The Czech Republic's foreign trade balance showed a surplus of 5.1 billion crowns /168.8 million euros/ in April, showing the largest year-on-year growth in its 12 year history. Year on year the surplus grew by 16 billion crowns, from a 10.9 billion deficit in April 2004, the Czech Statistical Office said. The main reasons were an improved balance in trade in machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and related products and manufactured goods classified mainly by material.
The rejection of the EU Constitution by France and the Netherlands has resulted in a higher number of Czech Euro-sceptics. According to the results of an opinion survey conducted by the FACTUM polling agency in the wake of the French and Dutch rejections, the number of Czechs who would vote against the EU Constitution /33.7 percent/ is now slightly higher than the number of its supporters /31.5 percent/. The biggest camp however is made up of people who are as yet undecided /34.8percent/.
EU border controls should be lifted for Czechs in late 2007, when Brussels plans to extend the Schengen area to the new member states, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said following a meeting with his counterparts from the EU, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The ministers discussed the introduction of a new generation of the Schengen information system SISII the launch of which, in the spring of 2007, is a necessary condition for expansion.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has promised to raise doctors' salaries by about 8 percent from October 1st of 2005. In a meeting with doctors, insurance companies and heads of hospitals, about the problems of the health sector, the Prime Minister said the state would provide financial help but he expected hospitals to assist the process by cutting back on expenditures. Hospital heads recently threatened to restrict services and reduce the quality of care if they did not receive more funding.
The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said that the current debate on the future of the euro must not cast doubt on Czech plans to join the single currency by 2010. He stressed that even the prospect of joining the euro is beneficial for the country's economy, for instance by helping to reduce the deficit in public finances. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka likewise stressed that the euro was a successful project and that plans to join the single currency should remain on track. Although analysts say there is no economic reason for the euro-zone to break up, some have advised putting off euro adoption beyond 2010.
The Czech army wants to put its state-of-the-art Vera radar system at the disposal of NATO from the beginning of next year, according to the defence ministry's press department. The mobile system is able to discover the presence of a different radar system and determine its type without being revealed. It can monitor up to 200 planes simultaneously and is able to define the distance and altitude of any target with great accuracy.
Czech police are investigating a suspicious package which arrived at Prague Castle on Thursday. Details, other than the fact the package was sent from the US, are momentarily not known. Every year Prague Castle, the Office of the President, and numerous other institutions receive similar such packages which are treated with caution and subjected to testing for possible threats.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, on an official visit to Finland, has expressed a difference of opinion with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonenon over the EU constitution treaty. In a joint news conference on Thursday, Mr Klaus said he was happy, referring to the treaty's rejection in the Netherlands in Wednesday's referendum vote. Mr Klaus called the referendum results "a victory for freedom and democracy in Europe". The Finnish president disagreed, saying she regretted the result. The Czech Republic's president is the only European head of state to express opposition to the EU constitution treaty.
The Prague Castle steps will see an exhibition race by world class mountain bikers next week, including Olympic Gold medal winner in Sydney 2000, Frenchman Miguel Martinez. 50 racers are expected to take part. The race, which features a 1,200 metre circuit, includes a descent of 189 Castle steps, and a climbing section with an incline of 12 percent in Prague's Mala Strana (Little Quarter).