Some 200 students gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Tuesday to protest against the planned introduction of uniform school-leaving exams for secondary school students around the country as of this year. The Education Ministry says that a uniform exam will set a certain standard and improve the quality of education but many students fear that their schools may not have prepared them well enough for such a test. Up until now schools have been free to set their own curricula and school leaving exams.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is on a working visit to the United States. His meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to focus on bilateral relations, security issues and the prospects of finding a US ambassador to the Czech Republic after President Obama’s nominee Norman Eisen was unexpectedly rejected by the US Senate last week.
The oldest Czech has died at the age of 107. Julia Vasickova was born on May 8th of 1903 and her life spanned the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia, two world wars, the communist era, the country’s return to democracy and the break-up of Czechoslovakia into two separate states. There are currently over 100 centenarians living in the Czech Republic, the majority of them women.
Over a dozen suspicious-looking objects that caused a security scare in Prague on Monday have turned out to be harmless. The police was alerted to 16 small plastic devices that someone had attached to street lamps in Prague’s Lesser Town and explosives experts were called in to dismantle them. A police spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the devices had been attached to the street lamps by magnets and contained nothing potentially dangerous. Police are searching for the culprit. The Czech Republic has stepped up security in the wake of US warnings of a possible terrorist attack in Europe. Tightened security measures are in place at airports, railway stations and bus terminals as well as around foreign embassies and high-risk facilities.
The government’s economic advisory council NERV has proposed a package of measures aimed at curbing corruption. They include introducing electronic auctions, compulsory publication of the respective conditions, contracts and amendments and a duty to name at least five firms that could participate in a tender. The latter is an effort to eradicate the practice of tailoring conditions so as to reduce competition and make it easy for a selected firm to win the given tender.
Assessing his first one hundred days in office, Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Tuesday praised the coalition government’s unity and its dedication to fiscal reform. The prime minister said the three party coalition of Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs had shown itself to be a stable alliance, dedicated to fulfilling the set goals. He praised the broad consensus reached on this year’s and next year’s budgets but said the most important reforms were still to come. Mr. Nečas was officially appointed prime minister on June 28th, his cabinet received a vote of confidence on August 10th.
The Czech economy should grow by 2 percent this year and by nearly 3 percent in 2011, according to estimates released by Ernst & Young on Tuesday. The forecast is significantly more optimistic than that of the Czech central bank which predicts a GDP growth of 1.6 percent this year and 1.8 percent next year. In its long-term outlook Ernst & Young also believes that the Czech economy will outperform that of the euro-zone with a predicted growth of 4 to 4.5 percent in 2012 and 2013.
Czech Railways has announced plans to lay-off 950 employees as of December 1. As all firms and institutions in the public sector, the state-owned company has had to make a 10 percent cut in salary expenditures within the government’s austerity measures for 2011. The lay-offs will save the company 500 million crowns next year.
Three of the four suspects who are on trial for an arson attack against a
Roma family that left a two-year-old fighting for her life face
In her closing speech the state attorney on the case on Tuesday proposed
sentences of 15 to 25 years for what she said was clearly premeditated,
racially-motivated attempted murder. The fourth member of the group –the
only one who admitted to the crime in court and expressed regret over his
actions – faces up to 15 years in prison. Verdicts in the case are
expected within a fortnight.
The Molotov cocktail attack on the home of a Romany family in April of last year left three people badly injured, including a two-year old girl who suffered third-degree burns to 80% of her body. The attack met with widespread condemnation and received international media publicity as shocking evidence of the racial intolerance Roma face in the Czech Republic.
Three construction workers were injured during demolition work in the town of Brandýs nad Labem, north of Prague on Tuesday morning. According to the CTK news agency the workers were digging beneath a wall that collapsed on them. One sustained serious internal injuries, the other two were injured lightly. Police are investigating the accident on suspicion of negligence.