The difference between wages and pensions in the Czech Republic is greater than the EU average, data from the OECD suggest. On average, pension payments in the Czech Republic amount to about half of what an employee earned before retiring. The EU average is 57.5 percent. The gap may grow even further since the Czech government is currently preparing a pension reform that would put any increase in pensions on ice for the next three years. In Austria, Denmark and Hungary, pensioners are paid about three quarters of their previous wage. In Britain, the pension retired men and women receive amounts to only a third of what they were earning before retirement.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said that it is imperative for the government to agree on further austerity measures. Without them, there was no reason for the coalition to remain in office. Speaking on a debate program on Czech TV on Sunday, Mr. Kalousek added that additional state budget cuts of 24 billion Czech crowns had to be implemented this year. While ministers have said there simply were no more expenses they could cut, Mr. Kalousek insists that decreasing the state budget deficit is crucial. He added that the opposition Social Democrats’ claim that further cuts could be avoided was populist.
Record temperatures were registered across the country on the weekend at a total of 66 weather stations that have been measuring temperatures for longer than 30 years. The highest temperature was observed in Dobřichovice, where the thermometer indicated daytime high of 23.9 degrees Celsius. In Prague’s Klementium, a record from 1899 was broken this weekend: the high there was 20.3 degrees. The oldest record was broken in Příbram, which had not see such a high temperature in late March since 1882.
A painting by Frantíšek Kupka, L‘Apothéose d Héléne, was sold for 15 million Czech crowns at auction. The asking price was 12 million crowns. Another work by a Czech artist, Toyen’s Potápeč or Diver from 1926, was sold for 13 million crowns in the same auction, which was held at Prague’s Topičův salon on Sunday. Other works by Frantíšek Kupka’s were sold for record prices in the past. In 2007, his painting Abstract Composition set the Czech auction record for the most expensive work of art ever sold.
Commenting on the election of Joachim Gauck to the post of German president, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that he welcomed his election and appreciated his fight against the former communist regime. Mr. Gauck secured the mandate in the first round of voting on Sunday. The 79-year-old theologist is the first former citizen of the German Democratic Republic to be elected president. He was a member of the protest movement in the totalitarian German state and actively opposed its communist regime. Mr. Gauck replaces Christian Wulff, who resigned after allegations of corruption became public. This is the third time in only three years that presidential elections were held in Germany.
Czech biathlete Michal Šlesingr has managed to make it to the top ten in the biathlon World Cup that closed in the Russian Khanty-Mansiysk on Sunday. Last year, he had come in 9th. The Czech biathlete Ondřej Moravec came in 14th place. Jaroslav Soukup came in 29th. Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen won the world cup, with Germany’s Arnd Peiffer coming in second.
The government coalition’s TOP 09 party has made it clear that its leader, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, would not resign from his government office due to also pursuing a candidacy for the post of president in next year’s elections. Deputy party leader Miroslav Kalousek said on Sunday that Mr. Schwarzenberg would be able to both keep his post as foreign minister and prepare his presidential campaign. Mr. Schwarzenberg had previously threatened to leave the government over the Czech refusal to join the EU’s fiscal compact. The next presidential elections mark the first occasion on which Czechs will be able to elect their head of state directly. Aside from Mr. Schwarzenberg, former prime minister Jan Fischer, MEP Zuzana Roithová and economist Jan Švejnar are also running for the post.
According to a fresh survey by the Public Opinion Research Center, three-fifths of Czechs continue to place trust in NATO and believe the alliance is still necessary and important. Czech faith in NATO has remained relatively unchanged in recent years. The majority of respondents also said that they believe a state’s sovereignty needed to be defended and that in the case of an armed conflict, the Czech Republic would dependent on NATO protection. Only 26 percent of those polled believe that the Czech Republic‘s NATO membership is problematic.
Czech entrepreneur Tomáš Pitr, who has been in prison in Switzerland since 2010, has decided to return to the Czech Republic, the daily Mladá fronta dnes reported. The businessman, who has been charged with tax evasion, retracted his application for asylum in Switzerland on Friday and will return to his home country in the coming weeks. According to his lawyer, the decision is partially motivated by personal reasons but also the fact that Mr. Pitr has been reviewing Czech court proceedings in his case and concluded that he will most likely receive a fair trial. He was sentenced to five years in prison by a Prague city court in 2006.
The Museum of Water Treatment in the Prague neighborhood of Podolí will be accessible to visitors the entire weekend. It is opening its gates on the occasion of the upcoming World Water Day, which is marked on March 22. The interesting exhibition portrays changes in water treatment and features the original water pump of the Klatovy waterworks from 1830 as well as other rare items. Visitors can see the exhibition Saturday or Sunday between 9:30 a.m. and 16:30 p.m.
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