News

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Sticking points remain in coalition talks

There has been little progress over the holiday period in talks on the formation of a coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens. It is not clear whether the three parties will be ready to sign a coalition deal later this week or early next year. Several sticking points remain, among them the Greens' nomination of Karel Schwarzenberg as foreign minister - President Vaclav Klaus has questioned his suitability because of the aristocrat's ties with Austria. Mr Schwarzenberg's family fled to Austria in 1948 and he spent 40 years there. However, in an interview in Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes he firmly rejected suggestions that he holds Austrian citizenship.

The three-party alliance is one vote short of a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and would need the support of at least one rebel left-wing MP to pass a confidence vote. The Czech Republic has been without a stable government since elections in June ended in stalemate.

Listeria-contaminated food found in Jesenik

Hygiene officers have found more bacteria contaminated food in the Jesenik region. The bacteria in question is known as listeria and its heightened presence in foodstuffs is believed to have killed three adults and a baby last month. Seventeen people were taken ill with it. The health authorities have issued a public warning that older people and young children in particular should avoid cheeses and salads, but the bacteria has since appeared in meat-rolls as well. All food stores are now under close scrutiny.

Actors threaten to go on strike alert

Actors from the National Theatre ensemble are threatening to go on strike alert unless the culture minister sacks the theatres' current director Jan Mrzena and finds a suitable replacement. Mr. Mrzena was appointed to the post on a temporary basis after the culture minister sacked the former director Daniel Dvorak for poor fund-management. Thirty nine of the theatre's most prominent actors have signed a petition asking for a competent and qualified director to be found as soon as possible.

Thirteen die on roads over Christmas period

At least 13 people died on the Czech roads over the Christmas holiday, most of them in the pre-Christmas rush on Friday and Saturday. Over 1,200 accidents were reported on Friday alone.

Hardy folk take part in annual Vltava swim

Over 100 otuzilci - hardy fellows and ladies - took part in an annual swim in the Vltava River in Prague on Stephen's Day. The water temperature was 6.3 degrees Celsius. Among the swimmers was Ladislav Nicek, who is 93 and was taking part for the 57th time. Yvetta Hlavacova, the women's English Channel record holder, was among 24 women who participated.

Wages to rise by an estimated 5 percent in 2007

According to a survey conducted by the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily wages in the Czech Republic are expected to rise by an estimated 5 percent in 2007 although the rise in real wages should not exceed 2 percent. The paper polled over 100 large companies which together employ some 300,000 people. On the other hand a survey among Czech managers suggests that wage growth in the coming year will be slightly lower than 5 percent. Trade unions see the projected 5 percent growth as insufficient.

Price of water to rise by 6 percent on average

The price of water in the Czech Republic is expected to go up by an average 6 percent in 2007 although there are considerable differences between regions and also between prices charged by different companies. Water consumption by Czech households has been falling steadily since 1989 when the price of water first started to climb.

Moravian Karst hoping for UNESCO status

The Moravian Karst, which comprises over 1,000 limestone caves, is hoping to become a UNESCO geopark in 2007, its director told reporters. The famous Macocha Chasm and four other caves open to the public are visited by some 350,000 people a year. The Moravian Karst was declared a protected landscape 50 years ago, making it the second-oldest such site in the Czech Republic.

Weather

It should be partly cloudy with the chance of rain or snow over the next couple of days. Temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 5 degrees Celsius.