The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says the European Union has
shown a complete inability to deal rationally with the current financial
crisis. Speaking on a visit to Turkey, Mr Topolánek said nothing had done
more to shake confidence in the EU than the events of the last few days. He
was particularly critical of the fact some countries had introduced
100-percent bank deposit guarantees; he described that move as a shameless
step that would increase liquidity in some states at the expense of others.
While in Ankara, the Czech prime minister also said he would discuss Turkey’s efforts to join the EU with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, when she visits Prague on October 20. The Czech Republic, unlike some other countries in the 27-member bloc, is in favour of Turkish membership.
The Czech National Bank has defied the expectations of analysts by leaving the benchmark interest rate at 3.5 percent. Economists believed the bank’s board was preparing to announce a half-point cut in interest rates on Thursday. A day earlier, central banks in a number of countries announced a coordinated interest rates cut in an effort to support economies threatened by the financial crisis. The Czech National Bank is still expected to cut rates at a policy meeting planned for early next month.
Shares on the Prague Stock Exchange rose by 0.14 percent on Thursday. That slight uptick follows a week of falls on the bourse, which on Wednesday closed at its lowest point since 2004. Brokers said their was a new sense of calm following coordinated international interest rate cuts and other measures implemented to deal with the recent turmoil.
Over half the population breathed air containing dangerous levels of carcinogens last year, according to a government study quoted by the news website aktualne.cz. Twenty-two of the Czech Republic’s 31 air measuring stations recorded levels of the chemical benzopyren at above set health limits, the report found. While limits were exceeded on under 5 percent of the country’s territory, 51 percent of the population live in those areas. Benzopyren is created by the burning of coal and oil and in the production of coke and iron. The cabinet is likely to discuss the report next week, aktualne.cz said.
Small post offices will only be closed with the agreement of local authorities, the Czech interior minister, Ivan Langer, said on Thursday. He said he would not give approval to the closure of any branches of the postal service unless the local town hall had assented to the move. Czech Post had been planning to shut down nearly 180 small branches. There are nearly 3,400 post offices around the country, with the postal service employing 37,000 people.
Interior Minister Langer has presented the cabinet with a plan to increase spending on the teaching of Persian, Arabic and Chinese, according to press reports. Mr Langer said the Czech Republic’s security services needed officers skilled in such languages in order to function effectively. He and the education minister, Ondřej Liška, are due to hold talks on the plan during the next week, before the cabinet considers it again.
Police have filed charges against one of the owners of a Prague exchange office suspected of laundering over CZK 5.3 billion (nearly USD 300 million). A raid was carried out on the offices of Aktiv Exchange on the city’s Národní St on Monday night. The cash allegedly laundered at the bureau de change mainly ended up in bank accounts in China and Vietnam, a police spokesperson said.
The operators of the Prague underground rail system are considering bringing back litter bins, the newspaper Lidové noviny reported. The bins were removed from Metro stations seven years ago as a security measure in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. A representative of Prague’s transport authority said the bins could return in a few weeks’ time. Prague Town Hall, meanwhile, is in favour of bringing back the bins, but only in the vestibules of stations – not on platforms.