Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday criticized the French authorities for failing to invite the Czech Republic, as well as a number of other EU member states, to a ministerial meeting in Paris that is to discuss the expulsion of Bulgarian and Romanian Romanies from France. The meeting is due next Monday when Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is scheduled to pay an official visit to Paris. Mr. Nečas said the selection of participants was a display of contempt and arrogance that does not further good relations among EU countries. Romania and Bulgaria, whom the problem directly concerns, have not been invited either. In an interview for Saturday’s daily Lidové noviny the Czech foreign minister criticized the ongoing expulsions. He said it was impossible not to suspect that a racist perspective played a role in the expulsions and added that they were contrary to the spirit and rules of the 27-strong European Union. He later softened his stand.
A growing number of public sector employees say they will join the planned anti-government protest action on September 21st. The demonstration originally called by police and firemen’s trade unions will be joined by soldiers, teachers and health workers. They are protesting against the government’s plans to introduce a 10 percent wage cut, lay off employees and amend the labour code in a way that will restrict employees’ rights.
Czech Railways will in future compensate passengers on SuperCity, EuroCity and InterCity trains for delays or failure to provide the expected comforts, such as air conditioning, the internet news site iDnes.cz reported on Monday. Compensation will be paid to travelers with tickets worth over 300 Czech crowns, In-gold and In-gold business passes. The company has stressed it would only compensate passengers for delays or poor service for which it can be held directly responsible. Delays caused by floods, an accident or bad weather will not be compensated.
The organizers of the Grand Pardubice Steeple Chase have rejected rumors that this year’s event is to be cancelled due to financial problems. Miroslav Petrán, head of the board of directors of the Czech Horseracing Association, said the 114th annual steeple chase would take place as planned on October 10, despite the ongoing financial difficulties. He said this was possible thanks to the generosity of several of the biggest shareholders who had boosted the association’s finances with a million crown loan.
The Czech banking sector would not be jeopardised even in the case of very unfavourable economic and financial development, the central bank said on its website referring to the outcome of new stress tests in August. The banking sector´s capital adequacy would remain above 8 percent, the minimum required by the central bank, in all scenarios of potential economic development. Capital adequacy of the banking sector reached nearly 15 percent at end-June.
Prime Minster Petr Nečas has called for a tougher labour code than that proposed by the labour and social affairs minister, Jaromír Drábek. In an interview for the business daily Hospodářské Noviny the prime minister said the proposal did not go far enough in giving employers greater flexibility. Mr. Nečas, who himself served as labour minister in the previous government, has suggested among other things that employers should be able to fire an employee without stating a reason other than general dissatisfaction with performance, that the two-months notice period should be shorted to one month and that the standard three-month trial period should be extended to four months.
Eight people died on the Czech roads over the weekend according to preliminary figures in spite of stepped up police controls for the last day of the summer holidays. A year earlier, the death toll was five. Police stepped up controls on motorists to accompany an expected rush back home at the end of the summer. Around 155 people died on Czech roads during the holiday period according to initial figures.
The Czech Foreign Ministry is laying off 250 employees and may be forced to close down more embassies in order to meet the government’s cost-cutting measures in 2010, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said at a meeting with Czech ambassadors in Prague on Monday. The government recently approved plans to close down the country’s embassies in Congo, Venezuela, Kenya, Yemen and Costa Rica. A decision on whether more embassies will need to be closed should be made by mid-September.
Planned cuts to investments in 2010 may bring the construction industry to its knees, the Association of Construction Firms said on Monday. According to the latest estimates of the Czech Business Chamber around 40,000 people in the construction industry may lose their jobs in the coming year. The construction business will be severely impacted by the Transport Ministry’s decision to freeze all non-essential building projects. Cuts in 2009, which the finance minister described as a “warm-up” resulted in a 40 percent drop in public orders in the first half of this year.
A man armed with an assault rifle went on a rampage in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Monday killing eight people and injuring 15, among them a Czech national. The shooting spree started shortly after 10am in the apartment of a Roma family where the gunman killed 6 people. He then left the apartment and according to one witness started to shoot “at everything that moved”. Police have refused to speculate about a racist motive. Thirteen people are in hospital, one of them in critical condition. A spokeswoman for the Teaching Hospital in Bratislava has confirmed that a Czech national is among the injured, but not further information has been made available.
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