Union heads from 12 power stations run by the state owned power utility CEZ have threatened to go to court if CEZ is excluded from the privatization of coal producers Sokolska uhelna and Severoceske Doly. A ministerial commission is to decide on Thursday whether or not to exclude CEZ from the privatization of the two companies. The Cabinet is opposed to CEZ's participation, a fact that is said to have been a decisive factor in the recent dismissal of Jaroslav Mil from the post of CEZ general director and chairman of the board. Industry and Trade Minister Milan Urban said the energy giant should not be thinking about coal mining at present but should rather focus on electricity production.
Mayors of two Czech towns situated near the German border have joined the country's politicians in refuting a UNICEF claim that child prostitution is rampant in the border areas. The mayor of Cheb Vaclav Jakl told journalists that the problem of child prostitution in his region did not exceed the number of cases found elsewhere, not only in the Czech Republic but across Europe. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has sharply denied the UNICEF claim, saying that investigators had found no evidence of child prostitution this month during the country's largest ever police raid on brothels. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told the CTK press agency that the UNICEF report was "unrealistic".
In its annual progress report, the European Commission has criticized the Czech Republic for its steep deficit in public spending. The need to reduce it has become a top government priority. The deficit in public spending climbed from 7,1 percent of the GDP last year to an estimated 8,0 percent this year. The government's reform plan is expected to bring it down to 6,3 percent of the GDP in 2004, and further down to 5,2 percent in the following year. The country's GDP is expected to grow by 2,2 percent this year and still further by 3,3 in 2004, when the Czech Republic is slated to join the European Union. The report says however that this projected growth will be linked to the economic situation in Western Europe, predominantly in neighbouring Germany.
Up to 800 cows may have to be put down in connection with the seventh confirmed case of BSE in the Czech Republic. The last cow found to be infected was from a farm in northeast Bohemia and what appears to be significant for vets is that the animal was born in the year 2,000 i.e. much later that the previously detected cases. Regional vets and the State Veterinary Office are now debating the final number of animals which will have to be put down. "We want to keep the number as low as possible without taking any risks" a spokesman said. Czech vets have tested more than 450, 000 animals for BSE to date. The public appears to have faith in the applied safety measures since beef consumption has not dropped on the news of the last two positive cases of BSE.
On an official visit to neighbouring Austria, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda assured his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero Waldner that the Czech Republic intended to fully adhere to all bilateral agreements reached regarding the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant as well as international safety norms. "Our own citizens live much closer to Temelin than Austrians - it is understandable that safety is a top priority for us" Minister Svoboda said. The Austrian Foreign Minister reiterated Austria's stand that it would much prefer for the Czech Republic to desist from further nuclear power production, saying this was Austria's only concern in otherwise satisfactory bilateral relations. The two officials also discussed cross border cooperation and employment policies.
President Vaclav Klaus will appoint Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka deputy prime minister at Prague Castle on Thursday. As deputy prime minister for the economy, Minister Sobotka will be in charge of the government's public spending reform plan. His main priority on the job will be to oversee the drafting of bills in the areas of pension reform, tax reform, health care, and what is called the "grey economy". The setting up of this post underlines the importance which the government places on the success of its reform plan.
Thursday is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius.
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