In the News 30.6.09

Disastrous floods raging through the country, Czechs passing EU presidency baton to the Sweds and much more

FLOODS HITTING THE CZECH LANDS. Thirteen people dead, hundreds of people evacuated, houses and roads damaged and dozens of towns and villages cut off. That is the toll of the latest floods that raged through the country last week. And what is worse, the stormy times are far from over. Czech meteorologists have been warning that more rain is to come and more merciless rivers will swell in the coming days.

Nicknamed the quickest floods, they raged through 62 towns and villages as fast as wind, claiming 13 lives in the northern and central Moravia. The second wave of the disastrous floods caused largely material damage.

Many believe that the dead toll could have been much higher if there were not for a quick help by firefighters. Their promt response to rescue those who did not hear the sirens in the middle of the night is now being appreciated.

The costs of this year’s flood damage have been officially estimated by the Central Flood Commission at CZK 5.7 billion.The Czech government promised to earmark around Czech 90 million for the victims.

Click here for a photogallery.


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CZECH PRESIDENCY OVER. On Tuesday at midnight the Czech Republic ceases to preside over the European Union (EU) with views of the Czechs heading the union varying as rainbow colors.

The Czechs were expected to prove that even as small a country as the Czech Republic is can confidently and successfully lead the 27-member bloc. However, tough challenges such as the Ukraine-Russia gas crisis, the Israel-Palestine armed conflict in Gaza and tackling the global economic downturn does not help much to curb the sharp criticism of the Czech at the EU helm.

Evaluating the presidency for Euroactiv server, Czech officials were quick to point out the French boycott of their presidency. In their view, it is the French president Nicolas Sarkozy to be blamed for his “subversive efforts”.

The French officials, including Sarkozy, openly ventilated their frustration with the Czech presidency at the June EU summit. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that “European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had been extremely efficient under an efficient French Presidency, but he was less efficient under a less efficient Czech presidency”.

The EU presidency baton will be passed to Sweden that plans to push for a more focused Lisbon strategy.

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RUNWAY TO BOOST ECONOMY. Building a second runway at Prague Airport might directly or indirectly create some 17,000 jobs across the country by 2020, according to a study on the project’s macroeconomic impact.

The state-run airport, which seeks to further expand its capacity by adding a new runway parallel to the one used today, has ordered the analysis from the economists Tomáš Sedláček, Petr Zahradník and Jan Jedlička.

If the runway is built, the study says, the country’s economy will grow by some 4 percent per year starting in 2012, with an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent and a public sector deficit worth 1.4% of GDP.


TOPOLÁNEK WINNING OVER PAROUBEK. With four months to go before the parliamentary elections, the Czech voter support has for the first time since 2007 swung from Jiří Paroubek’s Social Democrats (ČSSD) to Mirek Topolánek’s Civic Democrats (ODS), according to a survey by the Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM) at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Of those polled between 8 and 15 June, 35 percent said they would vote for ODS should general elections take place today, while only 30 percent backed ČSSD.

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The Communists would now receive 16% of the vote, and the last two parties to pass the 5 percent threshold required for lower house representation would be the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) with 6.5 percent and the Greens with 5.5 percent.

The closely watched Top 09, a new partly recently launched by former finance minister and Christian Democrat Miroslav Kalousek and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (independent), would not make it to the Chamber of Deputies with only 2 percent of the vote.

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