The Czech Republic's foreign debt grew by 81 billion in 2003 to 894 billion. Anti-monopoly office fines three largest Czech bakeries for cartel. The Czech government offers US company Boeing 1 crown for its stake in troubled Czech aircraft maker Aero Vodochody. Czech civil servants threaten to go on strike after the government decided to significantly reduce their special end-year bonuses. The Industry and Trade Ministry decides to review a project in support of Iraq because of the involvement of a former communist secret police agent. The Czech Republic
Anyone who has had to wait in line for hours in public offices to sort out things like ID cards and tax returns could be forgiven for thinking that the Czech civil service is not exactly a well oiled machine. This perception has now been borne out by a recent survey, which has found that Czech public administrators are not as professional or motivated as their EU counterparts.
The country's civil servants may go on strike to protest against Sunday's Cabinet decision to give them only limited end of year bonuses, in line with the government's fiscal reform plan. Despite protests from trade unions the Cabinet agreed to pay the country's 450,000 civil servants only 10 percent of their so-called 13th monthly salaries, a special end of year bonus which was guaranteed by law in the past. Civil servants say their annual incomes will drop significantly without this supplement to their wages and have threatened to launch various protest actions. At a meeting of trade union representatives on Monday, trade union leaders agreed to call onto all union members and civil servants to go on a one-hour strike after the Easter holiday.
Last Thursday's events in Madrid continue to make headlines in Czech newspapers almost a week later. Both Lidove Noviny and Pravo lead with stories about breakthroughs in the investigation of the Madrid attacks. "Police know murderers from Madrid", reads a headline in Lidove Noviny and Pravo chooses similar language: "Spain knows the names of the murderers."
All of Thursday's dailies feature cover photos of former Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda and his former assistant Barbora Snopkova leaving court after being handed down guilty sentences for fraud. The baseball-capped Mr Sovoboda and bee-hived Mrs Snopkova look visibly shaken by the verdict, which sent both sent to prison for five years. Both immediately appealed the decisions. If the sentences are confirmed it will mark the first time a former government minister in the Czech Republic spends time behind bars.
Czech GDP accelerated in 2003 in year-on-year terms. Czech consumer prices subsided in February. The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has reached an all-time high. The Czech construction sector began the year with a 15 percent year-on-year jump. Japanese automotive company Asmo is to start production at its new plant in the town of Zruc nad Sazavou.
When the Czech Republic joins the European Union, its citizens will not only benefit economically but they will also be able to enjoy the advantages of travelling, studying and working in the union without restriction. Or at least that was the argument used by the Czech government to convince its citizens to vote in favour of EU membership, and it worked. With an unemployment rate of ten percent, the country's younger generation hopes to have the opportunity to work freely elsewhere, while learning a new language and gaining international experience
Last week, an amendment to the Czech Labour Code, which includes a precise reference to "sexual harassment" for the first time, finally took legal effect. The amendment brings the Labour Code into line with that of other EU nations, and it is hoped that it will give more rights to working women. Nevertheless the law is not without its critics.
Czech forwarding firms and customs agents ended their one day strike on Friday night, slamming the government's unwillingness to negotiate their demands and saying that a future blockade of the border could come without warning. The strike affected eight of the country's busiest border crossings with Germany and Slovakia, resulting in confusion and long pile ups. However due to early warnings of the strike many truck drivers opted to pass through other check points. The association of forwarding firms and customs agents wants the government to compensate forwarding companies that will have to sack up to 1,500 employees after Czech accession to the EU. The government has refused to do so, saying that it is only prepared to finance re-qualification courses for laid off employees.
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