Prime Minister Jan Fischer presented the programme priorities of his government to members of the lower house of Parliament on Friday. Mr Fischer did not publicly disclose the document but the news website aktualne.cz reported that the cabinet’s priorities included implementing a stimulus package to boost the economy, the preparation of privatisation of some key state-owned companies such as the carrier ČSA, and investments into education and transport infrastructure, among others. The interim government will not proceed with a planned reform of the retirement pension system or with the health care reform launched by the previous cabinet.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s government is set to ask for confidence in the lower house of the Czech Parliament on June 7. Mr Fischer took office earlier this month after the centre-right cabinet of Mr Topolánek fell in a no-confidence vote.
In related news, PM Jan Fischer, has said that nuclear power is the only alternative to coal and gas. Speaking at a meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Prague on Friday, Mr Fischer said that nuclear power was also the only way of complying with the Czech Republic’s commitments in the field of climate protection. The leader of the caretaker government warned that after 2015, the country may face shortage of power. Mr Fischer also said that the decision whether to build two new blocks at the Czech nuclear power plant in Temelín is for the next government to make.
Several environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Sortir du nucleaire left the meeting in Prague in protest; they said that the Czech and Slovak governments only used the venue to present their countries’ nuclear ambitions.
The Czech energy giant ČEZ is going to take part in the construction of a new block at the Slovak nuclear power plant of Jaslovské Bohunice. The Czech energy producer signed an agreement with a Slovak partner company towards that end in Prague on Thursday. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. The ČEZ energy producer is also planning to build two new blocks at the Czech nuclear power plant in Temelín, southern Bohemia, and another two at a plant in Romania.
In related news, the ČEZ company is going to pay some 300 million crowns, or around 15.7 million US dollars, to several municipalities in the vicinity of the Temelín nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. The sum will be distributed among five villages and towns and used to improve local public services.
ČEZ is planning to complete another two blocks at the Temelín power plant; if approved by the government, the new blocks will be built on land owned by the municipality of Temelín. The village will receive 100 million crowns, or more than 5 million US dollars, although ČEZ management denied any direct link between the subsidy and the plans to build two new blocks.
Industrial production in the Czech Republic dropped by more than 23 percent in April, according to government figures released on Friday. Experts believe however that Czech industry is already over the worst of the crisis and expect that production will start rising again in the course of the year. In the second half of 2009, Czech industry is also expected to benefit from car scrapping subsidies introduced in several neighbouring countries. On the whole, the country’s industrial production is expected to drop by some 10 percent by the end of 2009.
Three Romanies were sentenced to four years in prison on Friday for a racially motivated assault on a 35-year-old man. Two of them brutally beat the victim in a town outside Karlovy Vary in western Bohemia in December 2007, repeatedly calling him “a white swine”. The third man, who was a policeman at the time, was convicted of trying to cover up for them and obstructing the investigation of the case. Two of the men appealed the verdict on the spot.
The men faced sentences of up to ten years in prison but the court did not consider the attack to be attempted murder. The victim gave evidence under protection and will be given a new identity.
The only Czech patient diagnosed with swine flu is healthy and has been released from quarantine, a Prague hospital spokeswoman said on Friday. The 29-year-old pilot, who contracted the virus in New York, was diagnosed with the disease last week but the course of the disease was mild.
In the Czech Republic, 143 people have been tested for suspected swine flu since the outbreak of the disease; only one case was confirmed and 21 people are still waiting for their tests results. The swine flu virus has been detected in 55 countries around the world so far.
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi has criticized the Czech EU presidency for an alleged lack of authority. Speaking at a business conference in Rome on Thursday, Mr Berlusconi said the European Union was at the moment unable to exercise a lead role in world affairs because there is no one with authority at its helm. US President Barack Obama has no one to call to find out what’s going on, the Italian leader said. Referring to the Czech PM Jan Fischer, Mr Berlusconi said he found it paradoxical that an expert on statistics is now the president of the EU.
The former Czech finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, said on Thursday he was leaving his party, the Christian Democrats, over arguments on party policies and repeated insults by other Christian Democrats. Mr Kalousek’s statement, published on the party website, appeared just hours before the start of a Christian Democrat party conference that will elect a new leader. Mr Kalousek, who served as finance minister in the centre-right government of PM Mirek Topolánek, announced earlier he planned to form a new political party to run in the autumn’s early general election.
In its third year, the Prague Food Festival kicked off with awards presented to several top Czech chefs in the Czech capital on Thursday. Over the weekend, the festival will offer samples of Czech, Brazilian, French, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines; some of the best Prague restaurants are participating in the event. This year, the festival will take place on pontoons floating on the Vltava in the historic city centre next to Charles Bridge.
Czech goalkeeper Alexander Salák signed a two-year contract the Florida Panthers on Friday, becoming the 11th Czech goalkeeper to appear in the NHL. The 22-year-old goalie spent past three seasons in Finland and played two games for the Czech international team this year.
All Czech tennis single players were knocked out of French Open on Friday after Iveta Benešová lost to title defender Ana Ivanovich of Serbia 0:6, 2:6 and Croatia’s Marin Chilich beat Radek Štěpánek 6:1, 7:6 and 6:3. There are now five Czechs left at Roland Garros competing in doubles.
The weekend is expected to be cold and rainy, with highest daytime temperatures ranging between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius.
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