Speaking during a visit to Ankara on Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that Prague fully supports Turkey’s EU membership bid. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded warmly to Mr Topolánek’s comments, and said that he hoped Prague’s view would remain the same throughout the Czech Republic’s EU presidency next year. After a meeting with the Turkish PM, Mirek Topolánek told reporters that the Czech Republic was ‘unreservedly’ for Turkey’s accession to the EU, and not ‘any alternative membership, half-membership or privileged partnership’. Turkey entered into membership talks with the EU in 2005, but several EU member states remain strongly opposed to Ankara’s membership.
In more business news, Czech arms firms generated a record 174 million euros (4.3 billion crowns) from exports alone last year. The amount of weapons exported stood at a fourteen-year high in 2007. Czech arms imports also shot up last year from 93 million euros in 2006 to 193 million euros (4.8 billion crowns) in 2007. The figures were unveiled on Wednesday on the Trade and Industry Ministry’s website.
The Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek is to visit the United States at the end of this month, it was announced on Wednesday. According to the newspaper Hospodářské noviny’s website, Mr Topolánek is to meet outgoing president George W. Bush during his visit to Washington. This will be the prime minister’s second official visit to the United States this year. America’s decision to abolish visas for Czechs, and US plans to build a radar base on Czech soil, are set to be top of the agenda. It is thought that Mr Topolánek will fly to the States on the evening of October 28, after celebrating the Czech Republic’s most important national holiday – the anniversary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.
The Prague Stock Exchange recorded its biggest loss since 2004 on Wednesday. Its headline PX Index ended the day 3.87 percent down at 1,042.6 points. At one point, the PX Index dropped below 1,000 points and trading in the shares of property giant Orco and car-dealer AAA Auto had to be suspended, with shares in the construction firm falling by over 35 percent. Markets were revived in the afternoon, however, by news of a surprise interest-rate cut across the eurozone and beyond. Following the announcement, the Prague bourse’s loss decreased from five percent to two percent.
The Western Bohemian town of Cheb was struck on Wednesday morning by a small earthquake measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale. The quake was the strongest recorded in the area since 2000, with geologists predicting that further tremors may be felt over the next couple of days. The earthquake caused no serious damage, though woke a few of the town’s inhabitants up. The biggest earthquake to have been felt in Cheb in recent years was in 1986 and measured 4.7 degrees on the Richter scale.
Unemployment remained unchanged at 5.3 percent in September, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced on Wednesday. Analysts had predicted that this figure would fall to 5.2 percent. Employment offices registered over 297,000 job seekers ready to take up a job immediately as well as nearly 140,000 unfilled job vacancies, the ministry said.
The government has agreed to compensate students thrown out of Czech universities for political reasons following the Communist coup in 1948. Ministers are still to work out the sum that those affected will receive, though Education Minister Ondřej Liška has said the award will be ‘symbolic’. It is not yet clear either who will be eligible for compensation. Minister Cyril Svoboda has proposed that compensation be handed to those expelled between 1948 and 1956, while other MPs want all those affected until the fall of communism in 1989 to receive financial remuneration. Education Minister Ondřej Liška said that he would draft a directive by the end of the year.
The Czech Finance Ministry has announced a plan to raise guarantees for bank deposits to 50,000 euros, in line with a decision by EU finance ministers. European Union finance ministers agreed at a meeting on Tuesday to raise minimum bank deposit guarantees in Europe to 50,000 euros from 20,000 euros currently. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the measures he would propose to the cabinet on Wednesday would be permanent, unlike the EU deal which is valid for a year. The move is expected to cover the vast majority of small savers but according to Wednesday’s edition of Lidové noviny many Czechs with higher bank deposits are considering transferring their accounts abroad, particularly to banks in neighbouring Austria which guarantees the full amount of deposits. The finance minister rejected calls from the opposition for blanket guarantees on all private deposits, saying the circumstances did not merit such action.
Adria Hotel in the centre of Prague has become the first luxury hotel in the country to be awarded a Flower certificate for environmentally-friendly services, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Wednesday. The certificate is awarded for measures such as insulated windows, energy-saving light-bulbs, environmentally-friendly heating systems and waste sorting baskets. The Flower certificate has been awarded to ten accommodation facilities in the country, usually small select hotels favoured by tourists from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Austria.
Czech annual consumer price growth rose to 6.6 percent in September, up from August’s 6.5 percent. The rise was mainly down to fast-growing power, gas and heating prices, the Czech Statistical Office said on Wednesday. Prices dropped by 0.2 percent last month compared to August; the drop was mainly caused by cheaper recreation and a fall in the price of fuel, which hit a five-month low.