Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced the details of a planned cabinet reshuffle. The head of the Civic Democrats’ deputies group in the lower house Zbynek Stanjura is to take up the post of transport minister, while Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake will head the defense ministry. Her place at the head of the government’s legislative council is to be filled by her deputy Petr Mlsna. There are plans to eventually merge the transport ministry with that of trade and industry which would be run by a Civic Democrat. President Klaus is to appoint the new ministers on Wednesday.
The Šumava National Park says its population of wild boars is still contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster from 1986. Out of 44 wild boars shot during the hunting season 33 were found to contain high levels of the radioactive isotope caesium, most likely due to eating contaminated mushrooms in certain areas of the park. There are health regulations in place making it obligatory to test any game hunted on the park’s premises. The authorities say the contamination is such that the meat cannot serve as animal feed and the carcasses must be safely destroyed.
The car maker Škoda Auto has unveiled a third-generation Octavia model. The company claims the new Octavia hatchback is longer and wider than its predecessor providing more interior space and an engine starting at 1.4TSI. The new Octavia is to be shown at the Geneva international motor show show and will go on sale in March of next year. Škoda Auto is hoping to sell more than 500,000 Octavia models a year making it one of the ten top-selling cars in the world.
More Czech companies will lay off employees in the first quarter of 2013 than those planning to take on new staff according to a Manpower Labour Market Index poll conducted among 750 Czech firms. Only 3 percent of employers said they were hiring staff while 11 percent are planning lay-offs. 85 percent of respondents said they were not planning on significant changes in staff numbers. The report is the most pessimistic outlook in four years, a fact widely attributed to a fall in turnover due to dropping demand.
Actress Antonie Hegerlíková, one of the last living stars from the golden era of Czech film, has died at the age of 89. In a career spanning over 70 years Hegerlíková starred in hundreds of theatre performances and appeared in over thirty films and TV series. She was unforgettable in the roles of Lady Mcbeth, Electra. Nora, Maryša and played a central figure in the long-running TV series F.L. Věk. In 2005 she received the Thalia award for her lifelong contribution to Czech theatre.
Qatar Airlines has said it is as yet undecided as to whether it wants to make a bid for shares in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA. The heard of Qatar Airlines Akbar Baker told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that his company was still studying the offer. The government is offering to sell a 96 percent stake to a European buyer; other airlines could only purchase a less than 50 percent stake in order to ensure that ČSA remains a national carrier. The Czech finance minister said last week that of the 50 airlines the Czech government had approached only two had expressed interest in the privatization of ČSA: Korean Air and Qatar Airlines. The Czech government made a previous unsuccessful attempt at selling off ČSA in 2009.
The country’s chief inspection office says it has intensified checks of food products at open air, farmers’ and Christmas markets ahead of the Christmas season. The most frequent transgressions are uncertified goods of unclear origin and products past their expiry date. Special attention is also being paid to adherence to the ban on spirits at open air markets in Prague. The inspection office says it has conducted over 1,500 inspections of food products at open air and farmers’ markets since the start of the year issuing over 200 fines to the tune of 1 million crowns.
Czech students have achieved above-average results in international tests conducted in 52 countries, the Czech education ministry said on Tuesday. The tests cover reading literacy, mathematics and science with Czech students placing 14th, 22nd and 8th in the respective subjects. Education Minister Petr Fiala said he was pleased with the result which was a significant improvement. The improvement is being attributed to the ongoing reform of the school system which allows schools greater freedom in planning their curricula and puts greater emphasis on creativity.
Snowfall and icy conditions have continued to complicate the situation on Czech roads. Several roads on Tuesday morning were blocked or narrowed by slow-moving transport trucks. According to a police transport website visibility near Strakonice was less than 100 metres. Heavy snowfall in the area of Uherské Hradište left a three-kilometre stretch of road impassable; fog also complicated matters. Drivers have been warned to exercise extreme caution and not set out for the mountain regions without winter gear.
Sub-zero temperatures over the past four days have claimed eight lives. Shelters for the homeless are bursting at the seams and although efforts are being made to accommodate anyone who turns up many homeless people try to weather the night out in the open. Police officers in Prague are devoting special attention to localities where they gather and check up on them several times a day.
The coming days should bring overcast skies, scattered snow showers and day temperatures dropping to - 3 degrees Celsius.