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Czech Watch – 30 July 2001

30.7.2001 10:45

- Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Friday immigration screening for Czechs travelling to Britain would continue. Britain launched preliminary document checks at Prague's Ruzyne airport on July 18 in order to cut down the number of asylum seekers arriving at British airports. The checks were an alternative to reintroduction of visas for Czechs visiting Britain. Several politicians and human rights groups complained that the procedure running at the airport was discriminatory. Dozens of people, many of whom are of Roma origin, have been turned back at Prague airport since the checks were implemented. Travellers denied access to the UK are granted a refund for their plane tickets.

- Czech Statistical Office revised upwards its estimates of this year’s grain harvest in the Czech Republic. The latest forecast says that the total grain harvest in the country could be up 14.5 % year-on-year, to about 7.03m tones from last year's 6.14m. Out of the total, the wheat harvest is expected to rise to 4.44m tones up from 4.08m in 2000 and the barley harvest could increase to 2.06m tones, compared with 1.63m last year. The overall crop area dipped to 1.57m hectares from 1.60m and yields are expected to rise to 4.44 tones per hectare from 3.85 tones last year. According to the Agriculture Ministry, the harvest might even be rich enough to allow grain exports.

- According to a recent CVVM poll, public support for Czech Republic's EU-membership dropped by 5 percentage points in the country since the last year to 54 %. EU entry is opposed by 29 % of respondents, 17 % have been undecided. Compared to 2000, the share of undecided did not change. All political parties present in the parliament except for communists support the entry, but the strength of the support differs. EU membership is supported by 75 % of voters of Freedom Union, ODS follows with 73 %, next is CSSD with 58 %, and the last party with a majority approval rate is KDU-CSL (54 %). Among the communists, a mere 15 % would like Czech Republic to become part of the EU. The CVVM figures differ from a similar STEM poll, according to which only 45 % of people would favor the EU entry, while 18 % would be against it and 37 % are undecided. Among most frequently quoted disadvantages, respondents mentioned loss of national sovereignty, unequal membership rights and neglect of Czech interests.

- Tax arrears in the Czech Republic fell to CZK 98.3bn at the end of June from CZK 100bn at the end of May. Most arrears (91.2bn) originate in the new tax system (in place since 1993), while only CZK 7.2bn arise from the old tax system. Year-on-year, the amount of arrears dropped by more than CZK 7bn. Arrears from VAT amounted to CZK 36.7bn at the end of June, income tax arrears were CZK 33.2bn. The share of arrears in the total amount of taxes that should be paid is close to 3.6 %. Better tax collection has been one of the top priorities of Finance Minister Rusnok.

- The Czech crown tracked the fluctuating euro/dollar to finish the day well above late Thursday's levels on Friday. Late on Friday the crown was trading at 33.78/80 to the euro from 33.89/92 late Thursday. The crown/dollar firmed to 38.60/63 from 38.67/69 late Thursday.

- The state 6.95/16 bond fell five basis points from Thursday's close to 98.80/10, yielding 7.08/04 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 25 points to 100.65/95, yielding 6.52/43. CEZ 5b 11.0625/08 lost 40bps.

late July 27/td> bond yield late July 26/td>
State 6.75/05100.65/956.52/43100.90/20
State 6.95/1698.80/107.08/0498.85/15

(Martin Kupka)

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