In an address to the European Parliament marking 20 years since the fall of communism, the former Czech president Václav Havel called on Wednesday for solidarity with people who face oppression by totalitarian regimes around the world, disregarding possible economic consequences. The former dissident also strongly rejected the notion, recently voiced by Czech President Václav Klaus, that the Czech Republic would lose its sovereignty with the deepening of European integration.
Mr Havel also noted that the European Union should have a concise and brief constitution to replace the thousands of pages of complicated documents.
The European Commission on Wednesday urged the Czech Republic to avoid excessive budget expenditures in the coming years. The commission also set down the year 2013 as a benchmark for the Czech Republic to lower its budget deficit to three percent of the gross domestic product. The European Commission warned that if Prague fails to do so, it might face sanctions.
The Czech Finance Minister, Eduard Janota, said that the recommendation was an unambiguous message to Czech politicians to take fiscal issues seriously. This year, the state budget deficit is expected to reach some 163 billion crowns, which is about 5.3 percent of the country’s GDP.
In related news, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Joaquín Alumnia, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that Czech economy had better foundations than the economies of other countries in the region. Commissioner Alumnia also said that the country’s growth potential was higher than the EU average.
Leaders of the Prague transport authority’s trade unions walked out of talks with city officials on Wednesday, increasing the chances of a strike in the coming days. Union leaders said Prague City Hall had failed to answer their demands. However, they called for another meeting with the authorities on Thursday before a decision on the strike is made. The news website lidovky.cz reported that the strike is likely to begin on Wednesday, November 18.
The Prague transport authority’s trade unions demanded, among other things, that the city covers the company’s operational loss of 1.9 billion crowns, or more than 112 million US dollars. However, city officials only agreed on Tuesday to provide the company with 900 million crowns.
The Czech candidate for the new European commission, Štefan Füle, on Wednesday outlined his preferences as to which portfolio he would like to get. Mr Füle told the Chamber of Deputies’ European Affairs Committee that the portfolios that could be considered included energy, enlargement, regional policy, transport, environment and science and research. The Czech candidate said that he would personally prefer the energy or enlargement portfolios.
Mr Füle also rejected criticism by some MPs that his membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and studies at the KGB-controlled Moscow Institute of International Relations in the 1980s disqualified him for a high-profile job in the European Commission.
The governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, has expressed scepticism concerning the Czech economy’s ability to generate a 5-percent growth in the coming years. Speaking at a banking conference in Prague on Wednesday, Mr Tůma said he expected the economy to grow moderately despite persisting problems, such as the rising unemployment rate. He noted that one of the major problems the government should focus on is budget policy.
The Teaching Hospital Královské Vinohrady in Prague introduced extraordinary measures on Wednesday after a doctor and two nurses at the hospital’s haematological ward got infected with the H1N1 virus from a patient. Two other patients got infected as well. Due to the infection, the hospital follows an anti-epidemic regime and the haematological ward only accepts patients in severe condition.
A monument honouring Czechoslovak paratroopers from WWII was unveiled in the Scottish town of Arisaig on Wednesday. Around 300 Czech and Slovak members of the Czechoslovak army in exiled were trained in the area during the war to be dropped in occupied Czechoslovakia. Those included Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who assassinated the acting Reichsprotektor, and one of the highest- ranking Nazis, Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942.
The granite statue, depicting a parachute after descent, was paid for by funds collected by the Czech honorary consul in Scotland, Paul Millar.
The director of the Bory prison in Plzeň, western Bohemia, Petr Folk suspended on Wednesday several guards who did not prevent a prisoner from escaping during a visit to the doctor. Mr Folk refused to specify how many guards were suspended, but said the measure should enable an objective investigation into the incident.
A 32-year-old man escaped during a visit to a hospital in Plzeň on Tuesday after his wife and accomplice opened fire at the guards. They later got in a car and drove off. The police suspect that both the convict and his wife have already left the country.
The Union of Friends of Beer named the Herold brewery in Březnice, central Bohemia, the brewery of the year. Draught beer Podskalák, made by the Rohozec brewery, won the best 10-degree beer category, while the best 12 degree beer is Svijanský rytíř by the brewery in Svijany, in northern Bohemia.
A drunk 47-year-old man was arrested in a pub in Brno on Wednesday after pulling a machine gun when demanding a beer. When he walked in, the staff refused to serve him because he was drunk. He then a pulled out a functional machine gun. The waiters and other guests left the pub and called the police who discovered the man also had ammunition on him.
Thursday should see cloudy skies, with rain or rain showers in places. Highest day temperatures will range between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.