The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs has reported that the Czech unemployment level in July rose from 9.9 to 10.1 percent, meaning that some 532, 000 people at the end of the month were officially without work. But, say some Czech economists the labour market is slowly but surely improving - as higher unemployment numbers for July were originally expected. Meanwhile, new tabulation methods used by the majority of EU states, now being adopted by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, ranks Czech unemployment lower at 9.2 percent.
Former Communist Party functionary Karel Hoffmann has begun serving a four-year sentence at Prague's Pankrac prison, after being found guilty of disrupting Czech Radio broadcasts during the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968. On Sunday, President Vaclav Klaus said he was considering granting a pardon to Mr Hoffmann, who is 80 years old and in poor health. Mr Klaus said it would be strange to send someone to prison 36 years after they had broken the law on telecommunications. Karel Hoffmann remains the only senior communist to have been sentenced in connection with the events of 1968.
Finance Ministry spokesman Marek Zeman has said that the results of an
audit of the Czech Republic's readiness to draw money from EU funds
will be available in October. On the basis of the results the Finance
Ministry will then check each programme separately and decide whether
the application for the funds can be sent. Some sources said last week
that the Czech Republic was threatened with the suspension of payments
from EU funds, if the results of the audit were as bad as interim
results had suggested.
On August 4th the European Commission suspended the payment of some 2 billion crowns to the Czech Republic from the pre-accession Phare fund.
Spokeswoman for the EC representation in the Czech Republic Katharina von Schnurbein said the Czech Republic failed to supply all required information.
If the results of the audit prove poor, Brussels could react by suspending advance and further payments, some sources have told the country's news agency CTK. However, the Finance Ministry has denied this.
A fast rail system capable of supporting 300-kilometre-an-hour trains could be begun within 20 years, a spokesperson for the Transport Ministry told the Czech Press Agency. The 700-kilometre system would be built from scratch and would not make use of the Czech Republic's existing rail corridors, which were created between 1839 and 1872.
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised as "toothless" the
policies outlined in the coalition agreement between the three parties in
the new government. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Klaus said
the agreement was vague and did not make the government's top policy
The President also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the opposition Civic Democrats, saying they should have reacted to the new government more quickly. Mr Klaus said the party, of which he is honorary chairman, should be more concerned with the present than possible future developments.
On the issue of former prime minister Vladimir Spidla being chosen as the Czech Republic's next European commissioner, President Klaus was highly critical, saying it was a "con" and a "mistake". Mr Spidla was given the job ahead of Pavel Telicka, the man he himself had chosen to represent the country on the European Commission. The former prime minister will take over from Mr Telicka in November.
Hope was fading on Sunday for any remaining mountaineers - many of them
believed to be Czechs - trapped by avalanches high on a mountainside in
Kyrgyzstan, a local official said. Five Czechs and one Russian were
confirmed killed on Thursday after avalanches on the 7,000-metre
Meanwhile a Czech climber has fallen to his death in the High Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, a mountain rescue worker said on Sunday. Ten Czech mountaineers have died in the Tatras this year.
And the President said he was considering granting a pardon to Karel Hoffmann, who is due to start a four-year jail term on Monday, after being found guilty of disrupting Czech Radio broadcasts during the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. Mr Klaus said he had not yet reached a decision on whether to pardon the former Communist Party official, who is elderly and in poor health.
The new Czech football season got underway on Saturday afternoon, with defending champions Banik Ostrava losing 2:1 at home to Teplice. The beginning of the season came against a backdrop of bribery allegations, with 16 referees and the chairman of Viktoria Zizkov being charged with corruption on Thursday.
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised the approach taken by the party he founded, the Civic Democrats, during the recent government crisis, according to Saturday's edition of the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes. The daily said the President believed the intransigence of party chairman, Mirek Topolanek, was to blame for allowing the three parties in the out-going coalition to form a new government. Mr Topolanek became leader of the Civic Democrats in December 2002, after Mr Klaus had been at the helm for 12 years. President Klaus is the party's honorary chairman.
The first 300 professional soldiers to sign up for the Czech Army took their oath of allegiance on T.G. Masaryk Square in the Moravian town of Prerov on Friday. Among the new recruits were 85 women. Compulsory military service has been phased out in the Czech Republic and the Army will be fully professional from the beginning of next year.
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