Czech News 17.07.2014 - 10.07.2014

18.07.2014 08:38

CR: 17.07.2014

Hundreds attend soldier’s funeral

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of one of the five soldiers killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Sergeant David Benes was laid to rest in his home town of Chomutov, north Bohemia, on Thursday. A mass served in the Church of St. Ignac was for family and friends only but the funeral at the local cemetery was open to the public. The soldier was buried with military honours.

Bill on reduced 10 percent VAT passed in its first reading

The lower house on Thursday approved in its first reading a government-proposed bill which would introduce a reduced 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. A final vote on the bill in the lower house is expected in September, after which it will still have to win approval in the Senate and be signed into law by the president.

Aero Vodochody signs sales deal with Draken International on 28 L-159 planes

The plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody has signed a contract with the American firm Draken International on the sale of 28 of the Czech army’s surplus L-159 combat aircraft. The deal is being brokered by Aero Vodochody since under Czech law the Defence Ministry cannot sell off its surplus equipment directly. The company did not say how much Draken is paying for the aircraft. According to earlier reports the price is from 16 to 18 million crowns for one plane.

PM looks at problems and priorities of human rights portfolio

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday met with the Minister For Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier to discuss problems and priorities in the given portfolio. He praised the minister’s strategy in fighting social exclusion and integrating the Roma minority. Minister Dienstbier is pushing ahead with plans to establish social housing and is currently working on a bill that would increase the powers of the Ombudsman.

Višegrad Group and South Korea to broaden cooperation

The Višegrad Group states and South Korea have agreed to broaden bilateral cooperation in the areas of business, science and culture, the ctk news agency reports. At a meeting in Bratislava on Thursday Czech, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian and South Korean officials discussed potential areas of cooperation. The Višegrad Group countries have attracted plenty of South Korean investors. Most recently the tire manufacturer Nexen chose the Czech Republic for its 23 billion crown investment, a tire plant that is expected to create over 1,000 new jobs.

President refuses to appoint Judge Jan Veselý chief justice of the regional court in Ustí nad Labem

President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint Judge Jan Veselý chief justice of the regional court in Ustí nad Labem, the ctk news agency reports. According to the president’s spokesman the head of state based his decision on the negative stand of the Czech Judges Union to the nomination as well as the poor performance of the court in Mělnik where Judge Veselý is currently chief justice.

Civil service bill set for approval in lower house next week

After seven hours of debates, Czech MPs on Wednesday night backed the government’s civil service bill which is now set for approval; the final legislative round is to begin in the lower house next week. The opposition has threatened to filibuster the draft legislation; the TOP 09 and Civic Democrat parties claim that if passed, the bill would make it difficult to dismiss public servants currently holding positions in the state administration. The bill is long overdue according to the EU and several anti-corruption NGOs which believe that it should, among other things, curb corruption among public employees.

Some charges against Barták to be reviewed

The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced physician Jaroslav Barták to 12 years in prison for sexual assault and blackmail, reducing an earlier sentence by two years and ordering the Prague municipal court to review some of the charges against him. Mr Barták was convicted of assaulting 10 women between 2006 and 2011 who worked as his assistants. The 54-year-old, who co-owns a well-known Prague clinic and served as the head of a local branch of Lions Club International, has consistently denied the charges and may once again appeal the verdict. He has in addition been charged with conspiracy to murder.


Singer Michal Hrůza in critical condition

Czech singer Michal Hrůza, who was due to perform at the Colours of Ostrava music festival tonight, is hospital in critical condition after getting into a fight outside a bar in the city in the early morning hours of Thursday. A hospital spokesperson said Hrůza had suffered severe brain damage and the prospects were uncertain. The police is investigating the incident.

Colours of Ostrava music festival kicks off on Thursday

The 13th edition of the annual international music festival Colours of Ostrava kicks off in the eastern city of Ostrava on Thursday. One of the biggest such events in central Europe, the festival’s line-up this year features more than a hundred bands and artists including the singer Robert Plant, the US bands The National and MGMT and as well as a number of Czech performers. The festival, which is held in a former mining and industrial complex in Dolní Vítkovíce, runs until Sunday; some 35,000 people are expected to attend.


MPs debate civil service act

The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Wednesday began debating a civil service bill. The legislation, put forth by the centre-left Czech government, should overhaul the rules for the employment of public servants. A similar act was adopted by Czech lawmakers in 2002 as a prerequisite for the country’s accession to the European Union but it has never entered into force. The current bill has come under criticism from the opposition which says the legislation will make it impossible to fire officials nominated by the coalition parties; however, the government claims the European Commission will halt subsidies for the Czech Republic if the bill is not approved.

