The Czech Press Agency reports that the domestic economy can expect only slight growth over the coming years due to the high level of unemployment. Analysts addressed by the agency calculated that the economy will only be able to create a sufficient number of jobs once economic growth reached the level of around 3.5%. Unemployment in the Czech Republic neared 10% in February of this year. Economists expect growth of between one and two percent over the year to come.
Meanwhile, experts are holding a two-day international conference on alternatives to right-wing extremism in Prague this weekend. The aim of the conference is to get social and environmental movements from Central Europe involved in looking for “Alternatives to right-wing extremism during social and environmental crisis”, as the conference is called. The first day involved a debate on the necessity of international cooperation among anti-fascist movements and their support across the borders of East European countries. The conference will also focus on preparations for the European Social Forum, which will be held in Istanbul on July 1-4.
The provisory head of the Civic Democratic Party, Petr Nečas, says he is resolutely opposed to the idea of a grand coalition, like the one formed between his party and the centre-left Social Democrats in 1998. Speaking to TV Prima on Sunday morning, the party’s election leader also parried a number of questions regarding the situation within his party after last week’s shake up, saying that his personal feelings on how it was resolved were irrelevant. While praising the decision of chairman Mirek Topolánek to withdraw from the electoral ballot, he reiterated his intent to focus on the upcoming elections and not on the superficialities of Mr Topolánek’s further impact on the party’s chances. Petr Nečas assumed the role of election leader in the main centre-right party on Thursday, when its executive council voted that Mr Topolánek should step down after having made controversial statements about minorities.
The Prague half marathon ended on Saturday with a victory for Joel Kimurer of Kenya, who finished in 1:00:09, one minute and 15 seconds faster than his closest rival. The result was only two seconds short of the track record. The best Czech performance came from 41-year-old Róbert Štefko, who took tenth place with 1:06:07. Another Kenyan, Rose Jerotich Kosgei, was the first woman over the finish line. Former national team footballer Pavel Nedvěd took symbolic part in the event, finishing some 50 minutes after the winner. The retired midfielder said he enjoyed the run and would consider participating in the Prague Marathon on May 9.
32-year old Josef Karas from the north-western town of Obrnice won second place on Saturday in the “Mr World” beauty contest, making him the first Czech to place in the event. The contest was held in the South Korean capital Seoul. Kamal Ibrahim of Ireland won the pageant while Nigerian Kenneth Okolie took third place. A sports consultant, former decathlon athlete and winner of the 1st “Mr. Czech” award in February, Mr Karas made it to the final round in spite of the fact that he was hospitalised with food poisoning for three days during the competition. 80 men from around the world participated in this year’s Mr World competition. The winner received a year-long contract with a modelling agency and a prize of 50.000 dollars.
The town hall in the town of Kladno, west of Prague, has prohibited a public campaign rally of the Workers’ Party of Social Justice (DSSS), which is linked to the recently banned Workers’ Party. According to the town hall, an earlier request had been received from another party to hold a rally at the same place and time. Despite that, Kladno is the fourth municipality in recent days to prevent the party from rallying. Two other towns gave similar reasons as Kladno, while the town of Tábor banned a rally on the grounds that the DSSS is the successor of the extreme right-wing Workers’ Party; the DSSS filed a judicial complaint in that case, and the decision was overturned. On February 17, the Workers’ Party became the first Czech political party to be banned on the grounds of disruption of democratic values for inciting racism, xenophobia and promoting National Socialism.
The chairman of the Green Party, Ondřej Liška, says his party will only return to the government if the Prime Minister requests that the state energy company submit a cleaner proposal for modernising the Prunéřov coal plant and amends the mining act. Mr Liška said Sunday that Green participation in the interim cabinet is only possible if the government is not “arm in arm with ČEZ”, and he added that he does not believe that Prime Minister Fischer is willing to meet his party’s conditions. The Green Party’s two nominees to the cabinet have resigned in the last two weeks. Environment minister Jan Dusík left his post because he said he was being pressured by the PM to approve the Prunéřov plant’s modernisation in spite of shortcomings in the plan. When Mr Dusík was replaced with a candidate they deemed unsuitable, the Greens then withdrew their other cabinet representative, Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb. That post will now apparently be filled by Prime Minister Fischer himself. The Civic Democratic Party has also said that they will withdraw their ministers from the government if they or the Greens are not given the available cabinet seats.
Lights will go out for an hour on Saturday evening in towns across the Czech Republic when the country marks Earth Hour for the first time. Brno, Ústí nad Labem and Česká Lípa are some of the cities that be turning off non-essential lighting on monuments, advertisements and elsewhere at 8.30 p.m., in a symbolic event to draw attention to energy waste. Some 125 countries around the world will be participating, dozens more than last year. Brno’s Špilberk castle and the UNESCO town of Telč will thus join the Eiffel Tower in Paris, China’s Forbidden City and the Egyptian Pyramids in going dark for one hour.
The annual TýTý television popularity awards were held on Saturday night; singer Karel Gott took the overall award and the prize for most popular male singer. The latter result is hardly a surprise, as Mr Gott has never failed to take away the trophy for most popular singer in the 19-year history of the poll. He has also won the overall prize 8 times since 1991. 30-year-old Lucie Vondráčková took the award for most popular female singer, while the acting awards went to the stars of the series Ulice, Rudolf Hrušínský and Hana Maciuchová. The most popular programme was Czech Television’s “Všechnopárty” talk show. The winners of the TýTý awards are selected by viewers via text messages and the internet.
Finance Minister Eduard Janota has said that the Czech Republic is preparing to issue bonds in the amount of one billion euro on the foreign bonds market. Mr Janota said the aim was to take advantage of any improved situation on the financial markets following the decision made by the Eurozone countries to lend aid to Greece, where high debt has left the country nearly bankrupt. Speaking at a financial seminar in Italy, the finance minister added that the decision could be a very positive one for the markets that would lead to decreased interest rates. The finance ministry wants to borrow 280 billion crowns this year, of which it wants to receive 140 million on the foreign market.