The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, rejected on Thursday an appeal by the Civic Democrats to step down over next year’s state budged. The right-of-centre party said the budget’s deficit of 163 billion crowns, or 9.2 billion US dollars, was “terrifying”, and the caretaker government should consider stepping down. Mr Fischer said the call was “a very strong statement” and that he would take time to analyze the situation. The prime minister noted he was not very happy about the outcome of the vote in which his cabinet did not take part, Mr Fischer added.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament approved the state budget for 2010 on Wednesday, with Social Democrat and Communist MPs pushing through additional expenditures. The final version of the budget has also been criticized by President Václav Klaus.
Under pressure from labour unions, the management of the Hyundai car manufacturing plant in Nošovice, northern Moravia, cancelled on Thursday all overtime shifts until the end of the year. A spokesman for the plant said the decision still had to be discussed with the unions, while a union leader appreciated the move as a big advance in negotiations.
The plant’s labour unions went on strike alert on Monday over having to work overtime shifts and poor working conditions in the factory. Until last week, the plant’s employees had to work two extra hours when their daily eight-hour shift was over. Some 400 workers went on an hour-long unofficial strike last Wednesday.
Canada will make it possible for Czech citizens to apply for visas at the country’s embassy in Prague, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney said in a statement released on Thursday. As of December 21, Czechs will no longer have to travel to Vienna to apply for Canadian visas. Czech officials have welcomed the move as the first step to lifting the visa requirement for Czech nationals altogether.
Ottawa re-introduced visas for Czechs in July this year in reaction to an increasing number of Czech asylum seekers arriving in Canada. The Czech Foreign Ministry then asked the EU for retaliation; Brussels said that the EU would introduce visas for Europe-bound Canadian diplomats if Ottawa does not lift the visa requirement for Czechs by the end of the year.
The Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court on Thursday abolished parts of the Czech immigration act, extending the time limit for appeals by unsuccessful asylum seekers from seven to fifteen days. The Constitutional Court upheld a prior ruling by the country’s Supreme Administrative Court. The court dealt with the case of a Ukrainian citizen who claimed he was unable to appeal against the Interior Ministry’s decision not to grant him international protection.
More than 1600 foreigners asked for asylum in the Czech Republic in 2008, most frequently coming from Ukraine; Czech authorities granted 157 asylums last year.
Czech Deputy European Affairs Minister Marek Mora told the lower house’s EU committee on Thursday that a Spanish proposal to increase the number of MEPs will be a sensitive issue for the Czech Republic at the upcoming EU summit in Brussels. Mr Mora told MPs that bringing up questions of EU primary law just days after the Lisbon treaty entered into force was “very politically sensitive”, but he did not hint what the Czech position would be.
European Affairs Minister Juraj Chmiel told the committee that the Czech Republic would support an agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions that was just and binding for all.
The police are investigating the head of the Czech Supreme Audit Office, František Dohnal, on suspicion of breach of trust, a Prague state attorney’s office spokesperson said on Thursday. The police started acting on complaints from the Chamber of Deputies’ budget control committee whose members criticized Mr Dohnal for poor management. Mr Dohnal has not yet commented on the issue. If found guilty, he would face up to five years in prison.
A court in Johannesburg, South Africa, acquitted on Thursday Czech lawyer Julius Kramarič of blackmail charges, the Czech news agency reported. Mr Kramarič, who represents the fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř, was detained by the South African police in May this year over alleged attempts to influence witnesses in the Krejcir case, but was later released.
Radovan Krejčíř, who is wanted in the Czech Republic on kidnapping and murder charges, currently resides in South Africa. The country has refused to extradite him to the Czech Republic.
The Czech Senate rejected on Thursday an act that would allow holding regional referendums. The bill, prepared by the Social Democrats, will now return to the lower house which can overturn the Senate’s veto. The proposal envisages holding referendums in the country’s 14 administrative regions. Critics say, however, it introduces no sanctions for regional parliaments should they fail to call a referendum or abide by its results.
Czech farmers blocked two milk processing plants in eastern Bohemia and central Moravia on Thursday in protest against low milk prices they are being paid. The protest lasted for about two hours. Farmers demand that milk prices are levelled up to those in neighbouring countries, that is to 30 eurocents per litre. The head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba said that the situation was unsustainable in the long run.
The global economic downturn has hit jewellery producers in the Czech Republic. The Czech Assay Office said on Thursday that in 2009, it hallmarked 25 percent fewer golden and silver items to be sold on the Czech market than last year. However, 2008 was one of the most successful years as to the amount of items hallmarked, the Assay Office added.
The Czech FA’s disciplinary committed fined on Thursday the Prague-based club Bohemians 1905 for failing to prevent fan violence during a November game against city rival Sparta. Bohemians, who hosted the match, will have to pay 200,000 crowns, or more than 11,000 US dollars and play their next home game behind closed doors. In a first ruling of its kind, visitors Sparta Prague, also landed a fine of 100,000 crowns for the conduct of their supports during the game.
The end of the week will be mostly cloudy, with rain and snow in places. Highest day temperatures should range between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.