Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said on Tuesday that Canada had not yet re-introduced visas for Czech nationals and that Prague continued to negotiate with Ottawa in a bid to curb the move. On Friday, Czech Television broadcast a report claiming that the Canadian authorities had already decided to re-implement visas for Czechs and would make a public announcement to this effect on Tuesday. Speaking on Tuesday, however, the Czech foreign minister said that he had ‘no indication’ that the Canadian government was about to make such a move. Canada is thought to want to re-introduce visas for Czechs after receiving over 1,000 asylum claims from Czechs, predominantly Czech Romanies, in the first four months of this year alone.
Two registers of alleged agents and collaborators with the former Communist secret police (StB) will appear on the internet this week, the daily Lidové noviny wrote on Tuesday citing former dissident Stanislav Penc. The StB registers of agents, collaborators and even people whom the dreaded secret police investigated are to be put online by Mr Penc himself as a form of protest against the way that these registers are being used by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The former dissident insists that the institute should not have a monopoly on the registers and says the public has the right to whatever information is available about the past. The head of the institute Pavel Žáček has criticized the move saying that the registers in question are full of mistakes which could do people a great deal of harm. Stanislav Penc is said to have acquired them from Jan Langos, the former head of the Slovak National Memory Institute who died in a road accident in 2006.
The Czech Army is planning some 1,800 lay-offs in the coming months, said Chief of Staff General Vlastimil Picek on Tuesday. The redundancies will be made up of 600 civilian staff and 1,200 soldiers, Mr Picek said. The army is laying off employees due to budget cuts at the Defence Ministry brought about by the current economic downturn. In 2009, the Defence Ministry’s budget is down by more than 7 billion crowns (377 million USD) on that of the previous year. A spokesperson also told the press that, for the meantime, the army was not seeking to take on new recruits.
A bill which temporarily cuts social insurance payments for employers, to save jobs during the current financial crisis, was signed into law by Czech President Václav Klaus on Tuesday. The law allows firms to pay less social insurance for each of their employees until the end of 2010. It will come into effect on August 1, a spokesperson for the President’s Office said on Tuesday. The law will see employers pay just over three percent less for each of their employees and is aimed at protecting those in the lowest paid jobs, whose positions are most at risk, said Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Šimerka on Tuesday. The law forms part of the government’s anti-crisis stimulus package.
Revenue generated by the shooting of films in the Czech Republic fell last year by nearly 28 percent. Last year, filmmaking generated 3.5 billion crowns (190 million USD) in the Czech Republic, in 2003, the amount brought in by film production totaled more than double this sum. According to those in the industry, the fall in revenues last year was mainly due to a fall in the number of foreign productions being shot in the Czech Republic – with Hollywood in particular turning its back on this country. Politicians are currently discussing how to amend legislation so as to attract foreign film companies to the country. At the moment, the Czech Republic offers no financial incentives to filmmakers, unlike Germany, France, Great Britain and Hungary.
Prague slipped down the rankings of most expensive town for expatriates this year by more than 40 places. In a study conducted by consultancy firm Mercer in 2008, Prague was judged the 29th most expensive town for expats to live in on the planet. This year, Prague ranked 70th on the list. For the study, the cost of accommodation and over 200 different items were noted in 143 cities around the globe. Top of this year’s poll was Tokyo, while the second most expensive place to settle was Osaka. Moscow and Geneva came third and fourth respectively.
Czech foreign trade kept shrinking in May as the global crisis sent both exports and imports down by more than 20 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office said on Tuesday. Exports tumbled by 21.2 percent while imports contracted by 23.2 percent against May 2008, suggested official data. Czech trade posted a surplus worth 11.7 billion crowns (628.6 million USD) in May, a growth of 107.6 million USD against a year ago. The value of imports in May was the lowest since January 2006, a spokesperson from the Statistical Office said.
Tuesday evening sees Czech virtuoso violinist Pavel Šporcl open the fifth Třeboňská nocturna festival in the south Bohemian town of Třeboň. The festival presents Czech and foreign musicians playing classical music in some of the town’s most scenic locations. Another highlight at the festival will be a performance staged by young musicians from the nearby Austrian twin-town of Schrems. The festival runs until July 11 and for more information, visit the event’s website: www.trebonskanocturna.cz.
The majority of Czechs are for registered same-sex partnerships, but against gay adoption, suggests a poll conducted by the CVVM agency and published on Tuesday. Nearly three quarters of those polled said that they believed homosexual couples should be able to cement their relationship through a civil partnership, while only 27 percent of those questioned said they believed same-sex couples should be able to adopt. When asked whether they agreed with gay marriage, 47 percent of those polled said yes, while 46 percent of respondents were against. According to the poll, just over one half of Czechs believed that they lived in a society which was ‘not very tolerant’ of same-sex relationships.
Head of the Czech FA Ivan Hašek has appointed himself coach of the national football team, just weeks after dismissing Frantisek Straka from the post. On Tuesday, Mr Hašek announced that he would coach the Czechs through the rest of their World Cup qualifying matches. Former Czech coach Karel Brueckner is set to become his advisor, news website iDnes.cz reported. Mr Hašek’s assistants were also unveiled on Tuesday, they are; Michal Bílek, Luděk Klusáček and Jan Stejskal. At a press conference, Mr Hašek said that, as head of the country’s football association, he would not renounce his responsibility at a ‘critical moment’ for Czech soccer.
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