According to older methodology, unemployment figures reached their highest in January in the history of the independent Czech Republic. Older tabulation methods reveal more than 10 percent of people remained out of work in the first month of 2013. That translates as more than 580,000 people without jobs. Historically, former Czechoslovakia had a higher jobless rate during the 1930s, when some 740,000 people were out of work. Under the new methodology, the rate of unemployment in the Czech Republic rose to eight percent, up by 0.6 percentage points from the previous month. According to analysts, the worsening situation on the job market was expected due to the economic recession and decrease in hiring. At the end of last month there were approximately 33,800 open positions around the country.
On the first day of the Biathlon World Championship the hosting Czechs took the bronze in the mixed relay competition. Veronika Vítková, Gabriela Soukalová, Jaroslav Soukup and Ondřej Moravec made it into the top three on Thursday evening, behind Norway and France. Soukup had to replace Michal Šlesingr in the line-up at the last minute, since Šlesingr is down with the flu. It is still uncertain if he will take part in the 10 km sprint on Saturday in the Moravian town of Nové Město.
President-elect Miloš Zeman is concluding a series of meetings he had this week with leaders of the parties in government and the opposition. On Friday evening he will meet with the chairman of the right-of-centre TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, his rival in last month’s presidential election. Earlier Mr Zeman met with the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, the prime minister and chairman of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, and the heads of the Communist Party, the Social Democrats and Public Affairs. The president-elect has so far refused to meet with members of LIDEM, a splinter group that broke away from Public Affairs, on the grounds it lacked legitimacy.
Stormy debate in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday preceded a vote in favour of naming January 16 a memorial day to Jan Palach, the student who immolated himself on the day in 1969 in protest of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Palach died from his burns three days later, on January 19. On Friday, several members of the Communist Party voiced reservations about Mr Palach’s sacrifice as a symbolic act against totalitarian rule; members of the ruling coalition walked out in protest. Jana Černochová, a deputy for the Civic Democratic Party, called the commemorative day “a sign of respect for [Palach’s] heroic act against the totalitarian regime”. The vote passed with only one MP, Communist hardliner Marta Semelová, voting against, although 11 MPs, including five Communists, abstained. A total of 152 deputies were present. The legislation is now to be debated by the Chamber of Deputies cultural committee.
Police in Zlín have charged eight people suspected of tax evasion amounting to at least 186 million crowns. Six of the eight, who were involved in the sale of perfume and beet root oil, were remanded in custody. The investigation took several months; on Thursday, officers searched 20 homes. If found guilty, the suspects could face between to five to ten years in prison.
The country’s Chief Hygiene Officer, Vladimír Valenta, has said that the flu epidemic that has hit the country in recent weeks is showing signs of abating. This week saw the first drop in the number of overall cases; the number of those suffering acute respiratory illness dropped by 3.4 percent and flu by 4.3 percent, he confirmed. The chief hygiene officer said on that the number of those ill in the epidemic dropped in all regions of the Czech Republic this week, among all age groups. At the same time serious cases remain: 68 out of 350 people died from complications related to the flu or respiratory illness.
Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Civic Democrat Miroslava Němcová, has criticized her own party for giving former “rebel” MPs Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa as well as former defense minister Alexander Vondra lucrative positions in state-owned companies. In an interview on Thursday with the radio station Impuls, Ms Němcová said that these were compromises that crossed the line. Mr Šnajdr and Mr Fuksa were among the Civic Democrat MPs who attempted to block government proposed tax hikes late last year. They eventually quit their lower house seats to allow the package to pass.
The Ministry of Culture has announced that it will allocated at least the same amount of money to theaters this year as it did last year. Although originally the ministry had planned to give 37 million crowns to support the country’s theaters, after protests last year, the total budget was raised to approximately 55 million. This is still only about a third of the amount that was supposed to be distributed to theaters, according to the Conception of Effective Support of Culture for 2007-2013.
After a meeting with president-elect Miloš Zeman, the head of the Public Affairs deputies’ group in Parliament Katerina Klasnová said that the future president commended her party for filing a constitutional complaint over the church property restitution law. The two also agreed on the need to increase the powers of the Supreme Audit Office. Later on Thursday afternoon Mr Zeman was also due to hold talks with the Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip. A meeting with TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg, Mr. Zeman’s unsuccessful rival in the presidential election, has been scheduled for Friday. The newly-elected head of state is still refusing to meet with the leader of the newly-emerged political grouping LIDEM, a break-away faction from the Public Affairs Party, on the grounds that it lacks legitimacy.
The Czech national football team beat Turkey 2:0 in a friendly match in Turkish city of Manisa on Wednesday night. The Czechs dominated the first half of the game; they went ahead in the 3rd minute and added another goal some 25 minutes laters. The hosts improved in the second half but the Czechs managed to stay clear. The Czech national team is next playing Denmark in a world cup qualifier in Olomouc next month.
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