Data from the Czech Meteorological Institute and reported by the news site Altualne.cz shows that 18% of the Czech population, or roughly 2 million people, was effected by polluted air in 2009. The institute’s data shows increased levels of air containing hazardous dust particles compared with 2008, and expects the situation to be worse this year. The worst levels were recorded in the area of the eastern city of Ostrava.
The automotive parts manufacturer Delphi will be closing a cable production plant in the north Bohemian town of Česká Lipa due to low sales. Lay-offs have been underway for some time already in the plant; of the 3,400 jobs there in 2007 only 1,400 remain, with 300 positions having been done away with since the start of the year. According to a trade union representative, the company intends to move its production to Romania and partly to Poland. Several hundred people demonstrated in the plant’s car park on Monday to protest what they say are significantly low severance payments.
The Ministry of the Interior has presented its plans for saving 8.3 billion crowns. Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Interior Minister Radek John said that the priorities were to save on operational expenditures and investments, and decreased pay for police and firemen. However, costs would be cut he said from all areas of the ministry. Other measures will include reducing police activity abroad, cancelling plans for police and fire department buildings and equipment, and revising all e-government projects. Mr John also said that effective policemen should have more money in later years in spite of planned cuts to state employees’ salaries, saying that their bonuses would be reinforced from the salaries of the 1,500 officers who leave service each year. Nonetheless, the minister allowed that the next year would be “painful” for police and fire department workers.
The Ministry of Transport says it is asking regional governments to cancel lesser used train connections in order to save on state subsidies. The suggestion follows from the policy of the previous transport minister, Gustav Slamečka, who noted that in a number of places the state would save money paying for taxis for passengers rather than trains. Regions pay roughly eight billion crowns a year to Czech Railways for the operation of local lines, three billion of which comes from the state. The ministry has given no indication of whether it may decrease that subsidy next year, though the Transport Minister Vít Bárta has said that Czech Railways too should expect cuts.
The Constitutional Court is reviewing municipal order made by the North Bohemian town of Krupka, which requires non-locals to register their presence. The Ministry of the Interior filed a complaint against the ordinance, which requires all visitors over the age of 15 with permanent residence elsewhere to report to town hall should they remain in town for more than 30 days. The town hall says that such stays are a disturbance of public order and a danger to security and property. In its complaint, the ministry points to the constitutional right to freedom of movement and says the town exceeded its authority in making the ordinance.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has spoken out against the prime minister’s disapproval of a plan to finance flood relief from income tax breaks. Mr Kalousek said that the chairmen of the coalition parties had agreed on his ministry’s flood tax two weeks earlier, and said the PM’s about-face on the issue was absolutely inappropriate in a coalition. Following floods in north Bohemia two weeks ago, Mr Kalousek said all working Czechs would contribute to a flood relief fund in the form of a CZK 100-a-month cut in income tax breaks, a move some critics slammed as nothing less than a new tax. On Sunday, Prime Minister Nečas said he had a number of reservations regarding the flood tax, and referenced a pre-election promise not to increase direct taxes.
The state prosecutor’s office for Prague 7 has filed a lawsuit against the president of the Supreme Audit Office, František Dohnal. The prosecutor accuses Mr Dohnal of improper management, saying he availed himself of upscale residences for state money. Mr Dohnal says that his living expenses were within those allotted by the office, and his attorney has said that the case is politically motivated. If found guilty he would be removed from his position, a penalty he could also receive from the president at the behest of the Parliament.
The state body for foods inspection has forced two Czech wine producers to recall hundreds of thousands of litres of wine after the companies were unable to prove the origin of the grapes used. Inspectors found that České vinařské závody and Vinium Velké Pavlovice had used over a million kilos of grapes that were of unknown origin but used in products labelled as domestic wine. The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said that it intends to thoroughly inspect other wine producers for violations they say are damaging both to consumers and honest domestic wine growers.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas met with trade union representatives on Monday to discuss controversial changes to the Labour Code that would see public sector salaries cut by 10% across-the-board. The PM for his part told reports after the meeting that both sides would be looking for solutions acceptable to them both, though he did not expect complete accord. He also said that the proposal need not take effect as early as January 1, as he gave precedence to thorough rather than speedy negations. The Labour Ministry plan entails lower salaries for state employees in favour of greater employee bonuses based on individual performance. Unions say the plan is the strongest attack on workers’ rights in the last twenty years and have threatened to protest.
Physicist Jiří Niederle died on Sunday at the age of 71. The academy professor was well known internationally for his work in elementary particles, and played an important role in getting the Czech Republic involved in international science programmes, such as within NATO and UNESCO. As the government envoy to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, it was also through Dr Niederle that many Czech scientists came to be involved with the LHC particle collider in Geneva.
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