The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that in all likelihood the Czech Republic will have to close down around ten diplomatic missions, above all in South America and Africa, as the result of budget cuts. He made the statement in Budapest on Thursday, adding concrete locations would be discussed by the government at its next meeting. In addition to the closing down of bureaux abroad, the foreign minister also stressed that some 100 employees would be let go by the Foreign Ministry. The planned cuts are directly related to the government’s austerity measures, requiring individual ministries to save ten percent of their annual budgets for next year.
The Interior Ministry has denied reports it will focus primarily on rank-and-file police officers in a wave of layoffs next year that could prove essential to meeting austerity measures agreed by the government. Under the government’s plan, all 14 ministries will be required to save 10 percent from their budget, meaning likely job cuts. In an interview for the newspaper Právo, the Interior Minister Radek John suggested that layoffs would be necessary to avoid blanket wage cuts for all police officers and fire fighters. Právo writes that the layoffs would begin in next year’s 2Q. By contrast, Interior Ministry spokesman Jiří Reichl told the ČTK news agency on Thursday that if layoffs proved essential, the ministry would first look to save among officers not serving on regular duty.
The government's economic advisory board NERV, reinstated on Wednesday, has met to outline priorities in the coming months, among them the creation of six teams focusing on specific areas of the Czech economy. The teams will deal with - and present recommendations - on issues including pension reform, transparency in public tenders, and EU economic policy. Members will now be assigned to specific groups with the prime minister saying an official announcement will be made in two weeks. NERV was first set up in January 2009 to focus on economic growth. The original council had ten members including Vladimír Dlouhý (an advisor to US investment bank Goldman Sachs), Martin Jahn (president of Automotive Industry Association and CEO of Volkswagen Group in Russia), and others. The renewed body will meet once per month.
The Omnipol group has said it is ready to meet contractual obligations over the exchange of five L-159 fighter jets for Spanish-made CASA transport planes. The statement is reaction to criticism by the prime minister earlier this week, centring on Omnipol as a mediator in the deal with EADS, the CASA manufacturer. The government says the reason that it signed a deal on the CASA planes was to be able to get a deal on the L-159s; it later came to light that Spain was not interested. In their joint press conference with Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra on Tuesday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas hit out at mediating firms, calling them as “parasitical” and saying that the days when the Defence Ministry had served as a kind of cash cow were over. According to controversial legislation from 1994, the defence ministry cannot buy arms directly from foreign producers – a law the current government wants to change.
The results of a new survey conducted by GfK Praha and the Median polling agency have indicated that the tabloid Blesk remains the top-read daily in the country, followed by the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes. The survey questioned more than 12,000 respondents. According to the results, the Blesk average rose by 50,000 to 1.42 million readers daily in the first half of 2010, while Mladá fronta registered a loss of 18,000 readers, with an average of around 874,000 during the same period. The left-wing paper Právo was the third-most read publication, followed by Deník Sport. Readership numbers include those who read on the internet, meaning the numbers do not reflect actual copies sold.
Increased rainfall over the last several days has risen water levels on a number of rivers, making canoeing or rafting ideal in areas, but also reason for caution in others. The head of the Czech Canoe Association Vojtěch Jančar has told CTK that canoeists were recommended to proceed with care at sluices, such as one near the south Bohemian town of Bechyně on the Lužnice, where water is flowing at 60 cubic metres per second. He also pointed to a section of whitewater near Tábor requiring more experience and skill. The Sázava river has also seen an increase in water levels.
Representatives of the Czech Sports Association say it is not planning on the demolition of Prague’s Strahov stadium and consequent sale of the property grounds. At a press conference in Prague on Thursday, officials pointed out that such a scenario was only one of several on how to gain additional funds in the future for sport. The financial daily Hospodářské noviny was the first to report the initial story. Sports Association officials said that the sale of the property, which was used by the Communist regime for spectacular calisthenics displays known as the Spartakiádia (in which hundreds of thousands of gymnasts took part) was not the order of the day. Currently, the stadium is used as a training ground for football club Sparta Prague.
Sparta Prague have reached the final qualification round for football’s lucrative Champions League. The Czech title-holders beat the Polish side Lech Poznan 1:0 away in the second leg on Wednesday, giving them a 2:0 win on aggregate. Marek Matejovsky and Libor Sionko were sent off during that game, meaning they will miss the next round, as will Bony Wilfried, who picked up a second yellow card. If Sparta fail to make it to the Champions League, they will automatically enter the continent’s second-tier international club competition, the Europa League.
Football defender for Sparta Prague Tomáš Řepka, has been given a three-match ban in the Czech domestic league. A disciplinary commission ruling on an incident in which the player spat on Slovacko’s Ladislav Volešak, also said Řepka would not be allowed to captain his side until next year. The defender has already missed one of his matches, against České Budějovice, and will not play in Sparta’s match-up against Ostrava or Příbram. Řepka, who is known for having a short fuse, has expressed regret over his actions.
Top seed Tomáš Berdych won his first match since losing the Wimbledon final to Rafael Nadal at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington. The Czech player earned a 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-1 win over Dmitry Tursunov in two hours and 17 minutes, back in action since reaching his first grand slam final last month. Berdych will next face Andrey Golubev, the 16th seed. By contrast, Czech player Radek Štepánek, returning to the ATP Tour after a five-month lay-off due to health reasons, lost in two sets to Swiss player Mark Chiudinelli winning only win only four games in the second round match. The score was 1:6, 3:6.
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