According to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has dropped to 9.1 percent in February from 9.2 percent in the first month of the year. The ministry's news release attributes the drop to the high number of jobless workers on government re-training programmes. The rate of unemployment continues to vary greatly across the country with a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in the Czech capital Prague and an unemployment rate of over 20 percent in the eastern parts of the country.
The Czech Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek will protest in Brussels against proposed changes in EU directives which he fears could lead to poorer EU countries being used as waste dumping grounds by their richer neighbours. Czech environmental inspectors estimate that around 15,000 tonnes of waste has been shipped from Germany and dumped in the Czech Republic over the last few weeks. EU environment ministers are due to have a general discussion about recycling of waste and the proposed waste directive at a meeting on Thursday.
A special anti-corruption police squad will continue to investigate cases relating to senior public officials, judges and state attorneys. An attempt to relegate some of the less serious cases to local police officers encountered opposition from the Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan. Mr. Bublan said that although he was not strictly against the idea, it would first be necessary to clearly specify what kind of cases were considered of minor importance.
The ruling Social Democrats have urged Justice Minister Pavel Nemec to correct a serious lapse in the proposed penal code which would make it difficult to fight large-scale fraud. The proposed bill lacks an article on abuse of information in business relations which was removed at the request of an opposition deputy. The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has asked the justice minister to explain why he had allowed this to happen and urged him to find a way of correcting the lapse as soon as possible. Although a new penal code is badly needed the Social Democrats are uncertain whether to support it in its current form.
The number of Czechs who contribute to charities is on the rise. Four out five Czechs said in a poll they had contributed to some humanitarian organization in the course of the last two years. Seventy percent of people polled said they now contribute to charities regularly, that's up from 45 percent in 2004. The increase in solidarity has been apparent ever since the tsunami disaster in south east Asia when Czechs collected a record sum of money in emergency aid.
The police president Vladislav Husak wants to crack down on corruption inside the police force. He unveiled on Tuesday a package of anti-corruption measures which include built in cameras at police stations and in police cars and equipment which would enable drivers to pay fines with their credit cards. The aim is for there to be as few transactions in cash as possible, Mr. Husak said. An anti-corruption hot line is already in operation and a special commission is to be set up to deal with individual cases.
Figures released by the Czech Statistics Office show that in January the Czech Republic posted a foreign trade surplus of 11.2 billion crowns (467 million dollars). According to the Statistics Office the result was driven by exports of cars and machinery. The CTK news agency says analysts had predicted a marked surplus of exports over imports.
The lower house of Parliament has put off voting on a same-sex registered partnership bill until next Tuesday. The bill which would legalize gay marriages in the Czech Republic had already passed through both houses of Parliament but President Klaus' veto sent it back to the lower house. The bill's advocates would need a majority of 101 votes to override the president's veto, and have postponed the vote in order to make sure that as many deputies as possible are present.
The Constitutional Court has ruled against invalidating an article of the law that allows the government to de-regulate rents gradually. The Court was dealing with the case on the grounds of a complaint from house owners who claim that the ceilings on rents are so low that they do not collect enough money to cover maintenance costs. The Constitutional Court ruled that although the respective article of the law would not be abolished the courts themselves could begin the process of rent-deregulation by judging complaints on a case by case basis. Czech house owners have filed more than 3,000 complaints with the European Court of Human Rights over rent-deregulation.
Czech ski jumper Jakub Janda placed eighth at the World Cup ski jump event in Finland on Tuesday. The only other Czech to make it to the second round was Borek Sedlak who came in 30th. The victory went to Andreas Kuttel from Switzerland who defended his lead in the first round with a 129 metres jump.