President Vaclav Klaus has met his Slovak counterpart Ivan Gasparovic who is on a one day visit to the Czech Republic. The Slovak head of state, who took office last month, is thus fulfilling an unwritten agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in that their presidents always schedule their first visit abroad to the former "sister state". After their meeting the two presidents said that relations between the two countries were exceptional and were to remain so. The Czechoslovak federation broke up in 1993 in what the papers described as "a velvet divorce" and the two countries have maintained above-standard relations ever since. They supported each other in their ambition to join the EU and NATO and they cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group of four Central European states.
The heads of the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union are due to meet on Tuesday. It will be their first meeting since President Vaclav Klaus asked the acting leader of the Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, to begin talks on forming a new government earlier this month following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. The vice-chairman of the Social Democrats, Zdenek Skromach, has said Tuesday's meeting will be the first of a series this week. The most likely scenario appears to be that the new cabinet will arise from the current coalition which has a slim majority of 101 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament. Mr Skromach said that the vote of confidence in the new government could take place in mid-August.
One miner was killed at the Doubrava Mine in the district of Karvina on Monday after a part of the coal mine caved in. Five other miners managed to escape when the site collapsed around 6:00 am on Monday. The miners who escaped suffered only minor injuries. A spokeswomen for the mining company said the collapse was unusually strong, and was even felt by people on the surface. All of the miners who were working at the site of the collapse were Czech citizens. Seven workers were killed at the mine in March this year after they were buried under rubble set loose by a strong tremor.
Consumer prices in the Czech Republic in June showed the highest year-on-year growth in more than two years, rising by 2.9 percent compared with June 2003, according to official figures released on Monday. The price of goods and services was up in most sectors, largely influenced by a rise in value added taxes earlier this year from five to 19 percent. Cigarette and alcohol prices rose particularly in June. For the first few months after January's VAT hike retailers had been selling old stock at the same price as before but a 7.5 percent rise on new stock kicked in last month. The overall rise in prices, the highest since April 2002, was slightly below analysts' forecasts of three percent. Compared to May, consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent in June, also slightly below predictions of 0.3 percent.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic remained flat at 9.9 percent of the workforce in June, the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Monday. Most analysts had predicted a slight rise compared to May to 10 percent. Economists attribute the flat rate to a fall in the number of school leavers this year and the availability of seasonal work.
Tuesday should be partly cloudy with occasional rain. Daytime temperatures should range from 18 to 21 degrees Celsius.
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