Two members of the ruling Social Democratic party who are accused of corruption have been ordered to leave party ranks. Josef Laznicka from the Transport Infrastructure Fund and Ludmila Schwarzova who headed the office of the deputy transport minister Petr Pospichal, were arrested by the police last week for allegedly taking bribes in return for a promise to influence state decision making. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said they had failed morally as well as politically and the executive board of the party asked them both to terminate their party membership as quickly as possible.
The Czech Republic will not react to neighbouring Germany's first
suspected case of the deadly H5N1 virus in domestic fowl. The spokesman
for the State Veterinary Authority, Josef Duben, said on Monday there
was no cause for concern as the authorities in Germany are taking all
necessary precautions to contain the virus. The affected farm lies in
Bavaria and is just 70 km away from the Czech border.
The Czech Republic is the only country in Central Europe with no confirmed cases of bird flu. The virus has been found in wild birds in all neighbouring countries. France is so far the only country in Europe where the deadly H5NI virus was also found in domestic poultry.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral has re-confirmed that
his country will open its doors to workers from the former communist EU
member states in May. During a trip to Prague on Monday, he said Czech
labourers will not be expected to sweep the streets but will rather take
up skilled jobs and enjoy the warm climate and the beach. Last year, some
16,000 Czech tourists visited Portugal; this calls for more Czech workers
in the tourist industry, he said.
In addition to Britain, Ireland, and Sweden, whose labour markets have been open to workers from the EU's ten newest members since enlargement two years ago, Finland, Portugal, and Spain will open theirs in May. Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark have also indicated that they will loosen their restrictions.
The Czech Republic has extended the list of waste products that can only be brought into the country with the permission of the Environment Ministry. The new regulation, to take effect in the next few days, comes in reaction to the growing number of waste from Germany that is stored at illegal rubbish dumps in the Czech border areas. Among others, the list now includes old carpets, second-hand clothing, plastic and paper. An estimated 15,000 tonnes of waste was brought in from Germany since the end of 2005.
Industrial production in January in the Czech Republic has increased by 15.1 percent year on year, the Czech Statistical Office reported on Monday. This can be mainly attributed to the booming car industry and the growing production of electronic and optical machinery. Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban says the growing industry has also helped to fight unemployment; last year 26,000 new jobs were created thanks to an increase in production.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek has promised to increase old age pensions if his party wins the June general elections. Mr. Topolanek, whose party currently leads in opinion polls, said that during the rule of the Social Democrats old age pensions had actually dropped when compared to the average wage, which was something that his party was prepared to correct. The Civic Democratic Party leader said that while in 1997 old age pensions amounted to 46 percent of the average wage, they were now down to 40 percent.
The Association of Pharmacists has announced that its members would refrain from further protest actions until they have discussed their grievances with the Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. They say they no longer want to deal with Health Minister David Rath who lowered their profit margins at the start of this year as part of a package of cost-cutting measures across the health sector. The Association of Pharmacists has protested against the measure for weeks saying that it would lead many of them into bankruptcy.
Prague's Ruzyne airport was closed to all incoming and outgoing traffic for most of the day on Sunday due to heavy snowfall. It re-opened for limited service after 3pm CET. Some 25 centimetres /10 inches/ of snow blanketed the country in the early hours of Sunday causing traffic snarls and train delays. Continuing snowfall throughout the day complicated road maintenance work. The main east-west motorway, the D1, was restricted to one lane in each direction and some parts of the country were completely cut off. More snow has been forecast in the coming days.
The former prime minister and ex-chairman of the ruling Social Democrats Milos Zeman has ruled out the possibility of running in the 2008 presidential elections. Mr. Zeman who has interrupted his quiet life as a pensioner in the Moravian highlands in order to support his party before the June general elections said on Sunday that he had no intention of returning to top-level politics. He is planning to tour two election regions to support the current Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Zdenek Skromach whom he described as the party's most worthy candidates. Mr. Zeman has just published a book of memoirs which many observers believe will hinder rather than help his party in the elections.