The Interior Ministry has announced the final list of 12 countries whose citizens can apply for a green card to work in the Czech Republic. The number of countries is smaller than was originally envisaged, due to the global financial crisis and an expected fall in demand for low-paid workers from abroad. The countries concerned include Ukraine and all states of the former Yugoslavia with the exception of Kosovo. The Vietnamese, who make up one of the largest ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic, are also not included. Foreigners in the Czech Republic can currently only seek jobs that are not filled within 30 days with applicants from the Czech Republic or another EU country.
The Czech National Bank admits there could be a greater economic slowdown next year than previously forecast, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported, citing the bank’s governor Zdeněk Tůma. The most recent forecast of the Czech National Bank estimated a growth of 2.9 percent; now it says Czech GDP may only grow by 0.5 percent in 2009. Zdeněk Tůma says the change is caused by the global downturn, which is sharper than it was expected at the time the forecast was drafted.
The Czech mission to the United Nations in New York is ready to take over the duties of the European presidency on January 1, ambassador Martin Palouš has told the Czech News Agency. He said the Czech mission would be responsible for all activities carried out within the European Union in the first six months of next year. The first meeting Mr Palouš will preside is a regular meeting of the 27 ambassadors of EU member states. The Czech mission has recently increased its personnel to around 50 people.
As of January 1, drivers registering used cars will pay an environmental fee of up to 10,000 crowns. The new fee will concern some 2.5 million cars, which is more than half of all passenger cars in the Czech Republic. More than a third of all cars in the country, nearly 1.5 million vehicles, are older than 15 years and therefore they don’t meet any of the Euro emission standards. Owners of these cars will have to pay a fee of 10,000 crowns at the next registration after January 1, an amount that often exceeds the price of the vehicle itself. The registration authorities have been bursting at the seams before the end of the year, with people trying to sell their cars or cancel their registration at the last moment.
The Škoda Fabia was the most popular passenger car in the Czech Republic last year, with over 22,000 sold. It was followed by another Škoda, the Octavia, with nearly 11,500 cars, according to the data released by the Car Importers Association. The top-selling imported car in 2008 was the Ford Fusion with nearly 5,000 vehicles sold. Czech drivers registered over 130,000 passenger cars last year, which is 9 percent more than the previous year. The increase was boosted mainly by sales of city cars and small family vehicles.
The Tour de Ski sprint competition at Prague’s Výstaviště was won by Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland and Italy’s Arianna Follis. Czech skier Lukáš Bauer has not qualified for the finals. The reigning Tour de Ski champion finished in 48th place. The best Czech Aleš Razým finished 13th. Following Monday’s sprint in Prague, the Tour de Ski competition moves to another Czech venue Nové Město na Moravě on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, before coming to a close in the Italian resort of Val de Fiemme next weekend.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has supported Israel’s right to self-defence against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Mr Schwarzenberg said that firing rockets on civilian settlements was unacceptable and that it disqualified the Palestinian organization Hamas as a partner for any political dialogue. The Czech foreign minister expressed regrets over the poor living conditions in the Gaza Strip which make young people join radical organizations. Mr Schwerzenberg also said that the situation may only be improved if both sides restore cease-fire.
The car maker Škoda Auto has been unable to determine the number of cars to be produced in 2009, the head of Škoda’s board of directors Reinhard Jung told the German automobile magazine Auto, Motor und Sport on Saturday. Mr Jung also said that the car manufacturer, owned by the German Volkswagen, had to abandon its plan to put out more than one million vehicles in 2011 or 2012. Škoda Auto has been affected by the financial crisis and the shrinking world’s car markets; in November, the factory had to cancel its objective to produce 700,000 cars this year. Škoda also halted production several times before Christmas; its plants will resume production in the second week of January 2009.
The Czech Education Ministry will introduce cyber-bullying as a punishable offence in Czech schools. A new regulation, which will come into force in January 2009, will allow headmasters to punish pupils who record teachers or classmates on mobile phones. Cyber-bullying will also include attacks via e-mail or posting offensive personal materials on the internet. Experts say that the number of such incidents in the Czech Republic has been on the rise. Last year, a pupil in Ostrava recorded a classmate beating three other school children; other students recorded their friends bullying a teacher in the classroom, and posted the footage on the web.