The Czech mission to the United Nations in New York is ready to take over the duties of the European presidency on January 1, ambassador Martin Palouš has told the Czech News Agency. He said the Czech mission would be responsible for all activities carried out within the European Union in the first six months of next year. The first meeting Mr Palouš will preside is a regular meeting of the 27 ambassadors of EU member states. The Czech mission has recently increased its personnel to around 50 people.
The Škoda Fabia was the most popular passenger car in the Czech Republic last year, with over 22,000 sold. It was followed by another Škoda, the Octavia, with nearly 11,500 cars, according to the data released by the Car Importers Association. The top-selling imported car in 2008 was the Ford Fusion with nearly 5,000 vehicles sold. Czech drivers registered over 130,000 passenger cars last year, which is 9 percent more than the previous year. The increase was boosted mainly by sales of city cars and small family vehicles.
The Czech National Bank admits there could be a greater economic slowdown next year than previously forecast, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported, citing the bank’s governor Zdeněk Tůma. The most recent forecast of the Czech National Bank estimated a growth of 2.9 percent; now it says Czech GDP may only grow by 0.5 percent in 2009. Zdeněk Tůma says the change is caused by the global downturn, which is sharper than it was expected at the time the forecast was drafted.
As of January 1, drivers registering used cars will pay an environmental fee of up to 10,000 crowns. The new fee will concern some 2.5 million cars, which is more than half of all passenger cars in the Czech Republic. More than a third of all cars in the country, nearly 1.5 million vehicles, are older than 15 years and therefore they don’t meet any of the Euro emission standards. Owners of these cars will have to pay a fee of 10,000 crowns at the next registration after January 1, an amount that often exceeds the price of the vehicle itself. The registration authorities have been bursting at the seams before the end of the year, with people trying to sell their cars or cancel their registration at the last moment.
The Interior Ministry has announced the final list of 12 countries whose citizens can apply for a green card to work in the Czech Republic. The number of countries is smaller than was originally envisaged, due to the global financial crisis and an expected fall in demand for low-paid workers from abroad. The countries concerned include Ukraine and all states of the former Yugoslavia with the exception of Kosovo. The Vietnamese, who make up one of the largest ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic, are also not included. Foreigners in the Czech Republic can currently only seek jobs that are not filled within 30 days with applicants from the Czech Republic or another EU country.
The Tour de Ski sprint competition at Prague’s Výstaviště was won by Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland and Italy’s Arianna Follis. Czech skier Lukáš Bauer has not qualified for the finals. The reigning Tour de Ski champion finished in 48th place. The best Czech Aleš Razým finished 13th. Following Monday’s sprint in Prague, the Tour de Ski competition moves to another Czech venue Nové Město na Moravě on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, before coming to a close in the Italian resort of Val de Fiemme next weekend.
The Czech Education Ministry will introduce cyber-bullying as a punishable offence in Czech schools. A new regulation, which will come into force in January 2009, will allow headmasters to punish pupils who record teachers or classmates on mobile phones. Cyber-bullying will also include attacks via e-mail or posting offensive personal materials on the internet. Experts say that the number of such incidents in the Czech Republic has been on the rise. Last year, a pupil in Ostrava recorded a classmate beating three other school children; other students recorded their friends bullying a teacher in the classroom, and posted the footage on the web.
A 28-year-old US citizen has been arrested on felony charges by the police in Ostrava, northern Moravia, after he stabbed another man in the stomach on Sunday. The two men were arguing in a bar; the American then came closer and stabbed his companion. The injured man was taken to a hospital and was later released. A police spokesperson said that the US national is already prosecuted in the Czech Republic for grievous bodily harm and public disturbance he had committed earlier this year.
An amendment to the weapons and ammunitions act will tighten rules for obtaining firearms in the Czech Republic next year. The new regulation will introduce stricter conditions for reviewing applicants’ integrity and reliability. The new conditions will not be met by those who excessively drink alcohol or use illicit substances; the amendment also establishes harsher sanctions for weapon-related offences.