Czech President Václav Klaus on Friday backed anti-gay comments made by his deputy chief of staff, Petr Hájek who said a planned gay pride march in Prague was an event held by “deviant people”. President Klaus “strongly rejected” a demand from two Czech political parties to distance himself from those comments. In a statement, Mr Klaus said he felt “no pride” about the Prague Pride march scheduled for August 14, adding that while homosexuality deserved protection, “homosexualism” did not. The Czech president also said that for him the word “deviant” was neutral.
Embassies of 13 countries on Friday expressed support for the planned Prague Pride gay parade. In a joint statement, the ambassadors of the United States, the UK, Germany, Canada, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland said they supported the right of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals to hold a peaceful march through the city to raise awareness of the problems they face. The British embassy, which initiated the joint statement, said it was not related to the position of President Václav Klaus and his aide, Petr Hájek.
Czech police said on Friday they were looking for witnesses in the case of a Brno police gang that between 1998 and 2010 blackmailed local entrepreneurs. Earlier this week, two former and one current police officers, along with three civilians, were charged with blackmail, corruption and organized crime, and placed in custody. The head of the organized crime squad told reporters on Friday the gang would approach businesspeople who were investigated for economic crime, offering to influence the investigation. The police have so far disclosed 17 such cases.
Prague stock exchange hit a two-year low on Friday as it sank by nearly four percent; its main PX index dropped to 1079.5 points by 11 AM. The market made up for some of the losses by Friday afternoon but all major shares registered a sharp decline, including CME, AAA Auto, Orco, NWR, Unipetrol and others. Friday’s development was related to a turmoil on the world stock market; analysts said the drop was caused by investors trying to sell risky stocks in anticipation of possible further recession in the US and more problems in some of the troubled economies of the Eurozone.
Both the opponents and the supporters of logging of bark beetle-infested trees in the Šumava National Park staged a rally in front of the Environment Ministry in Prague on Friday. Around a hundred people demanded an immediate end of logging in the park. They also called on the environment minister to remove the park’s director, Jan Stránský, from his post, and asked for a public debate on the issue. Some 20 people, who live in villages around the park, also showed up in front of the ministry to show support for the park’s management. Police said no clashes took place between the two groups.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic dropped by 0.5 percent to 6.8 percent in the second quarter of this year, the lowest it has been in two years, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. The number of jobseekers is reported to have dropped to just over 350,000. However, according to data by the Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry which uses different methodology, the unemployment rate in the second quarter of this year reached 8.5 percent.
The Health Ministry has appealed against the decision of a Paris court that in May recognized a multi-billion claim raised by the firm Diag Human against the Czech state, the news website idnes.cz reported on Friday. The firm is demanding around 10 billion crowns from the Czech Republic for allegedly thwarting its blood plasma business in the country in the 1990s. Diag Human had asked the court to confiscate property of the Czech state in France in compensation. A similar appeal against the decision of a court in Austria was successful.
Nearly 9 percent more tourists visited the Czech Republic between April and July than in the previous year, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. The number of foreign visitors increased by over 13 percent while the number of Czech tourists rose by more than 3 percent. The highest increase – of 18 percent – was registered in five-star hotels. In total, the number of overnight stays in hotels reached 9.6 million in the second quarter of this year with Prague, Central Bohemia and Ústí regions registering the highest increase.
Czech trade unions on Friday came up with a proposal to raise the minimum wage by 15 percent to 9,200 crowns, or just over 537 US dollars, as of January 2012. Union leaders said if the minimum wage was kept on the current level, it would no longer serve its purpose which is to cover all living expenses. Plans to raise the minimum wage have also been reportedly considered by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry although its officials have not announced by how much it should increase. The minimum wage was last increased in 2007.
More than 1,300 caravan buffs from 31 countries of the world have arrived in Prague in more than 650 vehicles for the 77th international camping and caravanning rally that starts on Saturday. Organizers said the participants will visit several cities, towns, castles and other monuments during the 10-day festival; however, they will uses buses as their caravans will remain at the exhibition ground in the Prague district of Letňany where the gathering takes place. Among the participants are caravan buffs from the UK, US, Australia, Taiwan, China and a number of European countries.
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