The Czech Republic has strongly condemned Friday’s massacre in the Syrian town of Houla that claimed more than 100 lives. The Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it was deeply shocked by the tragic death of more than 100 civilians, including many women and children, and urged all parties in the conflict to honour their commitments under international law and to implement the six-point peace plan drafted by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Unlike other nations, which are stepping up international pressure against Syria, Prague is not planning to expel Syrian diplomats from Prague. The Foreign Ministry said a reciprocal move by Damascus would complicate the Czech plan of keeping its mission open and serving the nationals of those EU member states that have decided to close their embassies due to the worsening security situation in the country.
The Czech Health Forum says the government deserves a near failing grade for its work on health care. The grade was compiled for the non-governmental organisation by 59 experts, who agreed that the government should focus on broadening e-health systems, preventing the health care quality and access from deteriorating and heightening prevention. Czech Health Forum director Michael Vich told journalists on Thursday that out of 32 health care points on the government’s policy statement, it has fulfilled six fully and seven partially. The experts said that the government should make good on at least another eight promises if it wants to fulfil its mission of reform.
Teenagers in the Czech Republic drink more alcohol than in any other European country, according to a study. Based on data from 2011, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs reports that four out of five Czech 16-years drank alcohol over a one month period, compared to the European average of 57%. Moreover, Czech teens were more likely to drink heavily compared with other countries, surpassed only by teenagers in Denmark and Malta. While experience with drugs, including marijuana, has dropped slightly, alcohol intoxication among teens has risen, with one fifth of teens saying they had been intoxicated three or more times in the last month compared to 14% in 1995.
Czechs are more dissatisfied with EU membership than at any time since entry to the union, according to a new poll. The STEM agency survey suggests that only 41% are satisfied with the country’s membership, the lowest rate since accession in 2004. In a hypothetical referendum, 57% of respondents said they would vote against joining the EU. Almost three-quarters said they do not believe the Czech Republic is able to play an active role in the union. Public satisfaction with EU membership has decreased by 9% year-on-year. Last year the share of the satisfied and dissatisfied was almost equal.
Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra says his office will prepare an eight-year strategic plan for equipment purchases. Members of the Defence and Security Industry Association, which brings together companies involved in military research, development, and manufacturing, have complained about losing money in development research that is afterwards not applied. Speaking at a meeting of the association on Thursday, Mr Vondra also said he would establish a national office for military equipment issues next year that would handle purchases of military, police and prison equipment in order to reduce costs..
The Czech Finance Ministry expects the public finance deficit to drop to 3% of GDP this year from 3.1% in 2011, according to the ministry’s fiscal outlook, which was released Thursday. A deficit of less than 3% GDP is one of the conditions for adopting the euro. Last year, the deficit fell to 3.09% from 4.83% in 2010. These figures show that the fiscal outlook is in line with the plan the cabinet outlined in its updated Convergence Programme from April, sent to the European Commission. The deficit is expected to reach 2.9% GDP in 2013 and 1.9% in 2014, according to the ministry's estimates. Public sector finances should be balanced in 2016.
Czech winemakers have collected 30,000 signatures on a petition against the government’s plan to raise taxes on wine. The new tax of 10 crowns per one litre of still wine is a part of a new set of austerity measures that the Finance Ministry believes should bring 1.3 billion crowns into the state budget. Winemakers say it will put more pressure on their industry. Small wine producers should be exempt from the new tax.
Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš has suspended the restructuring of ČD Cargo and ordered an audit of the railway company’s financial activities. Railway workers’ unions have long criticised the company’s economic management and are calling for its directors to be dismissed. The management had said the restructuring was necessary as a result of last year’s economic results and would have entailed layoffs. Sales from cargo transportation fell by 800 million crowns in the first quarter of this year compared to the plan.
A 34-year-old man evaded police in a car chase on Thursday morning that ended when shots were fired. The man failed to stop for a first set of police officers, and nearly ran down two others who attempted to stop him further on. The car was only stopped after a third pair of policemen fired warning shots. The suspect was apprehended and was reportedly highly intoxicated.
Czech tennis players Petra Kvitová and Klára Zakopalová have advanced to the third round of the Roland Garros. Fourth seeded Kvitová defeated Poland’s Urszula Radwaňska, 6:1 6:3. Zakopalová then bested 16th seed Marie Kirilenkova of Russia in three sets, 6:4, 3:6 6:3. In men’s tennis, only Tomáš Berdych remains of the Czech singles players after Lukáš Rosol lost to 13th placed Argentine Juan Mónak 6:7, 0:6 6:7. Berdych will vie for the round of 16 on Friday.