News

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Record economic growth continued in 2006

The Czech Republic saw record economic growth continue in 2006, making last year and 2005 the two most successful years in the country's history. Both years the Czech GDP grew by 6.1 percent. Factors influencing the record growth included household spending in the short-term, and in the long-term high investment and stable inflation. Many analysts say the Czech economy has now peaked and growth is expected to slow somewhat. Analyst Ales Michl from Raiffeisenbank told the CTK news agency that the economy was entering a phase of stable growth of around five percent.

President Klaus meets with US Vice President Cheney

President Vaclav Klaus has met with US Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss the possibility of a US radar base on Czech territory as part of a broader missile-defense shield. According to reports, the US vice president assured Mr Klaus that efforts to find consensus on the matter with Russia were on-going. Russia has come out strongly against the idea of a US radar base in the Czech Republic complementing an instillation in Poland housing ten interceptor rockets. The idea of the system is to prevent potential attacks by rogue states such as Iran or North Korea.

On Friday Mr Cheney and Mr Klaus also discussed the possibility of lifting visa requirements for Czech citizens.

President discusses lifting of US visa requirements in Washington

In related news, after meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in Washington on Thursday, Mr Klaus said Mrs Pelosi expressed what he called "evident support" for the lifting of US visa requirements for Czech citizens. Mr Klaus and Mrs Pelosi also discussed US plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic.

Green Party MP hints his party could vote against US radar base

Green Party deputy chairman and MP Ondrej Liska has said that the Greens could eventually vote against a US radar base being deployed to the Czech Republic as part of a broader US missile-defence shield. He made the statement at a press conference on Friday in which he stressed that any final decision needed to follow debate within the US, the European Union and NATO. Mr Liska said that even if the Greens did not back the plan in the end, he did not think it would threaten the current ruling coalition led by the Civic Democrats. Earlier this week, British Secretary for Europe Geoff Hoon said that whether or not a radar station was built on Czech territory was entirely up to Prague and Washington.

Flag put up at environment ministry in support of Tibet

Despite protest from the Chinese Embassy in Prague, Environment Minister Martin Bursik had the Tibetan flag flown at the Environment Ministry on Friday in support for the upcoming "Flag for Tibet" day. March 10th marks the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising crushed by the Chinese in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 1959. The international Flag for Tibet day has caught on in the Czech Republic in recent years. Although various Czech city and town halls have taken part in the past, it is the first time a government ministry has flown the Tibetan flag in support.

Foreign Ministry in favour of renewed dialogue on greater cultural autonomy for Tibet

In related news, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said on Friday that officials there viewed the environment minister's decision with sympathy. She indicated that the Czech Republic supported renewed dialogue between the central Chinese government and Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, towards securing greater cultural autonomy for Tibet.

Prague Castle, Church close to agreement on St Vitus Cathedral

The Presidential Office and the Catholic Church have made clear in a joint-statement that they are close to an agreement on cooperation in the management of St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. Another meeting has been set for next week. Jiri Weigl, the head of the Presidential Office revealed on Friday that talks between representatives of the Presidential Office, Prague Castle Administration, and the Metropolitan Chapter of the Church ended in an agreement on the church's transfer of individual buildings - including St Vitus Cathedral. A final date for the transfer has not been set. Negotiations between the church and state ensued following a February Supreme Court decision that overturned earlier rulings recognising the Church's ownership of the landmark cathedral and surrounding sites.

Poll: Civic Democrats would win elections if they were held today

A new poll released by the Median agency has suggested that if elections were held in the Czech Republic today they would be won by the ruling Civic Democrats. According to the poll, the party would clinch more than 40 percent of the vote, with the Social Democrats - the country's second largest party - finishing fifteen points behind. All three of the remaining parliamentary parties would also pass the required five percent threshold. According to the poll the Communist Party would finish third (with more than 12 percent), the Greens fourth (with 8 percent), and the Christian Democrats fifth (with more than 7 percent).

Daily: Social Democratic could field Spidla or Buzkova as presidential candidates

The Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes has reported that the Social Democratic Party could potentially field European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla as a presidential candidate in 2008. Michal Hasek, head of his party's deputies group, told the daily that the former prime minister - who led his party to victory in 2002 - "should be" considered. Other names reportedly being discussed include lawyer and former education minister Petra Buzkova, and former supreme state attorney Marie Benesova. Any candidate the Social Democrats field will face the current president, Vaclav Klaus, who has already announced his intention to seek a second term.

Reader's Digest survey rates Czech Radio highest in radio category

Public broadcaster Czech Radio - home to numerous stations including Radiozurnal (Radiojournal) and Radio Prague the international service - has been rated Most Trusted Brand for 2007 in the "radio station" category in an annual survey conducted by Reader's Digest. Overall, almost 45 000 respondents took part in the survey. Participants taking part were chosen across a wide demographic. Czech Radio has now won in its category for the second time. It also came first last year.

Weather

Rainy conditions with a possibility of sleet are expected into the weekend, with the weather improving somewhat into Sunday. Sunday should be partly cloudy. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 8 degrees Celsius.