Daily news summary News

12-12-2009

Prague conference seeks to raise debate over integration of immigrants

A conference in Prague has been told that the Czech Republic has to find the right framework to integrate immigrants after experiencing a rocketing rise in foreign workers. The number of immigrants into the Czech Republic has climbed 13-fold in the last 20 years, conference participants were told on Saturday. Immigrants now account for around 4.0 percent of the population and around 6.0 percent of the workforce, according to director of the Czech office of the International Organisation for Migration, Lucie Sládková.

This was a lot higher than in neighbouring countries such as Slovakia, Poland and Hungary although still lower than levels in some EU countries. Sládková said the country should learn from those countries in selecting the right approach for integrating foreigners.

The conference was jointly staged by Charles University, the Ministry of Interior and the company Global Analysis and Consulting, with the aim of stirring a debate about the significance of immigrants and their treatment.

Strike at Hyundai car plant looms: unions

The threat of a strike at South Korean carmaker Hyundai’s Czech plant has increased according to union negotiators. After talks on Friday, the unions said management of the plant at Nošovice in eastern Moravia seemed intent to punish workers. The head of the KOVO union, Josef Středula, said he saw a 75 percent chance of a full strike going ahead.

Around 400 workers downed tools for an hour at the start of the month in a spontaneous protest at excessive overtime and what they described as poor working conditions. Management has since agreed to abandon overtime until the end of the year. Talks between the two sides are set to resume on Monday. Hyundai employs around 2,000 workers at the plant which started production in November 2008.

Social Democrat head praises success in budget debate

The head of the Social Democratic Party, Jiří Paroubek, praised its performance in pushing through changes to the 2010 budget. Speaking after a meeting of party leaders on Saturday, he said the changes resulted in more social justice. The Social Democrats, Communists and a few independent deputies voted through fresh spending of around 12 billion crowns in a budget debate on Wednesday. Most of it was aimed at boosting the wages of civil servants, teachers and other public workers and boosting farmers‘ income.

The budget changes have had major reverberations. The finance minister Eduard Janota says he will decide whether to stay on in government on Monday. Meanwhile, the right wing Civic Democrats have said the caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer should consider whether it should continue in office and whether the Social Democratic nominees should be allowed to stay in the cabinet.

Separately, Mr Paroubek said he had still to be furnished with proof that party members were being recruited locally on the back of incentives such as meals or trips in luxury cars. But he said the party was looking to tighten up its membership rules, perhaps with a delay before party membership takes effect.

President’s close advisor criticises Václav Havel

One of President Václav Klaus‛ closest advisors, Ladislav Jakl, has hit out at former president Václav Havel in an interview in Saturday’s Mladá fronta dnes. The deputy director of the president’s office said Havel lacked sufficient respect for individual liberty because he hated capitalism. He added that the former president was influenced after the 1989 revolution that toppled communism by rich and influential groups. Mr Jakl added that the Civic Democratic Party had ceased to be a right-wing party. He is due to publish a book ‘Rocker at the Castle’ in the coming week summing up his political and musical opinions.

River site selected for Prague's New Year firework show

Prague’s tradition New Year fireworks display is to have a new format this time round. Prague city hall says the fireworks will this year be sited on a 70-metre barge in the middle of the Vltava river. This will allow crowds to follow the show from the traditional ignition spot on Letna plain overlooking the river. The show, which will this year cost around 1.5 million crowns, is traditionally a big pull for Czechs and foreign tourists.

Dairy farmers to widen protest to include supermarkets

Dairy farmers in the central Pardubice region say they will step up their protests against low milk prices in the new year. Protest organisers say they will target supermarket chains as part of a widened campaign. This week they blocked a series of dairy producers who they also blame for their current plight. Farmers say current prices for milk do not cover costs and they are being forced to kill cows as a result.

Czech zoo to return near extinct rhinos to the wild

The Dvůr Králové zoo is to transfer four endangered Northern White rhinos to a Kenyan reserve in a last-ditch attempt to ensure the survival of the species. The zoo’s director says the transfer is a last attempt to save them in their natural habitat and could encourage the females to breed.

According to experts there are only eight remaining Northern White rhinos, a sub-species of the White Rhino, worldwide. All live in captivity, six at Dvůr Králové and two more at San Diego Zoo in the United States. The four rhinos, two males and two females should be transferred to Kenya's Ol Pejeta reserve on December 19. The Northern White rhino has been driven near to extinction because of poaching for their horns, which are much prized for use in Asian medicines.

Czech women's floorball team fails in bid for world championship bronze

The Czech women's floorball team failed to win a bronze medal in the World Floorball Championships being staged in Sweden on Saturday. They lost 1:3 against Finland in the third place playoff. On Friday, the Czech team failed to book a place in the final with a 1:5 loss to favourites Switzerland. The Czech coach has nonetheless described the fourth place as a major success.

Speed skater Martina Sáblíková wins World Cup event

Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková has won the 3,000 metres event at Salt Lake City in the United States. She crossed the line in 3.56.29 minutes. It was her second fastest time for the distance ever. The winning time was 1.49 seconds ahead of her biggest current rival, Germany’s Stephanie Beckert. The event is the final speed skating World Cup event before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February. Sáblíková’s coach, Petr Novák, said she was capable of improving her performance before the Olympics.

Weather

The weather is set to stay cloudy with rain and snow showers. Daytime temperatures should drop to around minus two degrees Celsius on Sunday. The weather should get sunnier by Tuesday but temperatures will slide to minus four.

12-12-2009