The Czech government outlined on Monday a series of cost-cutting measures to curb what looks set to be the biggest deficit in the country’s history. PM Jan Fischer told reporters that the cabinet will debate these bills at its next session on September 9. Mr Fischer said that if these proposals are not approved by the lower house of the Czech Parliament, the government will draft a 2010 budget with a deficit of 230 billion crowns, or nearly 13 billion US dollars.
While the prime minister said the caretaker government felt responsible for curbing the looming record deficit, leaders of the two strongest parties, Social Democrats and Civic Democrats, said earlier their parties would not support the planned measures in the lower house.
In related news, the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure is set to work with a record budget of 96 billion crowns, or nearly 5.5 billion US dollars next year, Transport Minister Gustáv Slamečka told reporters on Monday. The government approved the increase as many Czech motorways and other types of roads are under construction. The authorities also hope the increased budget will keep the unemployment rate lower.
Russian spies in the Czech Republic use methods that were employed by the Soviet intelligence in Western Europe in the 1980s, according to the annual report of the Czech Intelligence Service BIS released on Monday. The report said that last year Russian espionage activities in the country were on the rise, and specifically focused on US plans to build part of an American anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic. The Czech secret service said that Russian exponents contacted Czech politicians, particularly MPs, their assistants and the staff of Czech political parties. The report also notes that Russian spies, who are covered as diplomatic staff at Russian embassy and consulates, employ methods used by Soviet espionage in Western Europe in the last decade of the Cold War to influence the peace movement of the time.
Earlier this month the Czech Republic expelled two Russian diplomats for alleged spying. Russia then retaliated by expelling two Czech diplomats from the Czech mission in Moscow.
In related news, the annual report of the Czech secret service for 2008 says that individuals and companies from Iran, Syria and North Korea were interested in obtaining chemicals, machinery and technologies that could be used in producing weapons of mass destruction and their carriers. The Czech intelligence confirmed “a steady interest” by Iran in purchasing Czech machinery, and found out that in 2007, a Czech firm collaborated with an Iranian company that had been sanctioned for taking part in Iran’s nuclear programme.
Starting on Tuesday, Prague’s Ruzyně Airport will no longer dispatch flights by the low-cost carrier SkyEurope due to unsettled payments, a spokeswoman for the airport said on Monday. If cash is delivered on Tuesday, the airport is ready to resume servicing the airline, the spokeswoman said.
The Slovak low-cost airline SkyEurope is the second largest airline at Prague Airport, after the national carrier Czech Airlines. SkyEurope has had problems at several airports around Europe, including Paris and Vienna. In June, it was granted protection from creditors by a court in Bratislava.
Former presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has definitively rejected a nomination by the Christian Democrats to become the new Czech EU commissioner, party leader Cyril Svoboda told reporters on Monday. Although Mr Švejnar originally accepted the nomination, he later changed his mind realizing the controversy that is likely to break out over the post, which must be approved by all parties.
The new Czech EU commissioner, who will replace Vladimír Špidla, will most likely be appointed after the elections. According to some diplomats, this will narrow the negotiation options about the commissioner’s portfolio.
The Social Democrats lead the polls ahead of October’s early general election with an estimated gain of 29 percent of the votes, according to a survey by the STEM agency released on Monday. They are followed by the Civic Democrats with 24.1 percent, the Communists with 11.2 percent and the new party TOP 09 that would receive 6.8 percent of the vote. The only other party that would cross the five-percent threshold to get into the Chamber of Deputies are the Christian Democrats with 5.7 percent of the vote. The agency said the survey also included the preferences of undecided voters as well as of those who said they would not vote for any party in the upcoming election.
The Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, is scheduled to meet with members of the Czech scientific community on Monday for a new debate on science and research funding. The Czech Academy of Sciences has recently staged several protests against a planned 50 percent cut in funding over the next three years, while Czech universities said that any drop in state subsidies would dramatically decrease the quality of education. Monday’s round table will also be attended by Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová and the head of the Confederation of Czech Industry. Jaroslav Míl.
The head of the Finance Ministry’s international legal department, Radek Šnábl, resigned on Monday over the fact that in April, he received a two year suspended sentence for tax fraud. Radek Šnábl said he had tendered his resignation to the then finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, shortly after the verdict was announced but Mr Kalousek did not accept it. Mr Šnajbl represented the state in several international arbitration disputes. He has signed a non-competition clause that he would not work against the Finance Ministry.
The Social Democrats, whose campaign trail stop in Český Krumlov, southern Bohemia, on Sunday was disrupted by a group of people with sirens and fireworks, said on Monday the incident was a breach of the law. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said that people with “ideological links” to the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 were behind the disturbance while the party’s South Bohemian ballot leader, Vítězslav Jandák, compared them to the Nazi SA troops. While both rival parties have denied responsibility, the police are investigating the incident as a misdemeanour.
At least 68 people have died on Czech roads in August, which is the lowest number for the month in five years, according to preliminary police figures. More than 6,000 road accidents were registered in August, which was about 50 percent less than in the previous year. Police say the drop is due to a lower damage cap for reporting road accidents introduced this year.
The start of the week should see clear skies, but rain showers and occasional storms are expected towards the middle of the week. Highest day temperatures should range between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius.