27-11-2001

Lidove noviny writes about the unexpected rise in wages that has been recorded throughout the country. The paper says that, compared to last year, the average monthly salary in this year's third quarter has increased by 8.9% and now stands at 14 410 Czech crowns, or a little over 380 US dollars. The increases, however, vary according to different regions. The highest paid region, the paper says, continues to be Prague where the average salary lies at 18 039 Czech crowns - some 480 U.S. dollars - whilst the lowest paid region is around the Moravian town of Olomouc, where the average salary is almost six thousand crowns less - 12 378 Czech crowns. The biggest rise in salaries has been recorded in the field of aeronautics and the financial sector. In the latter case, the paper attributes the rise to the recent downsizing and the large compensation paid out to laid off employees.

On a related note, today's Prazske Slovo, writes that due to the wage increases, Christmas shopping has begun a week earlier than expected. The paper says that retailers have stocked up with goods, luring customers with lowered prices, hoping that they will end up buying other more expensive items that are not on their shopping lists. The paper quotes economic analyst Ladislav Sipek as saying that a four percent increase in spending is expected this year as compared to the last.

Pravo features an interesting article in which it claims that the head of a prison in Prague's Pankrac district found out about one of its prisoners having a mobile phone from an article in the paper's Monday issue. Jaroslav Gruber tells the paper that he was shocked to read that a 40-year-old Kosovo Albanian was in possession of a mobile phone and had used it to arrange drug deals for several weeks, without the knowledge of the guards.

He goes on to say that he was disappointed by the way the police had handled the case. The paper writes that the general director of the prison service had also not been informed. So far this year, prison guards have found a total of 96 mobile phones in the possession of prisoners. One way to solve the problem is by installing metal detectors and x- ray machines for all goods taken into the prisons, the paper concludes.

Lidove noviny writes that it has gone unnoticed that the Czech Republic has been increasingly exporting hand guns to Yemen - a country known to host training camps and storage bases for the Al-Quaeda terrorist organisation. The paper says that this year, the Czech Republic has been unusually active as far as its exports of guns to the country are concerned, noting that the number of exports has been growing significantly over the past few months. Hynek Kmonicek from the Foreign Ministry explains that during a trip to Yemen in 1999, the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan was assured that the guns would not be transported anywhere else. The paper, however, greets this with skepticism and notes that the Yemen Government does not have the entire country under control, including a region that has been home to members of Osama bin Laden's family.

The Temelin nuclear power plant's role in the closing of the energy chapter during the Czech Republic's EU accession talks makes one of the leading stories in Hospodarske noviny. The paper says that there is only about a month left before talks on the plant are to be closed and it appears that discussion is far from over. Dana Drabova from the National Office for Nuclear safety tells the paper that there are still seven points on which to compromise. This will be a long-term process, informs the paper.

Although the terms of the Melk agreement - an agreement made between Prague and Vienna last year to fully examine the safety of the plant - are not legally binding, Czech-Austrian negotiations are expected to be considered during the Czech Republic's talks on the EU energy chapter. The paper quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ales Pospisil as saying that the EU expects negotiations on the energy chapter to be closed by December 11th at the latest.

27-11-2001