Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has criticized the appearance of racist ads in campaigning to the European elections, saying that his cabinet would make the fight against extremism one of its top priorities. Public broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio have both refused to broadcast racist advertisement slots from the far-right National and Workers parties. The ads promise “a final solution to the gypsy problem” and contain slogans such as “Stop black racism” and “no favouring of the gypsies”. Both broadcasters say they are filing charges in connection with the ads. As public broadcasters they are obliged by law to broadcast the election slots they receive from all parties running in the European elections.
Prime Minister Fischer said on Wednesday his government would seek a ban on the far-right Workers’ Party. A request from the previous government to have the group declared illegal was rejected by a Czech court.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, is chairing an EU-Russia summit in the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East on Thursday and Friday, as part of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the EU. Security, energy and trade are on the agenda but political observers say progress could be slow after Russia's war with Georgia and the gas crisis with Ukraine which severely dented Russian-EU ties. In light of this, the presence of the Czech president, who is known to have good relations with Moscow, is seen as a "positive" factor. The EU is Russia's biggest trading partner, while the 27-member bloc currently imports more than a quarter of its gas from Russia.
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the rating on the Czech banking sector from stable to negative as it expects the quality of assets and banks' profitability to worsen sharply, the international rating agency said in a report sent to the CTK news agency. After years of strong and stable GDP growth, the pace of the Czech economy slowed to 3.1 percent in 2008 and, according to estimates, should register a 3.5 percent fall in 2009. Moody's analysts said the quality of the banks' assets in general has remained high but there has been a certain worsening and Moody's predicts the level of unpaid loans will grow sharply in the short to medium term.
The Czech military on Thursday started removing the three-kilometer wire fence around the site of a planned U.S. radar base in Brdy, south-west of Prague. Defense Minister Martin Barták, appointed two weeks ago, ordered the fence be removed on the grounds that it is no longer serving any purpose and the future of the planned radar base is uncertain. The fence was put up in June 2008 after Greenpeace activists blocked the site for six weeks in protest against the base. Six Greenpeace activists turned up on Thursday to celebrate its removal.
It emerged this week that the interim government due to lead the country until early general elections will not send the issue of a planned US radar base to the lower house of parliament, leaving the matter in the hands of the next administration. While the Senate approved Czech-US treaties allowing for the placing of a radar base in central Bohemia, ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek withdrew the matter from the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies due to a lack of support. It is not clear whether America plans to go ahead with the construction of an anti-missile shield project developed by the previous administration.
A group of Czech artists staged a demonstration at Prague Castle on Thursday to protest against President Václav Klaus, accusing him of harming Czech interests. The protest was aimed in particular against President Klaus’ alleged pro-Russian orientation, his rejection of the Lisbon treaty and his stand on global warming. The event was attended by several dozen people.
Czech Transport Minister Gustav Slámečka told Parliament’s budget committee on Thursday that, due to cost-cutting measures introduced across the board, road construction in the Czech Republic would have to be severely curbed. This includes halting work on a new stretch of the D1 motorway to Ostrava and the motorway’s planned extension to Vienna. Altogether work will stop on 300 roads and motorways across the country in the coming months and up to 200,000 construction workers could lose their jobs. Conservation work alone is expected to cost five billion crowns.
National carrier Czech Airlines (ČSA) slated for privatisation by the end of September, on Thursday announced a heavy first-quarter loss caused by a record decline in passenger numbers. The company posted pre-tax losses of 1.318 billion crowns (68.2 million dollars) as passenger numbers shrank by an annual 12 percent to 945,000 amid the global crisis. Company president Radomír Lasák said management had revised the company's financial plan for this year as well as for 2010.
ČSA has implemented cost-cutting measures in recent months, shedding its cargo terminal near Prague and its catering unit. It has a fleet of 51 planes and travels to 68 destinations in 40 countries.
Czechs consider elections to the European Parliament less important than general, regional and local elections, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. The poll shows that two-thirds of Czechs consider local elections the most significant, followed by general elections. Czechs elected their MEPs for the first time in June 2004, a month after the country joined the EU. The election turnout was only 28.3 percent. The EP election turnout has been dropping in all member states. The average turnout in the previous elections was 46 percent.
Czech top model Tereza Maxová gave birth to a daughter in Prague on Thursday, the CTK news agency reported. Maxová has appeared on the cover of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. She has modelled for designers such as Chanel, Dior, Prada, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren. In 1997, she set up the Tereza Maxová Foundation to support underprivileged children brought up in children’s homes and foster families. Since its formation, the foundation has distributed more than 130 million crowns in aid of this cause. Maxová divides her time between Prague and Monaco.
The next few days are expected to be clear to partly cloudy with day temperatures between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.