British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Prague for an official visit on Thursday. He met with Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas as well as President Václav Klaus. David Cameron and his Czech counterpart discussed financial and economical problems within the EU, as well as bilateral ties and new business opportunities. David Cameron told journalists after the meeting that aid to the heavily indebted Greece should be organized via the International Monetary Fund rather than from the EU. The meeting between the two prime ministers comes ahead of an EU summit scheduled for Thursday, which will focus on efforts to resolve the Greek debt crisis. David Cameron last visited Prague in 2009, when he was running for prime minister for Britain’s Conservative Party.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Thursday that the Czech Republic will act as a reliable ally to the NATO in Afghanistan and will not take single-minded steps when it comes to its Afghanistan policy. He reacted to a statement by US President Barrack Obama, who announced last night that some 10,000 American soldiers will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of this year, with another 23,000 scheduled to return home by the summer of 2012. Over 700 Czech soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan.
The head of the transport workers’ union KDOS, Luboš Pomajbík, told journalists on Thursday that the transport unions are prepared for a general strike in collaboration with members from other unions. He added that the date was not yet clear. He said that even after a day-long, nationwide transport strike, the government coalition had not properly negotiated with the unions and that therefore, they are prepared to resort to a general strike in protest of planned reforms in the health, social and pension sector. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, labeled the unions’ statements part of a long-term strategy for negotiations with employers and the government coalition. He said, however, that future strikes are likely should the negotiations fail to resolve key issues.
President Václav Klaus has vetoed a law meant to improve air quality by determining zones within municipalities where older bus models, which do not satisfy certain emission standards, would be banned from passing through. The president said he agreed with the Senate’s criticism of the proposal, stating that it was poorly designed and that its implementation may be difficult for towns and cities. The proposal, which was put forward by a group of Moravian and Silesian deputies, was backed by the environment minister, Tomáš Chalupa.
According to a survey by the Academy of Sciences’ Public Opinion Research Centre, 33.5 percent of Czechs would vote for the opposition Social Democrats if an election took place today. The Civic Democrats, currently the strongest party in the three-party right-of-center government coalition, would only gain 12.5 percent of votes. Only 3.5 percent of all respondents said that they would cast their ballot in favor of junior coalition partner Public Affairs, which was at the center of a recent corruption scandal that brought the government coalition to the brink of collapse.
According to its own estimates, the Prague Public Transport Company saved roughly three million Czech crowns due to the transport strike that hit the capital last week on Thursday. Most of it was generated by the fact that employees who joined the strike were not paid the full wage for that day, which lead to savings of 4.3 million Czech crowns. The company’s general director, Martin Dvořák, said that he saw this as a great loss rather than a gain, since the mission of the company was to ensure public transportation. Some 3280 employees in Prague participated in the nationwide transport strike, and for the first time in its history, the Prague metro did not run.
Students from Prague’s private secondary school PORG, which is directed by the president’s son,Václav Klaus jnr., achieved the best high-school exit exam scores nationwide. On Thursday, the Education Ministry published its list of the ten schools whose students did best in the state-wide exam, with Prague secondary schools occupying many of the upper ranks. Václav Klaus jnr. said on Thursday that 80 percent of PORG’s students had opted for the more difficult version of the exam, rather than choosing the easier version. About a fifth of all secondary school students nationwide failed their high school exit exams; in some schools, the failing rate even reached 70 percent.
The civic association IQ Roma Servis has awarded 11 employers with the label “Ethnic Friendly”. Among the companies who were given the label are Frutana Gold, Stavzem and the Museum of Roma Culture. To date, some forty companies and institutions have been labeled ethnically friendly by the civic association. The initiative was inspired by clients of IQ Roma Servis, who frequently experienced discrimination when searching for a job. The initiative aims to highlight employers who do employ citizens of Romani origin and promote equal opportunities for ethnic employees on the country’s labor market. The association has been handing out the label since 2007.
A Prague court on Thursday sent two young males to prison for setting a cottage on fire and killing a homeless man. The incident happened last September, when the four youngsters, aged 14 through 25, attacked three homeless men, who at the time were squatting a hut in a Prague forest. While two of the men were able to escape, the third was killed in the attack. He got trapped in the cellar of the cottage, which the young males set on fire. The court dealt two of the defendants sentences of 11 and 3.5 years, respectively, while the third was handed a probation sentence of one year. The fourth perpetrator was not given a prison sentence due to the fact that he was only fourteen years old when he committed the crime. He is currently in a home for juvenile delinquents.
Heavy thunderstorms, which hit the Czech Republic on Wednesday, have lead to damages across the country. In central and northern Moravia, falling trees damaged roads and railways. Railway traffic was interrupted in two locations. In the Tábor region in southern Bohemia, lightning lead to a fire in a biogas plant, with damages estimated to reach up to five million Czech crowns. Firefighters across Moravia received dozens of calls for help with flooded cellars and other consequences of the heavy storm.