Human rights groups Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre have asked the Czech authorities to protect the country’s Romany community from violence and intimidation. The call comes ahead of a series of anti-Romany rallies planned in 13 Czech towns by far right extremists in the coming weeks. The groups say the government must ensure that these protests do not lead to violence against Roma communities, and that those at risk get the protection they need. The Czech Republic has seen rising ethnic tensions between the majority population and the 300,000 or so strong Romany community. The Czech secret services recently warned mainstream anti-Romany sentiments could become a bigger threat than far right extremism.
The International Monetary Fund on Friday cut its forecast for the performance of the Czech economy in 2013 to an 0.4 percent contraction, from a previous estimate of 0.3 percent growth. The IMF said despite its healthy fundaments, the Czech economy was in the middle of a long recession caused by the Eurozone crisis and weakened domestic demand. The worsened outlook corresponds to the latest estimate by the Czech central bank which predicts a 1.5 percent contraction this year. For 2014, the IMF forecasts a growth of 1.5 percent.
The caretaker Czech government on Friday approved its policy programme. Its main priorities include drawing on EU funds as well as efforts to revive the depressed economy and reduce unemployment. The cabinet also plans to increase the number of police officers and hire more staff for labour offices. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said his cabinet would work to renew people’s trust in public and state institutions. The interim government, appointed earlier this month without consent from political parties, is scheduled to seek the approval of the lower house on Wednesday.
In related news, the centre-right former coalition party TOP 09 will not support the interim government of Jiří Rusnok in next week’s vote of confidence, the group’s vice-chairman Miroslav Kalousek said in a statement on Friday. Mr Kalousek said the way the government was appointed destabilised and threatened the country’s political system. President Zeman appointed the government following the fall of the Nečas cabinet. However, the president did so without consulting parties in the lower house, and despite the former coalition’s assurances they still had a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Other parties, including the Social Democrats and the Communists, said they would announce their decision on whether they will support the government next week.
The Czech minister of culture, Jiří Balvín, on Friday reinstated the director of the National Theatre, Jan Burian, a day after he dismissed him. Mr Balvín was ordered to do so by Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok. The culture minister fired Mr. Burian, who was appointed by a previous minister, on the same day he took over at the National Theatre, a move that met with strong condemnation across the political spectrum; it also led a number of leading actors and its entire management team to quit the institution. Mr Balvín said he did not consider the matter a reason for him to step down.
Czech President Miloš Zeman suffers from a mild form of type two diabetes, a team of doctors told reporters on Friday. The disease has affected nerves in his feet which makes walking difficult for the president, the doctors said. Mr Zeman, who is undergoing treatment, has been recommended to lose weight, and curb smoking and alcohol consumption. Should the president’s condition deteriorate, it could seriously affect his ability to perform his duties, the head of the team, Health Minister Martin Holcát, said. However, the doctors do not expect such a development and believe the president’s health will improve.
The number of bankruptcies in the Czech Republic reached 1289 between January and July this year, which represents a 19-percent increase year-on-year, the debt consultancy Creditreform Czech Republic said on Friday. The number of bankruptcies of self-employed entrepreneurs rose by 40 percent in that period to reach 438. The total number of bankruptcy filings increased by 13 percent; most of them were registered in the construction industry and trade. Creditreform expects an increase in bankruptcies to continue in the second half of the year as well.
Czechs work an average 40.9 hours a week, which is the second longest hours in the EU after Greece, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Friday. The EU average is 37.3 hours a week. Analysts say Czechs work relatively long hours because of a lack of part-time jobs which account for around 5 percent of all work contracts, compared to the EU average of over 19 percent.
The Prague-based KHL club Lev Praha have signed the Finnish forward Niko Kapanen, Finland’s paper Ilta-Sanomat reported. The 35-year-old Kapanen, who spent his last season in Kazan in the KHL, played nearly 400 games in the NHL for Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix. He also won the gold medal with the Finnish national team at the 2011 World Championships. He has become the sixth Finnish player to join Lev Praha ahead of the upcoming season.
Two Czech clubs won their first-leg games in the third qualification round for European soccer’s second-tier competition, the Europa League, on Thursday evening. Slovan Liberec went a goal behind against Zurich in north Bohemia, but managed to turn the game around to win 2:1. Jablonec, meanwhile, beat their guests, Norwegian side Strömsgodset, by the same score-line, with the winning strike coming in time added on. The second legs of those ties take place next Thursday.