US radar base to use Czech energy
An agreement between the Czech Republic and the US to house a controversial anti-missile radar base in the country stipulates that the US facility will use electricity from the Czech national grid and be built by Czech companies. According to Henry Obering, director of the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), it would be preposterous to build a small nuclear power station in the area to power the site, although he also stated that an oil powered reserve generator would be present. Meanwhile, the Czech Defence Ministry has announced that Czech firms will be preferred in the construction of the base, with Czech security companies also helping to guard the site. Up to 250 US soldiers would be based at the site, although issues related to what taxes they would pay have yet to be resolved.
Record number of foreign labourers work in the country
New statistics from the Czech Labour Ministry reveal that a record number of foreigners came to work in the Czech Republic. According to the figures for the first half of 2008, 32,000 people came to the country and gained legal permission to work. That’s 8000 people more than in the previous year. In total, estimates suggest that 272,500 foreigners work legally in the country. The greatest number of these – around 102,000 - come from Slovakia; in second place are Ukrainians with about 72,000 workers in the country, while Poles are in third place with around 22,000 workers. Vietnamese workers also form a large segment of foreign labourers with around 5400 Vietnamese working legally in the country.
Koh-i-Noor moving to Vietnam
Koh-i-Noor Hardmuth, a pencil and stationary company in the Czech Republic, has announced plans to close down its České Budějovice production plant after 160 years. The plant will be relocated to Vietnam in order to cut costs. In recent times, the company has already re-located part of its production to China and Bulgaria. This latest shift signals the possibility that the company will, after more than a century and a half of production, completely terminate manufacturing in the Czech Republic. Last year, the company had a turnover of more than 1.8 billion crowns, while its České Budějovice factory employs more than a thousand people. The Koh-i-noor brand name was registered in 1894.
Consumer advocacy group warns over misleading sales offers
A leading Czech consumer advocacy group called SOS has warned shoppers to be wary of a misleading practice increasingly used by many Czech retailers. The practice involves placing non-specific “Sale” signs around shops and shop fronts. Often, they read “Sale -30%” “Sale -70%” and so on. But the catch is that these signs do not actually point to any specific goods. Indeed, warns SOS, many shoppers often find that the goods they have purchased are in fact not on sale at all. The Czech Trade Inspectorate or ČOI is also investigating these practices, which are designed to lure customers into shops, and has warned people to be wary. In fact ČOI statistics reveal just how serious the problem is – out of 860 checks in the first quarter of 2008, a staggering 361 were found to have issues.
ČEZ promoting nuclear future in Czech schools
The Czech energy giant ČEZ has caused controversy by promoting nuclear power in a children’s magazine which the company publishes. The magazine, called Oříšek, features a young girl in a spaceship learning of the supposed wonders of nuclear power. The publication has not only led to concerns about the indoctrination of children, but also to speculation that ČEZ believes that the nuclear option is the best way forward for the country’s energy future. ČEZ has denied this, stating that the nuclear option is just one out of many being considered. Meanwhile, the head of the Czech Schools Union has protested about the company’s publication, calling it “one-sided.”