The Czech football association has not given up on the idea of co-hosting the 2020 European Championships in spite of a rebuff from the government last week. The government refused to back plans for a 33,000 capacity stadium to be built at Prague’s Strahov site. The association is now looking at the fall back option of increasing the capacity of Slavia Prague’s modern Eden venue. Slavia’s ground has seated capacity for just under 21,000. The problem is that European football’s governing body UEFA has set a 30,000 minimum capacity for grounds that would host European Championship games. The Czech FA has to submit its final application by April 25.
Czech pupils have come out well in a worldwide test of practical problem solving abilities. Czechs shared joint 16 and 17 places with Germany in the ranking of 44 countries from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development which were involved in the tests. The first seven places in the rankings went to 15 and 16 year old pupils from Asian countries with the best placed Europeans, the Finns and British, in 10th and 11th positions. Czech Minister of Education Marcel Chládek said the test results were proof that schools were giving pupils a practical foundation for later life.
The death toll on Czech roads rose to 115 during the first three months of the year according to preliminary figures from police, that is three more than during the same period in 2013. Although there was a drop in accidents in January and February with the total number of fatalities the lowest for 43 years, the number of fatal accidents shot up in March. They numbered 50, seven more than the total in March 2013. Police said most of the accidents had their specific reasons but speeding was a common factor in many of them.
Minister of Finance Andrej Babis has extended the list of state companies whose bank account surpluses could be used to help the state budget. Babis told journalists that Czech Post, oil pipeline company MERO, fuel distribution company ČEPRO, and the State Institute for Drug Control could all contribute to the state coffers. He has already said that almost 70 percent state controlled power company ČEZ could pay out its total profits for 2013 in dividends and that he is counting on around 4 billion crowns from the state forestry company. Former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek on Tuesday attacked Babiš for raiding the accounts of state firms saying that funds should be left with them to develop the firms.
The Czech public finance deficit fell in 2013 to 1.44 percent of Gross Domestic Product from 4.2 percent in 2012, the Czech Statistics Office announced on Tuesday. That performance would put the country in line to join the euro zone on the public deficit criterion for the first time since 2008. The government is counting on a public deficit below 3.0 percent this year as well. In separate figures, the office revised downwards its previous growth figure for the last quarter of 2013 to 1.2 percent year on year and 1.8 percent quarter on quarter. The Czech economy shrunk by 0.9 percent over the whole year.
Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek has proposed that 1.1 billion crowns be earmarked to prolong the life of the Paskov coal mine for another two years until the end of 2016. Mining company OKD had threatened to close the mine at the end of the year with the loss of around 2,000 miners’ jobs. Mládek said that the proposal had been discussed with finance, social affairs, and environment ministers and would be put to the government some time in April for approval. He said that he had personally favoured the option where the government bought ownership of the mine for a symbolic one crown. The mine is an unemployment black spot with fears that the knock on effects of closure would have been even greater.
Czech political party ANO launched its campaign for European Parliament elections on Tuesday. Former EU membership negotiator Pavel Telička is heading the ANO list of candidates. He said that some of the main themes of the campaign will be completion of the internal market, promotion of Czech food products and protection of consumers, rational pumping of EU funds, and promotion of exchanges for Czech students. Party leader Andrej Babiš said that three or four of the party’s members in the lower house of the Czech parliament had sought to stand for the European Parliament but the party leadership stopped them from doing so.
The Czech economy is not picking up as fast as expected according to a March index based on a poll purchasing managers which was released on Tuesday. Instead of continuing to climb, the index fell back to 55.5 points from 56.5 in February. One of the biggest factors in the slide was the fact that the pace of new orders had slowed down from earlier in the year. Managers, however, continue to be confident that there will be an upturn in employment. Similar poll results for Poland and Hungary also resulted in falls in their indexes.
A three-day strike by Lufthansa pilots starting Wednesday has led to the cancellation of 3,800 flights including all flights between Prague and Frankfurt on Wednesday and Thursday, a spokeswoman for Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport confirmed on Tuesday. This represents six flights a day. Friday’s flights remain uncertain. In view of possible changes the airline has advised passengers to check out the status of their flight before setting off. The strike was called over Lufthansa’s plan to scrap an early retirement deal and could be one of the biggest strikes ever to hit the German airline.
President Miloš Zeman begins a two-day state visit to Serbia on Tuesday. The Czech head of state will be received by President Tomislav Nikolic and is also expected to meet with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic for talks focusing on bilateral relations and new business opportunities. The Czech president is also expected to voice his country’s support for Serbia’s accession to the European Union. He will inaugurate an exhibition in Belgrade on Czech-Serbian military cooperation and meet with Czech expats and Czech entrepreneurs doing business in Serbia.
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