Wednesday, November 21, 2012

News 11.21.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By: Masha Volynsky

* The government has approved the new 2013 budget proposal that
projects a 100 billion crown deficit.

* Milan Stech has been re-elected as the Senate chairman, while Jiri
Cunek has not received enough votes to become one of the deputy

* Czech government has expressed disapproval of the proposed 2014-2020
EU budget.

* More Czechs disapprove of violence against the Roma minority,
according to the latest STEM survey.

* Dangerous levels of air pollutants have been registered in three

Government approves 2013 draft budget

The cabinet has approved a new 2013 draft budget, reflecting the
present economic situation and government-proposed austerity measures.
The new budget proposal has a projected 100 billion crown deficit and a
net decrease in revenues and expenditures of 4 billion crowns, compared
to the previous budget proposal. The deficit set by the proposal makes
up 2.9 percent of the GDP. This is the third budget proposal that the
Finance Ministry has submitted. The Chamber of Deputies is set to hold
the first hearing on the budget next Wednesday.

Stech re-elected as Senate chairman, Cunek did not get enough votes for
vice chairman

Milan Stech from the Social Democratic Party has been re-elected as
chairman of the Czech Senate. The deputy chairpersons elected on
Wednesday were Social Democrats Alena Gajduskova and Zdenek Skromach,
along with the former senate chairman for the Civic Democrats Premysl
Sobotka. Christian Democrat senator Jiri Cunek did not receive enough
votes in either of the two rounds of voting. According to the head of
the Christian Democratic club in the Senate, this invalidates an
agreement between the senate clubs made after the October senate
elections. The club will have to find a new candidate for the position.

Czechs critical of EU budget

The prime minister has announced that the Czech delegation to Brussels
will strongly voice their disapproval of the proposed EU budget for
2014-2020 at an EU summit later this week. Yet, the prime minister said
on Wednesday that he is not planning to veto the long-term budget
proposal, unlike a number of other EU members. The priority for the
Czech Republic is to remain a net recipient of EU funds and to prevent
a decrease in spending for cohesion policies.

Necas says S-Cards will not be mandatory for payments

Prime Minister Petr Necas announced Tuesday that people will not be
required to use the recently introduced social benefits S-Cards for
payment purposes. The S-Cards will be used for identification purposes,
but people will not be required to receive electronic pension, welfare
and benefits payments on the cards. Following political and public
criticism of the scheme that was launched last week, the prime minister
and the new Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerova opened
talks with the Ceska sporitelna bank, which is in charge of operating
the S-Cards, to change the current agreement the company has with the

Government approves whistleblowing proposal

The government approved a proposed amendment to the anti-discrimination
law, which should improve conditions for whistleblowers in the
workplace. The amendment provides for better legal protection for those
who report illegal activities of their employers. Anti-corruption
measures and support for whistleblowers are both part of the current
government's programs, yet this is the first legislative proposal of
its kind that has been approved since Prime Minister Petr Necas took
office in 2010. According to some experts, the proposed amendment does
not provide enough protection, and fails to create incentives for
whistleblowers. The Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake was charged
with presenting the full legislative proposal by the end of April.

More Czechs disapprove of violence against Roma

Negative attitudes among Czech towards the Roma minority have stayed
the same since last October, but violence towards the group is more
frowned upon, according to the latest survey by the STEM agency.
Seventy-one percent of the respondents expressed some level of dislike
for Romani people, only 4% less than in April 2011. Yet, 69% of people
are opposed to violence against the Roma, which is a third more than at
the same time last year. Those supporting violence make up 16% of the
respondents, while a year ago it was also 25%. According to the survey,
almost a quarter of the population has no opinion about or views
members of the Romani community the same as any other, while 5% percent
have a good or very good opinion of the minority.

Mullerova prepares a reshuffle at the ministry

The new Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerova (TOP 09)
wants to carry out personnel changes at the ministry in order to cut
ties with the former first deputy Vladimir Siska, according to the
Lidove noviny daily. Vladimir Siska was charged with bribery in
October, after which the then labor minister Jaromir Drabek resigned
from his post.

Peake suggests unifying ministries in 2014

Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has submitted a number of
proposals that would combine certain ministries, to help reduce
spending. Ms Peake has suggested unifying the Health Ministry and the
Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, as well as joining the
Transportation and the Industry and Trade ministries. Eventually, the
deputy prime minister wants the Regional Development Ministry to be
scrapped completely. The savings that would result from these changes
could be up to 7.7 billion crowns. The proposals, which are meant to
come into effect in 2014, are currently being discussed by other
ministers. Ms Peake expects that her colleagues will approve at least
one of her proposals.

Air pollution levels dangerously high in three regions

Meteorologists declared a smog alert for the region of Central Bohemia
in the early hours of Wednesday where air pollution exceeded the
permitted levels two days in a row. High levels of smog were registered
in the towns of Kladno, Beroun and Mlada Boleslav. People with chronic
lung-related problems and heart condition as well as elderly people and
children have been recommended to limit outdoor physical activities.
The authorities have also appealed to drivers to reduce their travels,
one of the major factors behind the increased pollution levels.
Meanwhile in the Moravian-Silesian region, airborne dust concentration
levels were measured on Thursday morning to be three times the normal
limit, which is 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Meteorologists in the
Olomouc region have also issued smog and air pollution warnings.

Stolen statue discovered in Vienna auction house

The bishop of the Plzen diocese, Frantisek Radkovsky, has asked legal
counsel to prepare a request addressed to the Vienna auction house im
Kinsky to hand over an 18th century statuette that was stolen from a
church in the town of Utery in the Plzen region. The sculpture of a
saint was stolen in December of 1991, before the Plzen diocese was
founded. The Czech clergy learned of the statuette's whereabouts after
im Kinsky announced the auction of the piece last week. The auction
house took the statuette off the roster after being informed by the
police that it is a stolen item.


The coming days will be overcast and foggy, with possible drizzle in
parts of the country. Daytime highs should range between 7 and 9
degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
OECD's Jens Arnold: raising VAT rates "lesser evil" for economic growth

The Czech economy has now been in recession for 15 months, which is the
longest period since the late 1990s. The ongoing crisis in the
eurozone, low household demand as well as the government's austerity
measures are all considered to be the major factors behind the
faltering economy. Last week, the Prague-based Banking Institute -
College of Banking held a conference focusing on ways of restarting
economic growth. One of the keynote speakers was Jens Arnold, a senior
economist at the international economic organization OECD. He suggested
that raising the VAT rates, as the Czech government did, would not be
as detrimental to the GDP's growth as some Czech economists, and
critics of the government believe. Mr Arnold also made a case for less
restrictive policies in the services and labour sectors. I sat down
with Jens Arnold and asked him how liberalization could help boost
S-Card system to be revised

Cards issued under a new electronic system streamlining welfare and
social benefit payments will - in the end - not be compulsory. The
prime minister made the announcement on Tuesday, making clear the
system - which has come under criticism from both non-governmental
organisations and political circles - will be revised.
Millionth internet site with Czech .cz domain name registered

The Czech internet reached a significant milestone this week, when the
one millionth website with the country domain name ending of .cz was
registered. The announcement was made by CZ.NIC, the body that
administers domain names in the Czech Republic. Perhaps surprisingly,
the majority of sites ending in .cz - 58 percent - are owned not by
firms but by individuals.

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