A wave of statistics released Thursday represented mixed economic news for Czechs. November’s unemployment rose to 8.2% from October’s 7.7% with the jobless total now hovering just under 600,000. Using previous methods of calculation, the latest figures could represent the high ever jobless figure in recent Czech history at 10.3%. Higher food prices helped push up inflation to 1.4% in December from November’s 1.1%. On the brighter side, industrial production surged ahead with a 6.2% spurt in November. That is almost twice the rise of the previous month.
The acting chairman of the centre-right Civic Democrats, Martin Kuba, will not run for the position of the party leader at their upcoming congress. Kuba, a former party high flier tipped for the top, told the daily Právo he would not stand for any position in the party leadership. Former education minister Petr Fiala and MEP Edvard Kožušník have announced their bids for the post. The party’s last regular chairman, ex-PM Petr Nečas, stepped down last June. The Civic Democrat congress will be held on January 18 and 19 in Olomouc.
Prague’s mayor has been questioned by police over suspicions that the top councillors committed crimes when agreeing financing and technical details of the troubled Blanka tunnel project. Tomáš Hudeček repeated after Thursday’s 90 minute session with police that he believed he and other leading council members are victims of unjustified smears. The police probe centers on agreement by Prague’s governing Civic Democrat and TOP 09 coalition at the end of 2012 on a programme of ongoing work and the payment of Kč 2.5 billion to constructor Metrostrav. The council later rescinded that approval and all construction work on the delayed road tunnel pending arbitration between the company and council.
The Czech economy actually grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of last year compared with the previous three month period. But the national statistics office now says Gross Domestic Product was still down by 1.2% on the situation a year earlier, slightly better than its previous figure of a decline of 1.3%.The latest figures appear to shrug off earlier fears expressed by the Czech National Bank that the economy could slip into recession at the end of 2013.
Prospects for the fast adoption of a civil service bill appear more uncertain after the reappearance of splits within the incoming coalition government. Christian Democrat deputy chairman Marian Jurečka raised tension by saying the new framework should explicitly rule out the possibility of anyone who actively cooperated with the Communist era secret police becoming a minister. That stance could jeopardize the chances of ANOleader Andrej Babiš become finance minister in an incoming cabinet. Babiš is listed in some records as a collaborator with the communist police. Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bĕlobrádek later sought to smooth things over by saying that the new civil service rules should cover officials but not ministers. The planned legislation is also urgently being demanded by the European Commission.
Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová has been eliminated from the Sydney International tournament. She lost to Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 4-6, 3-6 in the semifinals on Thursday. Radek Štěpánek has also been knocked out when he lost to Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 3-6 in the quarterfinal of the tournament which comes a week ahead of the Australian Open. Organizers of the season-opening Grand Slam event announced seedings for the event; Kvitová has been ranked sixth while the best Czech mens’ singles prospect Tomáš Berdych is seventh.
Former Czech president Václav Klaus has intervened in an ongoing debate
about who should appoint university professors. Klaus said his successor
Miloš Zeman made a fundamental mistake when he said he would give up his
nomination powers following a row over its use. The president’s self
denial has created a legal vacuum in which many professors cannot now be
Czech university rectors have rejected one proposal to solve by the problem by transferring the powers to the speaker of the Senate. That idea surfaced at a meeting between President Zeman with the upper house speaker, Milan Štěch. Rectors have protested that step would be in breach of the Czech university act. Another option is to hand the powers to the education minister.
Investigations into possible wrongdoing by three secret servicemen at the centre of the scandal which toppled former Civic Democrat prime minister Petr Nečas have been upheld. The Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office rejected appeals by the three men against the police proceedings against them on Thursday. The three members of the army’s espionage service are suspected of acting illegally when they spied on Petr Nečas’ wife, allegedly on the orders of his then mistress. The defense minister at the time says he did not authorize the surveillance. Nečas resigned last June and has since married the former head of his private office.
President Miloš Zeman has said he will appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister within a few days. Zeman said that Sobotka had fulfilled all the conditions that he had laid down. He added in the interview with the Reuters news agency that it was highly realistic the Cabinet would be created by the end of the month. The head of state repeated that he still has misgivings over the proposed list of ministers in the likely three-way coalition. Zeman is expected to explain his stance in a press conference ahead of a meeting with Sobotka on Friday afternoon. Sobotka has stressed there should be no delay approving the cabinet once he is named prime minister.
Around a thousand people were evacuated in Prague Thursday morning after an anonymous bomb warning to police. Evacuated buildings along one of the main streets of Prague’s Vinohrady district included three schools and a post office. The call did not specify where the bomb was planted. The evacuation was called off after three hours.
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