Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek will advise the Czech government against making a commitment to contribute to the European Stability Mechanism intended to help EU member states overcome severe financial difficulties. On his return from a summit of finance ministers in Brussels, Mr. Kalousek said he was sceptical about how such a fund would be operated, since the burden of contributing to it would be so heavy for a third of eurozone members that, having made it, they would immediately have to request financial assistance from the EU. Euro-zone finance ministers on Monday agreed that a permanent rescue mechanism should be set up in 2013 to the tune of 500 billion euros ($675 billion) which is a sum significantly higher than the current rescue fund. Apart from the euro zone, the ESM would also get cash from the International Monetary Fund and, possibly, from voluntary contributions from non-euro zone European Union countries.
A police and firefighters’ trade union has launched a petition calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John, whom it blames for the worsening work conditions of the country’s security forces. The petition is to be distributed among the country’s 50,000 officers and firefighters who are unhappy over low pay and less money for operation. Like other state employees, police and firefighters have had to take a 10 percent wage cut in line with the government’s austerity measures. The interior minister has said he has no reason to resign and cannot be held responsible for the poor state of public finances. Signatures on the petition are to be collected until March 15th.
The new police president, Petr Lessy, has said he wants to improve communication with the public. Mr. Lessy, who was appointed chief of police at the end of January, told journalists on Monday that he aimed to improve security and increase public trust in the police force. He said that while corruption remained a top priority he wanted to improve the record on problems that make the life of citizens difficult such as pick pocketing and various other forms of petty crime. The new police president has taken office at a time of far-reaching austerity measures that have left the force disgruntled over low pay and lack of operation funds.
Central European leaders of the Visegrad group met for a summit in Bratislava on Tuesday marking the 20th anniversary since the founding of the loose economic alliance which has helped its members make the transition to a market economy and become fully fledged EU members. Government heads from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, debated bilateral relations, EU energy security, economic governance and the 27-member bloc's public debt crisis. The summit also hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. The four ex-communist Visegrad states joined the EU in 2004. Since 2009, Slovakia is the sole eurozone member in the group.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has called on the international community to step up pressure on Burma with respect to continuing human rights violations in the country. At a conference on Burma in Prague, Mr. Havel said human rights are a universal value and respect for them should be demanded more strictly in the era of globalisation. He expressed disappointment with the fact that many countries still put economic and technological cooperation over human rights issues. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said a concerted international effort was needed to get Burma to respect human rights and that the Czech Republic would push for a stronger statement from the EU.
The Czech economy grew 2.3 percent in 2010, recovering from a 4.1 percent contraction caused by the global downturn the year before, official data showed Tuesday. Growth was pulled up by a gradually improving performance of industry and services, especially in the second half of the year, the Czech Statistical Office said in its report. Statisticians said that an economic revival experienced by the Czech Republic's key trading partners, including Germany, had a favourable impact on the export-based Czech economy which relies heavily on car production.
The number of pay cards issued to Czech clients is reported to have risen by 2.4 percent in the past year, according to statistics issued Tuesday. In 2010 banks issued clients 9.2 million pay cards, of that 1.5 million credit cards. The trend is attributed not only to the fact that most Czechs have now grown accustomed to using pay cards wherever possible, but also to the growing number of smaller shops in towns and villages which enable card payment.
The National Technical Museum in Prague is reopening after more than four years of renovation work. The opening ceremony on Tuesday night will be attended by President Václav Klaus and chair of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová; the museum will open its doors to the public on Wednesday. People can visit five permanent exhibitions on the history of transport, architecture, astronomy, printing, and others. More expos should be launched in the coming months.
The police say they have caught two thieves red-handed in the act of stealing copper drain pipes from the roof of the church of St. Wenceslas in Prague 10. The police arrived on the spot after being alerted by locals and the two thieves made a futile attempt to get away by trying to climb down a lightening conductor. They were brought down with the help of firefighters. The men are suspected of having stolen copper drain pipes from other rooftops in Prague.
A thirty-eight-year-old Czech mountaineer has died on an expedition to Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. The mountaineer is believed to have died of exhaustion in his tent at a height of 5900 meters. The local mountain service says that due to adverse weather conditions it had advised mountaineers to postpone their climb but several expeditions had set out despite the warning. The mountaineers’ body has not yet been brought down.
The coming days are expected to be partly cloudy with day temperatures hovering just above freezing point.