Economists have criticised plans unveiled by the government on Monday to reduce the budget deficit to prepare for adoption of the euro. Some economists said the measures would mean the country would not be able to meet the eurozone criterion of a budget deficit below three percent of GDP until after 2006, pushing back the earliest euro adoption date to 2009-2010. They said the basic outline of the plan was not far-reaching enough. The plan involves cuts in social benefits and tax changes to cut the fiscal gap from over six percent of GDP this year to four percent in 2006.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic fell below 10 percent in April, but analysts expect it to climb again soon. The Labour Ministry announced on Monday that last month's jobless rate was 9.6 percent, down from 10 percent in March and the country's all-time record of 10.2 percent set in January and February. The ministry said seasonal hiring in construction and other sectors helped shorten lines for jobless benefits last month. However analysts said they believed the downturn was temporary, and would rise again soon.
A new police study has claimed heroin gangs have begun moving their operations to bases outside the Czech Republic. In its latest annual report, the police's National Anti-Drug Centre said Balkan crime gangs responsible for much of Europe's heroin trafficking had been shifting warehouse operations to Poland and Slovakia. In addition, the report said Czechs were less likely to be hired as drug couriers by the Kosovo-Albanian, Croatian and Bulgarian gangs. The changes mark a shift away from the Czech Republic's long-time status as a trafficking route for heroin from the Balkans and Asia to neighbouring Germany and other parts of Western Europe.
A new tabloid newspaper was launched on Monday, hoping to attract readers with the knock-down price of three crowns, around two thirds cheaper than its rivals. Impuls, which describes itself as an "intelligent tabloid", contains 24 pages, 16 of them in colour. Newsagents said there was little interest in the paper in the cities, with better sales reported in small towns and the countryside. The country's best selling paper is the tabloid Blesk, followed by the broadsheet Mlada Fronta Dnes.
Border police in the town of Cesky Tesin have detained a Polish man after discovering 164 rare parrots in the boot of his car. The 39-year man was attempting to cross the border into Poland when customs officers made the discovery during a routine check. The parrots were taken to a nearby animal shelter. Animal rescue workers said the birds were recovering well from their ordeal, although some were suffering from stress.
Reports from Israel say a Czech Airlines pilot, apparently exasperated by Israeli industrial action, took off from Tel Aviv Airport without his passengers on Monday and flew back to Prague. The pilot had landed at the airport on an incoming flight and was scheduled to take off 45 minutes later. But after two and a half hours, Israeli airport workers had still failed to unload the incoming baggage, and he took off with an empty plane and returned home. The airport workers were operating a deliberate go-slow policy in protest at government plans to cut public spending.
Weathermen have warned of more stormy weather approaching the Czech Republic on Monday night. The storms will be accompanied by hailstones and torrential rain in places.
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Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
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