News

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PM plans to introduce tuition fees before next election

The Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek, has said that he would like tuition fees to be introduced in the Czech Republic before the next parliamentary elections. In an interview with the financial daily Hospdářské noviny, Mr Topolánek added that he favoured the introduction of ‘postponed’ tuition fees, which students would only pay back after their degree, when their income reached a certain level. The Prime Minister said that he planned to introduce student loans, extend scholarship programmes and offer incentives to families which saved up to fund their child’s education. Mr Topolánek’s partners in the coalition, the Christian Democrats, are said to be for the overhaul in university funding. The Greens, who also form the governing coalition, have declared themselves to be against the proposals.

Švejnar starts tour of Czech regions ahead of presidential elections

Presidential hopeful Jan Švejnar has started his tour of the Czech Republic, canvassing support for his presidential bid. On Wednesday, Mr Švejnar visited the Moravian town of Zlín, where he gave a lecture at the city’s Tomáš Baťa University. Next stop on the campaign trail was Kroměříž, where Mr Švejnar met with inhabitants. In the next three weeks, Mr Švejnar is set to visit České Budějovice, Brno and Hradec Králové, before ending his tour in Ostrava on January 30. Mr Švejnar is pitted against the incumbent president and favourite, Vaclav Klaus, in next month’s presidential elections. He has been pledged the support of the opposition Social Democrats, as well as the Communists and the Greens, though he would still need the support of more MPs and senators to win.

Key witness Škrlová held by Norwegian police

Norwegian police have arrested Czech national Barbora Škrlová, and are set to extradite her back to the Czech Republic. Mrs Škrlová is wanted in her homeland on charges of identity fraud. The thirty-three-year-old masqueraded as a thirteen-year-old girl called Anna, in a highly publicized child-abuse case. She later escaped from the Czech Republic. Mrs Škrlová is seen as a key witness in the case, and it is for this reason that the Czech Foreign Ministry would like her to be extradited. When Norwegian police caught up with her, she was masquerading as a thirteen-year old boy called Adam. She is expected to return to the Czech Republic sometime in the very near future, a ministry spokesman said.

Government signs legal documents ahead of Prague Olympic bid

The government has signed the legal documents required for Prague’s 2016 Olympic bid, it was announced on Wednesday. The signed documents state that the government respects the Olympic charter, and that it would grant free entry and movement to the games’ accredited participants. They will be enclosed in the application which will be taken to the Olympic Committee’s Headquarters in Lausanne on Sunday. Czechs are divided over whether Prague should attempt to host an Olympic games or not. Many think that an Olympics would attract money to the Czech capital at the expense of the regions. They fear that in signing such legally-binding documents, the government has also bound itself financially to the scheme.

Polish PM will make one-day official visit to Czech Republic

The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will make a one-day official visit to the Czech Republic on Thursday, during which he will meet with Czech President Václav Klaus and PM Mirek Topolánek. Mr Tusk wants to cultivate relations with his neighbours, and this visit follows a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel and president Horst Kohler in Berlin last month. The proposed US radar base to be stationed on Czech and Polish soil is expected to be high on the agenda of the Czech-Polish talks.

Unemployment in December rises to 6%

Unemployment was up last month by 0.4% to 6%, according to statistics released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The number of people eligible to work but without a job totalled 331,696. This unemployment rate of 6% compares with that of 7.7% recorded in December 2006. As in previous months, the lowest rate of unemployment could be found in the capital Prague, where only 2.2% of people were registered as being unemployed.

…While inflation goes up to 5.4%

Meanwhile, inflation in December hit 5.4%, which is the highest it has been since August 2001. The Czech Statistical Office released the figures on Wednesday, attributing the high rate of inflation for December to the rising costs of food and transport. According to the Statistical Office, the average rate of inflation for the year 2007 was 2.8%, compared to 2.5% in 2006.

Prague City hall unveils new plan to combat homelessness

Prague City Hall is to establish a new police unit to tackle the problem of homelessness in the capital. On Tuesday, deputy mayor Jiří Janeček made the announcement, adding that the police unit’s goal would be to make Prague’s homeless either leave the capital or ‘reintegrate into society’. He said that Prague City Hall would find employment for each homeless person ‘displaying an interest in work’. But the plan has been criticised by some social workers, who say that it fails to tackle the problem, which, they say, has deeper roots than unemployment. According to last year’s census, there are around 2000 homeless people in Prague. Around half of them sleep rough, while another half are accommodated in shelters run by charities.

Poll: Jiří Čunek least trusted Czech politician

Jiří Čunek is the least trusted politician in the Czech Republic at the moment, according to a poll conducted by the CVWM institute and published on Wednesday. The head of the Christian Democrats and former deputy prime minister came bottom of a list of 24 politicians, about whom people were asked. Only 12% of those polled said that they trusted him. The labour minister Petr Nečas also saw a sharp decline in trust - in December only 24% of respondents said they trusted him, as opposed to 30% back in October. Those who elicited the most trust from voters in the poll were current president Václav Klaus and ombudsman Otakar Motejl, who scored 64% and 62% respectively.

Vaidišová beats Jankovic in Sydney International semi-final

Czech tennis prodigy Nicole Vaidišová is through to the semi-finals of the Sydney International, after a surprise win against world number three Jelena Jankovic. Vaidišová won in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, and will now face former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-final on Thursday. This is Vaidišová’s ninth encounter with the Serb, Jelena Jankovic, on the WTA tour. This victory is her sixth over the world number three.

Weather

Temperatures should remain just above zero degrees Celsius over the next couple of days, with the occasional shower of snow and rain. The end of the week is expected to be wet and overcast.