More than three-fourth of Czechs ( 77 percent of those polled)have said they will not take part in next week’s planned strike against lower wages in the public sector although many see it as justified. Forty-six percent of respondents said they support the trade union protest, while thirty-seven percent of those polled said the government had no choice but to implement far-reaching austerity measures. SANEP, the agency that conducted the poll, says that Czechs are generally more inclined to support a welfare state at the expense of higher debts. Trade unions have called a nation-wide strike on December 8th, to protest against the government’s austerity plans despite the fact that the respective bills have already passed through both houses of Parliament and been signed into law by the president.
A sixteen-year-old boy who stabbed three children in a playground over the weekend has been charged with attempted murder. The youth, who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, had been drinking at the pub with friends before heading for a local playground where he attacked three children in quick succession as a means of releasing his emotions. A nine-year-old boy was rushed to hospital in critical condition after being repeatedly stabbed in the neck, stomach and pelvis. He was operated on and is now in stable condition. The other two children, who were stabbed in the back and hands, are also recovering. If convicted, the youth faces a sentence of up to ten years.
Czech-US relations are caught up in the massive publication of US diplomatic messages being released by the WikiLeaks server. So far the site has released just one letter from the US embassy in Prague dating from October 2009. It concerns the reset of relations following President Barack Obama’s decision a month earlier to abandon his predecessor’s anti-missile defence shield plans involving a radar base in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland. The letter gives a snapshot of how the US side is trying to encourage the Czechs to think more broadly about future strategic cooperation, with the Czech side struggling to deal with the reset. According to the Guardian newspaper over 1,000 of the overall 250,000 cables are out of Prague.
Heavy snow is complicating road and rail traffic in many parts of the country. Ten to twenty centimeters of fresh snow overnight resulted in pile-ups along the country’s highways with a number of stranded lorries further complicating the situation. The main by-pass around Prague had to be closed for over an hour on Monday morning after a truck got wedged in one of the tunnels. Trains have been running with delays, although city traffic in Prague has been fairly problem-free. More snow is expected in the course of the day and drivers heading for the mountains have been warned to exercise extreme caution. Traffic police say the situation on Czech roads is unnecessarily complicated by the fact that some drivers are still using summer tires.
New stress tests have shown that Czech banks are highly resilient in times of crisis, the central bank reports. The tests conducted are based on a number of adverse scenarios including a combination of unfavourable economic development both at home and abroad with renewed uncertainty on financial markets. In all scenarios the banking sector would maintain a capital adequacy above 8 percent, the bottom level required by the central bank. The banking sector’s stability is attributed to the high capital adequacy of Czech financial institutions.
The European Commission has revised its forecast of Czech economic growth for 2010, predicting a growth of 2.4 percent, up from its 1.6 percent forecast in the spring. For next year it predicts a growth of 2.3 percent. Both predictions are more optimistic than those of the Czech finance ministry and the central bank which are expecting a growth of 2.2 percent this year and a mere 1.5 percent growth in 2011 due to the government’s austerity package and slower economic growth in the countries which are the Czech Republic’s main business partners.
Interior Minister Radek John on Monday asked the police president, Oldřich Martinu, to resign. At a press briefing in Prague the minister said the situation at the police presidium was untenable and that Martinu had proven a poor manager both in terms of people skills and financial matters. He expressed dissatisfaction with the way the country’s elite police units were functioning and criticized the police president for failing to prevent information leaks from the presidium. This latest development comes hot on the heels of last week’s resignation of Martinu’s chief deputy, Viktor Čech who cited “long-lasting discord between the country’s elite police units” as the reason behind his departure.
Zdeněk Bakala, one of the richest Czech financiers, has bought a majority stake in the Belgian professional cycling team Quick Step, along with Bessel Kok, former chief of a Czech telephone company. Together Bakala and Kok have an 80 percent stake in Quick Step. The rest of Quick Step is owned by the team's manager Patrick Lefevere. The future of Quick Step had been uncertain for some time. Bessel Kok told the Czech daily Hospodářské noviny that the new co-owners guaranteed to finance the team till the end of 2013.
Ukraine would like the Czech Republic to take part in its upcoming negotiations with the EU on the modernisation of Ukraine’s gas transport network, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said during talks with the visiting Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The Czech foreign minister’s one day working visit to Kiev covers a wide range of issues including European security, bilateral relations and Ukraine’s ambition to develop closer ties with the EU. Prime Minister Azarov said Ukraine was also interested in cooperation with the car-maker Skoda Auto and would like to play a part in the modernisation of the Czech air fleet.
The Czech Republic will contribute 6.7 billion crowns, around 270 million euros, to the 85 billion euro loan offered to Ireland to help it overcome its ongoing financial crisis. Details of the Czech contribution were given on Sunday by deputy finance minister Tomáš Zídek following an emergency meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. The Czech Republic joins other non-eurozone countries, such as Britain, Denmark and Sweden, participating in the package. The help will not apparently need to be cleared by the current government or parliament on the principle of such a step already having been agreed by the previous caretaker administration of prime minister Jan Fischer. Czech eurosceptic president Václav Klaus last week raised the possibility of the Czech Republic seeking an opt out from adopting the euro, pinpointing the possibility of taking advantage of a reopening of the Lisbon treaty to insert a financial safety mechanism for eurozone countries to make such a demand.