The Czech Republic is seeing the biggest baby boom since 1993, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday. Last year, more than 110,000 babies were born in the country, nearly ten percent more than in the previous year. For the first time in 25 years, the difference between new-born and deceased persons reached 10,000. The number of inhabitants of the Czech Republic has been increasing for five years in a row. In 2007, a record number of foreigners migrated to the country as well – by the end of last year, almost 400,000 foreign nationals lived permanently in the Czech Republic, amounting to 3.8 percent of the population.
A bill introducing a smoking ban in all public areas was rejected by the Czech parliament on Thursday. Czech lawmakers sent the bill back to the lower house’s economic and health committees. Communist leader Vojtěch Filip, who proposed the move, said there were too many amending motions to the bill. The smoking ban bill might be approved in various versions, ranging from softer anti-smoking measures to a general smoking ban in restaurants and bars. Critics of the smoking ban claim that it would hurt restaurants and bar owners, while its supporters argue that the experience of countries such as France and Ireland, which have introduced a similar ban, point to the contrary. In the Czech Republic, an estimated 50 to 60 people die daily of diseases caused by smoking. Statistics suggest that roughly 25 percent of Czechs smoke.
Traffic on a major Czech motorway connecting Prague and Brno collapsed on Thursday due to a massive pile-up caused by snowing. Lanes in both directions on the D1 motorway between the capital and the country’s second largest city, Brno, were blocked by more than 100 crashed vehicles. Six people suffered serious injuries in the accident, while another 26 had to receive medical treatment. Convoys of vehicles in both directions were about 40 km long with thousands of trapped people while trucks have been completely diverted from the motorway. Interior Minister Ivan Langer told Czech TV that he was considering calling in the army to help.
The Czech Republic wants to participate in designing a common EU strategy
for elderly care during the country’s EU presidency next year, Minister
for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities Džamila Stehlíková said on
Thursday. Elderly care and protection is one of the Czech priorities for
the six-month term of EU presidency during which Minister Stehlíková
plans to hold an international conference on dignified retirement.
The Czech Republic has roughly 1.5 million of people over 65 years of age. While their number is expected to reach 2.2 million by 2030, a recent poll showed that some six percent of the elderly in nursing homes suffered maltreatment.
Czech Airlines, the country’s national carrier, is set to introduce connections to a number of new destinations including Marseille, Damascus, Almaty and Tbilisi. The new routes will be serviced within the new flight schedule beginning on March 30, a Czech Airlines representative said on Thursday. This is the first expansion of the airline’s network after several years of stagnation. The Czech Airlines currently have 50 aircraft flying to almost 70 destinations. While in 2005, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy with nearly 500 million crown deficit, last year it made a profit of 111 million crowns, or more than 6.7 million U.S. dollars.
Czech tax officers may have to report to the police on suspicious money, bribery and money laundering. Their new duty follows from an amendment to the tax law passed by the Senate on Wednesday. If the President Václav Klaus approves the bill, it will come into force on July 1. Under the current legislation, tax officers are pledged to secrecy. The bill also introduces a number of punitive measures to deal with forged applications for money from EU funds.
The Bohemian crown jewels will be on display in Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall between April 19 and 29. The crown jewels, consisting of St. Wenceslas’ crown and the royal orb and sceptre, are only displayed publicly on special occasions; in the last century, the were exhibited nine times. This time, the crown jewels are on display in connection with the re-election of Václav Klaus as the president and also due to the approaching 90th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia.
The coach of the national football team Karel Bruckner said on Thursday that he would resign after the European Championship which will be held in Austria and Switzerland in June this year. Mr Bruckner has been with the team since 2002 and has led the Czech side to one of the greatest successes in recent years when they finished third at Euro 2004.
The Czech national football team will start the next season with a friendly match against England at Wembley, the Czech Football Association said on Wednesday. For the Czech team, the game will be the first after the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland in June. The last game between the Czech Republic and England, which took place in November 1998 in London, saw the Czech loose 2:0.
Over 100 Romanies from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Canada since it lifted a visa requirement for Czech visitors at the start of November, the Toronto Star reported. While in the first ten months of 2007 no Czech Romanies lodged asylum requests, 83 did so in November and December, while 45 applied in January. The fresh applications have raised apprehensions that there could be a repeat of a situation in 1996, when the North American state lifted travel restrictions for Czechs and around 4,000 Romanies from the Czech Republic arrived in Canada; most of them gained refugee status.