News

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Greens to propose Ondrej Liska for education minister

The leadership of the Czech Green Party is to nominate Ondrej Liska for the post of education minister. Former education minister Dana Kuchtova made the announcement to journalists on Monday night, adding that Mr Liska was not the candidate she had voted for. Mr Liska won the support of the Green Party leadership by four votes to three. The Greens have been split over who should replace Mrs Kuchtova at the head of Education Ministry ever since she resigned two months ago. Head of the party Martin Bursik said that the decision should be made by the Green Party leadership, while others, such as Mrs Kuchtova, thought that the choice should fall to the party’s national council, who were behind another candidate, Olga Zubova.

Klaus thinks thirty-year-old Liska too young for the post

Czech president Vaclav Klaus has reacted to Mr Liska’s nomination by questioning whether someone so young would be able to run the Education Ministry effectively. Mr Klaus voiced his opinion in an address to students of Brno’s Masaryk University, telling undergraduates that the thirty-year-old Liska was ‘not much older than they were’. Mr Klaus said that he foresaw difficulties in Mr Liska’s dealings with the sixty and seventy-year-old rectors of the Czech Republic’s biggest universities, and that for this reason, he would only be able to appoint Mr Liska against his better judgement.

Topolanek wants Liska to be the new education minister

Prime minister Mirek Topolanek, however, has said that he is convinced Ondrej Liska is the right man for the education minister’s job. He said that he thought Mr Liska would be more than capable of coping with all ministerial tasks. The prime minister added that he and President Vaclav Klaus had agreed to appoint Mr Liska as education minister next week. Leader of the Greens Martin Bursik is to discuss the appointment with members of the party’s national council on Sunday.

Cunek to decide on return to government in week’s time

Former deputy prime minister and current leader of the Christian Democrats, Jiri Cunek, is expected to make an announcement on whether he will attempt to regain his government posts in one week’s time. Senior Christian Democrat Michaela Sojdrova told journalists that Mr Cunek would discuss his next move with the party leadership on December 4.

Mr Cunek resigned from the posts of deputy prime minister and minister for regional development when an investigation into whether he had accepted a half-a-million crown bribe back in 2002 was reopened. This investigation has subsequently been dropped. In the days leading up to Mr Cunek’s resignation, Czech Television broadcast a report alleging that Mr Cunek claimed benefits while having millions of crowns deposited in different accounts. He is currently under police investigation in connection to this case. Mr Cunek has yet to remark upon whether he plans to return to the government, but his party are split over whether he should or not.

Social Democrats to bring vote of no-confidence next week

MPs from the opposition Social Democratic Party are to initiate a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet next week. The Chairman of the Social Democrats, Michal Hasek, told journalists that the no-confidence vote would be called when the next reading of the 2008 state budget took place on December 5. The Social Democrats are expecting to receive the support of the Communists in the no-confidence vote, and Mr Hasek said that ‘talks were underway’ with MPs from other parties as well. The Social Democrats and the Communists together have 98 deputies in the Czech Lower House. At least 101 votes would be needed for the no confidence motion to be passed. The government last faced a vote of no-confidence in June of this year, which it survived intact. This current vote of no-confidence has been brought as a response to the public finance reform package which the government approved in August, and to which the Social Democrats are opposed.

Christian Democrats invite Klaus and Svejnar to speak

The Christian Democrats have invited current president Vaclav Klaus to address all of the party’s deputies next week, and have asked Mr Klaus’s potential presidential rival, Jan Svejnar, to address the party’s senators. The Christian Democrats are still undecided which candidate they will back in next February’s presidential elections. Mr Klaus already has the support of the Civic Democrats, while Mr Svejnar has been pledged the support of the Social Democrats and the Greens. It seems increasingly likely that the Christian Democrats will have the key vote on the matter. On Tuesday, senior party member Michaela Sojdrova invited Mr Klaus to address MPs on December 4. This is something that Mr Svejnar has already done. According to Mrs Sojdrova, the Christian Democrats do not know yet which candidate they will back but, she added, the party had every intention of settling upon one chosen candidate in the coming weeks.

UN bills Taser gun weapon of torture, Czech Police defend its use

The Czech Police have no plans to stop using Taser guns, a spokesman has said, a week after the United Nations put the arms on its list of torture weapons. The Czech Police currently own 8 Taser guns, and are in the process of investing in 42 more. The United Nations Committee against Torture decided last week to class the stun-guns as torture weapons, saying that they caused extreme pain, and in some cases death. But on Tuesday, a Czech Police spokesperson said that there had been no recorded deaths caused by Taser guns in the Czech Republic, and that the guns actually saved lives. A spokesperson for Amnesty International, Eva Dobrovolna, said that in the US and Canada, 290 people had died following a Taser shock in the last six years. She voiced her dismay at the Czech Police Force’s decision.

High concentration of mobile phones in the Czech Republic, but Czechs don’t spend long talking on them

According to research commissioned by the European Union, Czechs are amongst the most dependent upon mobile phones in Europe. The research found that for every 100 Czechs, there were 115 mobile telephones. Only Luxemburg, Lithuania and Italy ranked above the Czech Republic in this respect. Furthermore, some 42% of Czech households were found to be without a conventional landline phone, relying solely upon mobile telephones to make calls. Only Finland and Lithuania had a lower percentage of landline telephones installed in households than here in the Czech Republic. But the research found that the Czech Republic was one of the least chatty nations in Europe. Czechs talk on their phones for an average of 1.7 minutes a day. The only countries to use their phones less than the Czech Republic were Germany, Poland and Luxemburg.

Average wage up in third quarter by 7.6% year-on-year

The average wage in the Czech Republic went up by 7.6% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2007 to 21,470 CZK (nearly 1,200 USD). This means that, on average, Czechs are earning over 1,500 crowns more than at they were at this time last year. Wages rose in the private sector by 7.6%, while this rise in the public sector was closer to 7.5%. Those enjoying the biggest pay rises, according to the Czech Statistical Office, were mechanics, waiters and gamekeepers. The lowest growth in wage was recorded in the fishing industry, with employees only earning 2.1% more now than they did at this time last year.

Skoda Auto tops list of most valuable Czech trademarks

According to research conducted by the financial newspaper Hospodarske noviny, the most valuable Czech brand name is that of Skoda Auto. Second on the list is of brands is state-owned brewer Budejovicky Budvar. And it’s another brewer which comes third in the list, this time Plzensky Prazdroj. The list was compiled by 40 experts on advertising, marketing, finance and law. According to the research, several Czech trademarks are worth billions of crowns each. They include those of Skoda Auto and the two breweries mentioned before, as well as shoemaker’s Bata and the insurer Ceska Pojistovna. According to analyst Ales Michl, trademarks can account for anything between 20% to 50% of a firm’s value. Other brands which made an appearance in Hospodarske noviny’s list of top trademarks were Staropramen, Bohemia Glass and Kofola.

Weather

A slight thaw is expected over the next couple of days, with temperatures reaching as high as 8 degrees in some places. The snowy weather is likely to be replaced by showers of rain, and the occasional patch of sun.