The Czech cabinet met on Wednesday to discuss the draft state budget for 2011, but stopped short of approving proposed cuts in spending in view of a scheduled meeting with trade unions and employers on September 14th. Prime Minister Nečas’ cabinet, which has vowed to reduce the country’s ballooning deficit and achieve a balanced budget in 2016, has come under pressure from trade unions and the opposition for seeking to push through salary cuts and effect far-reaching changes to the labour code. A protest demonstration has been scheduled for September 21st, but the prime minister has made it clear that most of the austerity measures proposed are not negotiable.
The Czech economy grew by a seasonally-adjusted 0.9 percent between the first and second quarter of 2010, confirming a recovery after the country was hit by the global downturn, revised official data showed Wednesday. Year-on-year, Czech GDP grew by an adjusted 2.4 percent in the second quarter on a pick-up in the manufacturing industry, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office. Statisticians revised both figures up from an August estimate which reckoned on 0.8 percent quarterly growth and 2.2 percent annual growth.
The police are cracking down on software pirates in the biggest ever raid conducted on student campuses and institutions around the country. A police spokeswoman said the operation had started early on Wednesday and was still underway in many parts of the country. She refused to elaborate saying details would be disclosed on Friday at the earliest. Similar operations are reportedly taking place in other countries as well.
The Czech Communist Youth Union may face charges for spreading lies about
the Katyn massacre. On its web page, the most radical leftist organization
in the Czech Republic, lays the blame for the massacre of 22,000 Polish
officers at Katyn on the Nazis, perpetuating one of the biggest lies spread
by the Soviet regime which attempted to cover up the fact that the mass
execution was carried out by Soviet troops at Stalin’s order. Civic
Democrat senator Jiří Oberfalzer said he was determined to instigate
criminal proceedings against the union.
The Communist Youth Union was banned by the Czech Interior Ministry four years ago after calling for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, but got a new lease on life in January of this year after a court ruled it did not represent a threat to democracy.
The European Union's selection panel has picked the western Czech city of Plzen as Europe's capital of culture for 2015, its head, Sir Robert Scott, told reporters in Prague on Wednesday. If approved formally by the EU later this year, the city with a population of 167,000, world-famous for the production of the Pilsner Urquell lager, will share the title with Belgium's Mons under the EU's rotation system. The European Union, which the Czech Republic joined in 2004, designates a city as capital of culture for a year to give it a chance to showcase its cultural life and history. On hearing the news, many of the city’s inhabitants went out onto the streets for a spontaneous celebration.
Manpower’s employment outlook survey for the third quarter suggests that job prospects on the Czech market will further deteriorate due to the fact that employers remain cautious about hiring new staff. The vast majority of the 753 employers polled said their present policy was to cut costs and increase the productivity of their current staff.
The Civic Democratic Party has come up with a plan which would help curb abuse of the welfare system. The proposal, presented by Prime Minister Petr Nečas, entails giving all unemployed persons registered at employment offices a job offer within a month. Should they reject the offer the state would stop paying social insurance on their behalf and they would no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits. The job offer might involve requalification, further education or community work.
A court has sent a Czech bus driver to four and a half years in prison for causing an accident that killed four people and injured 20. He has also been banned from driving for a period of seven years. The Student Agency bus crashed in Slovakia en route to Prague in October of 2008, when the twenty-five-year old driver lost control of the vehicle which flew off the road and flipped on its side. The driver, who tested negative for alcohol, is considering appealing the verdict.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has come under fire for its plan to close down two embassies in central Africa. Members of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday demanded an explanation from Deputy Foreign Minister Jiří Schneider, arguing that the country was relinquishing its hard-earned position in this part of the world. The Czech Foreign Ministry recently selected five Czech embassies for closure in an effort to meet the government’s austerity measures. The choice of embassies has been questioned with critics calling the plan imprudent. Mr. Schneider said the Czech Republic did not wish to withdraw its presence from central Africa and would try to reach an agreement on an embassy-sharing-scheme with the Visegrad group states. The embassies to be closed down are those in the Congo, Kenya, Venezuela, Yemen and Costa Rica.
Czech unemployment fell to 8.6 percent in August, resuming a decline after a seasonal upswing in July when it stood at 8.7 percent, official data showed on Wednesday. The jobless rate grew between November 2008 and March this year as the global crisis hit, then fell for four months before rising in July as fresh school graduates flooded the labour market. Employment offices registered 491,090 job seekers ready to start work in August, a drop of 4,186 against July and an increase of 7,681 compared with August 2009, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said.
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