The opposition TOP 09 party has produced a plan under which children from the Roma minority would be partly taught in the Romany language at elementary schools. Czech Radio reported that other parties broadly backed the idea, though some have expressed reservations over the creation of separate Romany classes. TOP 09 say the removal of the language barrier that some Roma children encounter when they start school would later result in lower numbers ending up at schools for those with learning difficulties. The party want to discuss the idea with stakeholders, while it will be debated by the lower house’s Education Committee next month.
Three-quarters of Czechs believe that most or almost all public officials are corrupt, suggests an opinion poll conducted by the CVVM agency. Only 2 percent of over 1,000 people surveyed last month said that corruption in the public administration was an exceptional occurrence. Political parties and government ministries were rated the most corrupt institutions in the survey. The findings were little changed from those recorded in similar polls in recent years.
In tennis, the Czech Republic’s weakened Davis Cup team has been given a boost with news that Japan’s number one player, Kei Nishikori, has been forced to withdraw from the upcoming quarterfinal tie due to a groin injury. He is expected to be replaced by Taro Daniel, ranked 190 in the world singles rankings. The Czech team for the tie in Tokyo starting Friday is without Tomáš Berdych and is composed of Lukáš Rosol, Radek Štěpánek, and Jiří Veselý.
French spirits producer Pernod Ricard is looking to offload Karlovy Vary based producer Jan Becher – Karlovarská Becherovka according to a report by the Reuters news agency citing well informed, but unnamed, sources. The French spirits producer, the second biggest in the world, has owned the Czech company since 2001. It has refused to comment. Jan Becher’s profits in the 2012-2013 were hit by the ongoing hangover from the 2012 methanol spirits scandal in the Czech Republic with a pre-tax profit of around 170 million. The sale price of the Czech spirits group is put at just under 4 billion crowns.
The Czech football association has not given up on the idea of co-hosting the 2020 European Championships in spite of a rebuff from the government last week. The government refused to back plans for a 33,000 capacity stadium to be built at Prague’s Strahov site. The association is now looking at the fall back option of increasing the capacity of Slavia Prague’s modern Eden venue. Slavia’s ground has seated capacity for just under 21,000. The problem is that European football’s governing body UEFA has set a 30,000 minimum capacity for grounds that would host European Championship games. The Czech FA has to submit its final application by April 25.
Czech pupils have come out well in a worldwide test of practical problem solving abilities. Czechs shared joint 16 and 17 places with Germany in the ranking of 44 countries from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development which were involved in the tests. The first seven places in the rankings went to 15 and 16 year old pupils from Asian countries with the best placed Europeans, the Finns and British, in 10th and 11th positions. Czech Minister of Education Marcel Chládek said the test results were proof that schools were giving pupils a practical foundation for later life.
The death toll on Czech roads rose to 115 during the first three months of the year according to preliminary figures from police, that is three more than during the same period in 2013. Although there was a drop in accidents in January and February with the total number of fatalities the lowest for 43 years, the number of fatal accidents shot up in March. They numbered 50, seven more than the total in March 2013. Police said most of the accidents had their specific reasons but speeding was a common factor in many of them.
Minister of Finance Andrej Babis has extended the list of state companies whose bank account surpluses could be used to help the state budget. Babis told journalists that Czech Post, oil pipeline company MERO, fuel distribution company ČEPRO, and the State Institute for Drug Control could all contribute to the state coffers. He has already said that almost 70 percent state controlled power company ČEZ could pay out its total profits for 2013 in dividends and that he is counting on around 4 billion crowns from the state forestry company. Former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek on Tuesday attacked Babiš for raiding the accounts of state firms saying that funds should be left with them to develop the firms.
The Czech public finance deficit fell in 2013 to 1.44 percent of Gross Domestic Product from 4.2 percent in 2012, the Czech Statistics Office announced on Tuesday. That performance would put the country in line to join the euro zone on the public deficit criterion for the first time since 2008. The government is counting on a public deficit below 3.0 percent this year as well. In separate figures, the office revised downwards its previous growth figure for the last quarter of 2013 to 1.2 percent year on year and 1.8 percent quarter on quarter. The Czech economy shrunk by 0.9 percent over the whole year.
Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek has proposed that 1.1 billion crowns be earmarked to prolong the life of the Paskov coal mine for another two years until the end of 2016. Mining company OKD had threatened to close the mine at the end of the year with the loss of around 2,000 miners’ jobs. Mládek said that the proposal had been discussed with finance, social affairs, and environment ministers and would be put to the government some time in April for approval. He said that he had personally favoured the option where the government bought ownership of the mine for a symbolic one crown. The mine is an unemployment black spot with fears that the knock on effects of closure would have been even greater.