The caretaker Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, says the country’s
biggest right-wing party the Civic Democrats will continue to back his
cabinet – if it attempts to curb the swelling public finance deficit. Mr
Fischer made the comments after talks with Civic Democrats leader Mirek
Topolánek in Prague on Tuesday morning. The meeting followed a lower house
session last week in which next year’s budget was approved, with a record
deficit, only after the Social Democrats forced through increased funding
for social services, civil servants’ salaries and payments to farmers. On
Monday the government said it would do all in its power to keep the budget
deficit at or below 5.3 percent of GDP.
Mr Topolánek said the interim government – which was selected by his party and the Social Democrats – must oppose any left-wing proposals that would deepen the deficit. He indicated that ministers who back such proposals should quit the cabinet.
A threatened general strike has been averted at a Hyundai car plant in north Moravia after a deal was reached between management and union leaders on Tuesday. The agreement came after the company dropped a plan to cancel overtime work. Around 400 employees briefly went on an unofficial strike at the Hyundai plant earlier this month. The company employs around 4,000 people at its factory in Nošovice, which began operations just over a year ago.
Thousands of people will be able to petition to be released from prison when a new criminal code comes into effect on January 1, Lidové noviny reported on Tuesday, describing the situation as an unofficial amnesty. Changes to the law redefining some crimes as mere misdemeanours will also mean that tens of thousands of prisoners could see their terms reduced, the newspaper said. The head of the country’s judges’ organisation, Tomáš Lichovník, said those who had been sent to jail for something which is no longer a crime would have to be freed. He said the courts expected to be extremely busy.
President Václav Klaus says Czech scientists will have to get used to the fact they will have lower funding. Speaking at a meeting at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague on Tuesday, Mr Klaus said scientists would have to bear in mind the country’s economic situation. Before the president spoke, the chairman of the Academy of Sciences, Jiří Drahoš, launched an attack on the government council for research, development and innovation over a change in its policy on science funding – it has placed an emphasis on backing applied rather than basic research.
Meanwhile, the minister of education, Miroslava Kopicová, said maintaining science funding at its current level was not realistic. Speaking at the same conference, Minister Kopicová also said it was not possible to rely on substantial support in the coming years from the European Union for research and development in the Czech Republic.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, lost a complaint against the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes over its suggestions that he ordered the arrest of fugitive businessman Tomáš Pitr while he was prime minister. Mr Paroubek had been demanding the right to reply with an article in the paper giving his side of the story. The Social Democrats head also came out on the losing side in a different case heard by a Prague court on Tuesday, after demanding an apology and compensation over the leaking of a police report on organised crime linking his party to the underworld ahead of the last general elections. The Prague High Court rejected an appeal against a ruling against Jiří Paroubek handed down in June. On Monday, the politician’s wife lost a libel case she took against a magazine over what she alleged were pornographic drawings of the couple.
Most Czech children would like laptop computers for Christmas, the news website novinky.cz reported, quoting staff at a post office where Christmas wishes are traditionally sent. Since the start of December about a quarter of a tonne of letters outlining what children would like from the “Baby Jesus” have arrived at the post office in Boží Dar, a mountain resort in west Bohemia. As well as notebooks and other electronics, girls are asking for dolls while boys would like building toys, a post office official told novinky.cz.
Sparta Prague football club have demanded an apology from Marek Suchý, a player with their arch rivals Slavia Prague who held up a scarf with the slogan ‘Death to Sparta’ in front of Slavia’s hardcore fans after a Europa League game earlier this month. Suchý, who is 21, made the gesture following his last match for Slavia before joining Spartak Moscow on loan for one year. The defender told Czech Radio that the gesture had been made in a moment of high emotion, saying he was sorry if it had caused offence.
The Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková could receive a belated medal from the 2006Winter Olympics. The newspaper Die Welt reported that the International Olympic Committee might strip Germany’s Claudia Pechstein of her bronze medal; she is currently serving a ban for drug taking and the head of the IOC Jacques Rogge told Die Welt that her past would also be examined more closely. As Sáblíková came fourth in the 5000 m in Turin, she would receive the bronze medal handed to Pechstein if the German were retroactively disqualified.
Prime Minister Fischer told journalists on Monday that the government could not be held responsible for the lack of cooperation between parties in the lower house. Mr. Fischer added that the government would do everything it could to keep the state budget deficit below the 5.3 percent threshold. He also pointed out that the Czech Republic will most likely face harsh criticism from Brussels. The state budget deficit was expected to be 163 billion Czech crowns but MPs voted against proposed cuts in social services, state employees’ salaries and the agriculture sector, bringing it up to 5.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. To keep the state budget deficit below the 5.3 percent threshold, the government will cut spending of several ministries by three to five percent.
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