Three people intoxicated with methanol remain in critical condition in hospitals in the north-east of the country. A 43-year-old man, who was earlier this week hospitalized in Havířov, showed signs of improvement on Friday, doctors said. Another two people – a 60-year-old and a 58-year-old men – are in an Ostrava hospital; their condition has been reported as stable. 26 people have died in the recent outbreak of methanol poisoning in the country while dozens have been hospitalized.
Czechs commemorate Saint Wenceslas, the nation’s patron saint, on
Friday, a public holiday entitled the Day of Czech Statehood. More than
2,000 people attend the traditional pilgrimage in Stará Boleslav,
north-east of Prague, where Wenceslas was assassinated by his brother on
September 28, 935. Czech President Václav Klaus, Prague Archbishop
Duka and other dignitaries are to take part in the event. Prague’s
Wenceslas Square, named after the saint, will on Friday see a historic
procession complete with Saint Wenceslas riding a horse.
Wenceslas, from the Přemyslid dynasty, was the duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination 14 years later. He is considered a the founder of the historic Bohemian state, and has been worshiped as a martyr and a saint.
Speaking at the St Wenceslas pilgrimage in Stará Boleslav on Friday, President Václav Klaus called for “more vocal defence” of national traditions. That would benefit the “inner unity” of the Czech nation and state and its prosperity, he said. The Czech president again warned against the decline of traditional European values brought about by the “integration experiment”. For his part, Plzeň’s Bishop František Radkovský asked people not to allow a new form of dictatorship to appear as a result of the ongoing moral crisis and issues with democracy.
Václav is one of traditional Czech names but it is going out of fashion, the news agency ČTK reported on Friday. According to government statistics, there are nearly 133,000 men and boys named Václav living in the country, some 20,000 fewer than two decades ago. Its currently the 17th most popular name in the country. Around 6,600 Czech women bear the female version of the name, Václava.
The Czech Republic should foster its relations with China, according to
Czech President Václav Klaus. Speaking at a reception at the Chinese
embassy in Prague, Mr Klaus said Czechs should boost ties between the two
countries rather than strain them with “unnecessary obstacles”. For
part, Chinese ambassador Yu Qingtai said his country was set to continue
with its reforms and opening up to the world.
Mr Klaus’ remarks came a few weeks after Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas suggested Czech support for the Dalai Lama and the imprisoned members of the Russian group Pussy Riot hurt Czech trade with China and Russia, respectively.
The Czech Football Association handed a fine of 40,000 crowns, or around 2,000 US dollars to Viktoria Plzeň midfielder David Limberský for faking a foul, and for his post-match remarks. In the Czech top division’s seventh-round game between Plzeň and Sparta Prague, Limberský dived inside the penalty area; the referee awarded Plzeň a penalty kick thanks to which the home side won 1:0. After the game, Limberský said Sparta won its 20 league titles with help from referees. Viktoria Plzeň later apologized to Sparta for the comment. The referee was banned for five top division games.
The government opted on late Wednesday to partially lift a ban on spirits in the Czech Republic following a breakout of methanol poisoning this month that killed 26 people. Under the decision, effective Thursday following a statement by the health minister, hard liquor produced in the country before January 1, 2012 will be allowed back on the shelves. Any newly-produced hard alcohol will need new tax stamps; alcohol put into storage following the breakout of poisonings earlier this month will by contrast need certification or have to be destroyed. Proprietors have up to 60 days to provide the necessary documentation. The mass poisoning which broke out in mid-September is the worst such case in the Czech Republic in recent memory; around 30 people remain in hospital after having consumed tainted alcohol.
The Czech government approved a draft 2013 state budget on Wednesday evening that will allow for a 3% GDP deficit. The draft anticipates a 100-billion crown deficit which will require the passage of a package of tax changes, including higher VAT rates. These have proven controversial as six MPs from the senior governing Civic Democratic Party have joined the opposition on the issue. A working group has been formed in the party to resolve the dispute. Trade unions have also rejected the package, arguing that the financial risks of the proposed budget amount to 45 to 60 billion crowns and relies on legislation that has not yet been passed. The Chamber of Deputies must pass the budget bill for next year by December.
Shadow finance minister Jan Mládek of the Social Democratic Party claims the government and Finance Ministry are in gross violation of the law in accepting a budget proposal based on un-ratified legislation. Mr Mládek told a press conference on Thursday that the proposal was only pulling the wool over the public’s eyes, as the final draft would have to be entirely changed in order to each agreement with the rebel MPs from the Civic Democrats. A rejection of the planned VAT increase by those MPs could force a stopgap budget in 2013, which Mládek says would cost the country some 20 billion crowns and entail more expensive food and medicines for citizens.
The Czech National Bank has cut interest rates to a new record low. The bank’s benchmark rate fell by a quarter point to its lowest ever rate of 0.25%. The Lombard rate, used when lending money to commercial banks against securities as collateral, was cut by half to 0.75%. The discount rate, which applies to fines for unpaid loans and unpaid taxes, fell by 0.15 points to 0.1%. Economists expected the move due to the weak economy and the relatively strong crown. The Czech Republic has one of the lowest interest rates in the region. The European Central Bank´s benchmark rate for all euro-zone countries stands at 0.75%.
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