The Czech Republic is ready to assist Egypt in making the transition to democracy, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Thursday during talks with Maros Sevcovic, vice president of the European Commission. The two officials expressed grave concern over continuing violence in Egypt and appealed for an end to the violence and a peaceful transfer of power as soon as possible. The EC vice president said that once this was on track the EU was ready to offer assistance within its development programme funds. The Czech foreign minister noted that the Czech Republic had recently undergone the complex transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy and was ready to offer its know-how.
The Czech energy market watchdog on Thursday slammed the EU's plan to partly reopen its carbon credit market, closed after hackers stole polluting rights from the system. The Czech Republic, which was badly hit when millions of euros-worth of carbon credits were stolen from registries in five countries in January, sees the move as premature with investigations still under way. Critics say the move will let stolen goods back in circulation. The Czech Republic is particularly concerned about Britain and Germany, where most of the 1.3million permits stolen from its registry were found last week. Authorities in Estonia said on Thursday more had ended up in there.
The Czech National Bank has revised its forecast of GDP growth for 2011 from a previous 1.2 to 1.6 percent. Central bank governor Miroslav Singer said at a press conference on Thursday that the new forecast reckoned with stable market interest rates near their current levels and a gradual appreciation of the crown. In 2012 the central bank expects the economy to grow by 3 percent compared to a previous estimate of 2.5. The Finance Ministry this week also upped its estimate of economic growth for 2011 to 2.2 percent from a previous 2 percent forecast.
The stand-off between thousands of Czech doctors and the government continues after trade unions rejected the government’s latest proposal for salary hikes on Thursday. Health minister Leoš Heger offered doctors an extra 1.5 billion crowns for salary-hikes from a 2 billion crown package it has promised to raise by scrapping 10,000 non-essential hospital beds. The rest of the money is to be divided among nurses and other hospital staff. The head of doctors’ trade unions Martin Engel said doctors deserved the whole 2 billion crown package and that sharing out the money would make the salary hikes cosmetic. Some 3,800 doctors have handed in their notices in protest over low wages. They are to take effect at the beginning of March and could leave the country facing a serious health crisis.
President Vaclav Klaus is meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Thursday for foreign policy consultations ahead of Friday’s EU summit in Brussels. The summit is to debate reopening the Lisbon treaty to include a new financial aid mechanism for ailing member states. The Czech government was to have debated the country’s stand to the proposed aid mechanism at its regular session on Wednesday but postponed its decision in view of consultations with the president. An amendment to the Lisbon Treaty would not only have to be approved by the Czech Parliament but signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
Czech travel agencies are bringing holiday makers back from Egypt amidst growing concerns over security. Spokesman for the Association of Czech Travel Agencies Tomio Okamura said 99 percent of all Czech tourists should be back home by the end of this week. Tourists who were forced to cut short their holidays will be reimbursed. The Czech Foreign Ministry has advised Czech citizens to postpone all non-essential travel to Egypt until the situation stabilizes.
The 12 people who were injured in Wednesday’s train crash in southern Bohemia are all out of danger, the ctk news agency reports. Four seriously injured passengers underwent surgery and are reported to be stable. One woman was killed in the collision between a passenger and freight train. A preliminary investigation points to human error.
Social Democrat MP David Rath was fined 10,000 crowns by Parliament’s mandate and immunity committee for making insulting remarks about Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek during a debate in the lower house. The mp suggested that the finance minister was not in an entirely sober state of mind, implying that he had a drinking problem. The committee ruled on Thursday that such an insult went beyond the routine political squabbling. David Rath has said he will appeal the decision.
Two towns will get a subsidy from the Interior Ministry to accommodate a group of Burmese refugees who recently arrived from Thailand, after fleeing from persecution in their homeland. The group of 12 refugees are to find new homes in Pribyslav, in the Vysocina region, and Nove Mesto na Morave where they are being moved after a short spell in an asylum centre near Usti nad Labem where they were taught a basic knowledge of the language to facilitate integration. A total of eight Burmese families arrived in the Czech Republic last year and all have integrated without major problems.
President Klaus remains the most trusted politician in the country, followed by regional governors and local mayors. According to the outcome of January survey conducted by the polling agency CVVM President Klaus received the highest credit rating, having won the trust of 69 percent of respondents. Local politicians hovered at around 60 percent while government officials received a 34 percent rating. According to the same poll 55 percent of Czechs said they were not happy with the current state of Czech politics.
Conditions in central Europe are expected to bring more snow overnight with temperatures dropping to minus 5 degrees Celsius but meteorologists promise a marked improvement over the weekend with daytime highs between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius.