ‘Czeknowlogy’ part of the exhibit where sensors should allow the emotions of visitors to be displayed on a giant drop of pure gold. The Czech finance minister, Eduard Janota, said he considered the loan risky in view of the possibility that the exhibit could be auctioned off with other gold then being returned to the Czech Republic. The organizers say they have an alternative solution involving private sponsors.
Collapse of Prague footbridge raises concerns regarding state of other bridges
Some like it hot: Czech Republic sees rise in number of household saunas
The fascinating story of Czech settlers who founded the farm town of Prague, Oklahoma
ANO leader Andrej Babiš appointed Czech prime minister
Czech wage rises continue apace, low earners seeing larger increases