Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has revealed that the government has increased its proposed target for public spending cuts aimed at lowering the fiscal deficit, and readying the economy for entry to the euro zone. In an interview with BBC Radio's Czech section on Monday Mr Spidla stated the government would be looking to save 116 billion crowns in outlays over the next three years, up from an 80 billion crown figure that had been presented earlier. On Sunday leaders of the three-party coalition government confirmed an already existing agreement to cut spending and change taxes to cut the budget gap to four percent GDP in 2006, from a record high of over six percent this year. In terms of revenue, the government says a rise in indirect taxes, partly offset by cuts in corporate income tax and real estate transfer tax, should bring over 20 billion crowns over three years. Mr Spidla indicated the government was determined to push ahead with reforms and overcome resistance from trade unions whose leaders have threatened strikes unless some of the planned social spending cuts are watered down.
The Czech government, during its session on Monday, accepted the resignation of Czech Intelligence chief Jiri Ruzek and head of the National Security Office Tomas Kadlec, who decided to step down from their posts last week. Speaking to journalists after the session, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said it would be up to the parliamentary defence committee to name potential candidates for the posts. Mr Spidla did not reveal why Mr Ruzek and Mr Kadlec had resigned. Their deputies, Jiri Lang and Jan Mares, will be heading the offices until successors have been appointed.
The Czech Republic has been asked to contribute to the establishment of NATO's first multi-national battalion for the protection against weapons of mass destruction. The battalion would be part of NATO's rapid reaction forces. Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said preparations for its creation are to start immediately, in order to be ready to serve in operations by the second half of 2004.
The coalition government has decided to join the EU in its fight against poverty and introduce measures that will reduce the number of industrial accidents, government spokeswoman Anna Starkova said on Monday. According to Mrs Starkova, Europe has increasingly been taking steps to prevent the isolation of the socially weak from the rest of society and ensure that employees are safe at their workplace, while Czech rules and regulations have not been adapted to the changes on the work market nor to the demographic development. The government has therefore decided to establish a new committee that will look into the current problem areas and find ways of tackling the main causes.
The chief of Prague's flood-damaged metro network, Ladislav Houdek, has resigned. Prague's Transit Authority announced his resignation on Monday without comment. The Metro's safety chief also stepped down on Friday amid an investigation into whether the underground railway was adequately protected during last summer's disaster. According to Prague mayor Pavel Bem, experts have come to the conclusion that the metro was flooded because it was only built to withstand so-called "century floods" - floods which arrive just once a century. However, the city transportation commission has also been questioning whether officials did enough to protect the metro system.
Prague's Ruzyne international airport was shut down for two hours on Monday after a woman who refused to identify herself called the Interior Ministry saying a bomb had been planted at the airport. Airport officials immediately halted all outgoing traffic and evacuated the premises. Incoming planes were taxied to a safer area away from the terminal and passengers had to stay on board. The anonymous bomb threat proved to be a hoax: no explosives were found when the airport was searched.
Tuesday has been forecast with cloudy skies and occasional showers. Temperatures will drop slightly to reach a maximum of 18 degrees Celsius.
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