Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said the Czech Republic will likely be investigated in the coming year by the European Commission on account of its high budget deficit. Speaking at an economic forum in Prague on Wednesday, Mr Fischer stated that while the investigation is a standard procedure, any further deepening of the deficit could jeopardise the transfer of money from EU funds, and the recommendations arising from such investigations can bring what he called “painful” measures. EU finance ministers agreed at the beginning of December that the Czech Republic would have to decrease its budget deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2013 if it is to adopt the Euro in the foreseeable future. Alterations made by left-wing parties to the recently-passed 2010 budget have pushed the deficit for that year past what the current finance ministry considers acceptable.
The Czech National Bank has reduced the country’s base interest rate to the historic low of one percent. Four members of the central bank’s seven-man executive board voted on Wednesday to cut the rate by a quarter point. Vice Governor Miroslav Singer said that the reason for the cut was the persistent decline in market interest rates this year and the bank’s prognosis of gradual growth in 2010. The board last lowered the interest rate at the beginning of August to the then-historic low of 1.25%, at which time all seven members agreed on the cut.
Police have apprehended an armed robber who held two people hostage during a bank robbery in a residential district of Prague. The crisis began Wednesday morning when it was reported that a man had taken the bank manager hostage in her office at a branch of Komerční banka in Prague’s Novodvorská suburb and demanded three million crowns, or roughly 160,000 dollars. The manager was later released by the robber, without any further demands and apparently unharmed. Roughly two hours later, police gained control of the situation and freed the remaining hostage, reportedly after causing a diversionary explosion inside the bank. According to Czech Television, the perpetrator visited the branch office on Tuesday to apply for a business loan, but lacked the proper documentation, and returned on Wednesday on the pretext of signing a contract with the bank manager. No one was injured in the course of the ordeal.
Every tenth child in the Czech Republic is obese, and 15% are overweight, according to a new study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on the health of citizens in 23 states. The study ranks the Czech Republic ninth in terms of percentage of overweight children. In the views of doctors interviewed by the daily Mladá fronta Dnes, the situation is due not to heavy consumption of fast food, as is frequently speculated, but rather to the lack of time that children spend outdoors. The United States took first place on the list. Slovakia, on the other hand, figured third from last.
Specialists at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine are preparing the first transplantation of a small intestine in a former Eastern Bloc state. The operation is considered one of the most complicated in terms of both technique and handling the subsequent reaction of the immune system. A successful result will bring the number of organs that can be transplanted at the institute to six. Transplants of the kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas and lungs have already been successfully conducted. The intestinal transplant study has been nominated for a certificate of merit from the Ministry of Health.
Czech traffic police have announced they are going to begin giving breathalyser tests during all inspections as of January 1, making the Czech Republic the only country in the European Union to do so. At present, police carry out alcohol tests at random, and are obliged to do so only in the case of traffic accidents. Police hope the measure will curb a consistent rise in deaths caused by alcohol-related accidents, of which there were 83 between January and November of this year.
The Supreme Court has rejected the appeals of four people involved in the so-called “Kuřim case” in which two young boys were severely abused. In late 2008, six individuals, including the boys’ mother and aunt, were found guilty of imprisoning, burning, suffocating and cutting the children as part of the dogma of a small religious sect. The aunt and three others were appealing the length of their sentences, which range from five to ten years, however the court found that their appeals were unsubstantiated.
Young men in the Czech Republic are drinking less beer than in the past, according to the polling agency CVVM. According to a survey conducted by the agency regularly since 2004, 92% of men aged 18 to 30 drank beer in the first year, while 84% say they do today. Nine out of ten Czech men in general and slightly more than half of women say they drink beer occasionally. The amount of beer consumption in the country has declined in recent years; nonetheless, Czechs remain the top beer drinkers in the world, with 154 litres consumed per person per year.
Police in the South Moravia are searching for three men who attacked three Vietnamese shop keepers in the town of Kyjov, leaving one of them in critical condition. The masked assailants did not steal anything from the shop, but beat one of the victims unconscious and stabbed another in the stomach before leaving. Police spokeswoman Soňa Svobodová said that the senselessness of the attack was evidence of the fact that while crime in general is dropping, their aggressiveness of the perpetrators is on the rise.
Conditions are expected to be overcast across the Czech Republic over the coming days, with snow over much of the country and highs of around -6° Celsius.