Social Democrats unveiled their programme for the upcoming general
elections at a party conference in Teplice, northern Bohemia on Saturday.
Party leader Jiří Paroubek told the convention that if they win at the
polls in May, they will make the Czech Republic one of top ten EU
with the highest living standards. Mr Paroubek said his government would
raise corporate taxes and taxes for the rich, and abolish fees for visits
to the doctor, introduced last year as part of a health-care reform. The
Social Democrat leader also promised to pay one-time extra pensions. The
party would like to lower the deficit of the state budget and adopt the
euro by 2016.
The election for the lower house of the Czech parliament is scheduled for May 28 and 29. The Social Democrats are leading in most polls, followed by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, the conservative party TOP 09 and Communists. Some polls suggest that Christian Democrats and the Greens would also pass the five-percent threshold to enter the lower house.
Czech athlete Roman Šebrle finished 5th in heptathlon at the world indoor athletic championships in Doha on Saturday. The 36-year-old former Olympic and world champion was slower in both sprints, but showed good performance in shot put, high jump and pole vault. In the last event, 1,000 m, he managed to hold off Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov who got within five points of the Czech. Šebrle, who is the current decathlon world record holder, said he did not expected much more, given his recent injury. Brian Clay, from the United States, defended the title and took gold.
The Czech Republic has become Europe’s biggest car producer per capita, the Slovak daily Pravda reported on Saturday. Car production in Slovakia, which produced the highest number of cars per one inhabitant in the previous years, dropped in 2009 by some 20 percent. In the Czech Republic, car production rose last year by more than 3 percent to a record 970,000 vehicles. The biggest car producer in Europe in total numbers is Germany, with 5.2 million cars. The Czech Republic is fifth.
Several dozen environmental activists protested a Social Democrat conference in Teplice on Saturday over the party’s stance on coal mining in the region. The protesters put up a sign on the building where the conference is taking place, while others gathered outside. The environmentalists would like the Social Democrats to reject further coal mining in the area. However, the party says that a regional referendum should determine whether coal mining limits, imposed by the government in the early 1990s, should be lifted. This would lead to the destruction of several villages in the region that are located on large brown coal deposits. During the communist era, dozens of villages and towns in northern Bohemia were destroyed to make way for coal mining.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has warned that the EU is going
through the gravest crisis in its history, following the adoption of the
Lisbon treaty. In a written address to a eurosceptic party convention in
Prague on Saturday, Mr Klaus said he believed civic and economic freedom
the European Union is at risk, as the bloc was adopting ever stronger
regulatory measures under the pretence of combating the economic crisis.
Klaus also criticized the effects of what he calls “climate alarmism”.
President Václav Klaus is a staunch critic of further European integration. In 2003, he signed the Czech Republic’s accession treaty to the EU. However, he fiercely opposed the reform Lisbon treaty, which he eventually ratified last November as the last head of state of the bloc.
Motorcycle rider Petr Kuchař suffered serious injuries on Saturday after falling down during a rehearsal for Sunday’s free-style show in Brno. Mr Kuchař, who is a popular Czech free-style rider, had problems with his first jump; he fell down and his motorcycle then fell on top of him. He was taken to hospital with suspected spine injure. His condition was reported as stable.
The Czech health minister, Dana Jurásková, promised young doctors higher salaries at a meeting in Prague on Saturday. Ms Jurásková, met with around 300 doctors, faculty staff and other experts, who complained that after graduating from medical schools, while preparing for professional exams, they only receive part time contracts. They said however that because of staff shortages, they often put in regular hours, for which receive no salary. Minister Jurásková said she would change the respective legislation to prevent such practices in the future.
Rival political parties have slammed Social Democrat elections plans presented at Saturday’s party conference. Former Civic Democrat interior minister Ivan Langer said that Social Democratic promises were ‘lies’, while the leader of the conservative TOP 09 party and former foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said their promises are impossible to fulfil. Christian Democrat chair Cyril Svoboda said Mr Paroubek was pandering to the voters, and offered too much regulation. Meanwhile, communist MP Pavel Kováčik told Czech TV on Saturday that Social Democrats were trying to “dig up a moat” between themselves and the Communist Party.
Czech skier Šárka Záhrobská came in 9th in the last World Cup slalom event of the season in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday, and finished 5th in the overall slalom ranking. Záhrobská was second after the first round, but had problems in the upper part of the slope in the second round, and came in some 2.2 seconds after the winner, Marlies Schield of Austria, who also won the World Cup title in slalom. The 25-year-old Záhrobská said she though she could better, but the race was very difficult.
The number of Czechs fired for drinking in the workplace or showing up drunk for work has risen, according to a poll by the Commservis.com agency released on Saturday. Alcohol is now the sixth most frequent cause of sacking employees; last year, it ranked 18th. Analysts believe the surge has been caused by bigger stress, related to the global economic downturn, as well as by the fact that employees are now more frequently tested for alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are also relatively cheap in the Czech Republic, and alcohol consumption in the country has risen by 37 percent since the fall of communism in 1989.
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