Prague hospital reaches record settlement in birth brain injury case

Prague’s Vinohrady hospital has reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of a boy who suffered a serious brain injury during birth at the hospital in 2009. The facility has agreed to pay some 20 million crowns, or around one million US dollars, to the family, the hospital’s director told the news agency ČTK. It is the highest amount ever paid in compensation by a Czech health facility. Doctors at the hospital faced accusations of malpractice after they ignored signs pointing to a complicated delivery. The boy was born blind and deaf and requires continuous care. In June, a court in Prague ordered the hospital to pay 30 million crowns in compensation in a ground-breaking verdict which the hospital said it would appeal.

Press: Czech embassy in Kabul evacuated over terrorist threat

The Czech embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul has been evacuated over a terrorist threat, the news website reported on Wednesday quoting a high Czech government official. The Czech Foreign Ministry has refused to comment. The evacuation allegedly took place at a time when Defence Minister Martin Stropnický announced plans to visit the Czech army contingent stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s ISAF mission.

Wounded Czech soldier returns from Afghanistan

A 36-year-old member of the Czech army contingent in Afghanistan, wounded in Sunday’s attack in the Parwan province, has been transported to Prague, the Czech army said in a press release on Wednesday. The soldier suffered injuries after his vehicle got under fire from insurgents in the vicinity of the Bagram base. Several days before, four Czech soldiers were killed in a suicide attack near the base, and another died after he was airlifted to Prague. The wounded soldier will undergo treatment in Prague’s military hospital, the army said.

PM will discuss possible Czech posts with incoming European Commission head

Government parties again failed to agree on a Czech nominee to be European Commissioner following a meeting on Tuesday night. The three contenders put forward by the parties are still in contention. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had said he wanted a result before leaving for a Brussels summit on Wednesday. He will now discuss the possible posts that Czech candidates might receive with incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker before the negotiations resume again in Prague.

Transport ministry calls for bids for registration plates production

The Czech Transport Ministry has called for bids for the production of vehicle registration plates. For the past 13 years, the Brno-based firm Hicon has been the exclusive supplier of registration plates for the ministry. Transport Minister Antonín Prachař has criticized the system, and complained that the authorities had not been able to open the deal to other bidders. The state annually pays around 240 million crowns for some 1.4 million registration plates. However, the ministry is planning to overhaul the system so that in 2016, vehicle owners would buy the plates from one of several licensed producers.

MasterCard: Prague ranks as Europe’s ninth most attractive city for visitors

Around 4.89 million people are set to visit the Czech capital this year which makes it the ninth most attractive city in Europe, according to the MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities for 2014. London, with an estimated 18.7 million visitors, tops the global index, followed by Bangkok, Paris and Singapore. Prague, which last year ranked 10th among Europe’s most popular destinations, is supposed to attract 400,000 more visitors than in 2013, and 1.1 million more than in the previous year. MasterCard CEO for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Miroslav Lukeš said that in total, tourists are expected to spend around 3.8 million dollars on each day of their stay in Prague.

Industry minister: 84 firms received investment incentives between January and June

In total, 84 foreign companies received investment incentives from the Czech government in the first six months of this year, Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mládek told reporters on Wednesday. Up to 10,000 new jobs should be created in the Czech Republic as a result, according to Mr Mládek. The ministry also provided incentives to 54 domestic companies which should create another 4,000 jobs. Minister Mládek also noted the Czech Republic would continue developing its nuclear energy sector, a plant that will be reflected in the country’s new national energy strategy to be revealed by the end of the year.

Central Prague district unhappy with Tesco-owned convenience stores

The district of Prague 1 is not happy with a network of Tesco-owned Žabka convenience stores located in buildings owned by the municipality,, the district’s mayor, Oldřich Lomecký, told a news conference on Wednesday. Mr Lomecký said the local town hall was dissatisfied with the stores’ standards, the choice of available products and their quality; as a result, the authorities will cancel a rental contract with one of the stores, and would like to discuss the issue with Tesco management. If the situation does not improve by the end of the year, the municipality will consider renting the facilities to other firms, according to the mayor. Tesco acquired the nation-wide network of 135 Žabka convenience stores in 2011.

Environmentalists target Lego’s Czech plant in Arctic oil protest

The Czech branch of the Greenpeace environmental group on Wednesday staged a protest outside the toy producer Lego’s Czech plant. The protest is part of the group’s global campaign criticising Lego for its partnership with the oil firm Shell which is planning to expand its drilling operations in the Arctic. In a statement released on its website, Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said Greenpeace should handle the matter with Shell; meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace’s Czech branch said the protest was not aimed against Lego but was meant to highlight their cooperation with Shell.

Sparta Prague put seven without reply past Estonian opponents

In football, Sparta Prague won the first leg of the pre-qualifying Champions League match against Estonian champions Levadia Tallinn 7:0. Sparta captain David Lafata scored five goals with a hat-trick already in the bag before the break. The return leg in a week’s time in Estonia now looks like being more or less a formality.


Special session of lower house to discuss proposed civil service law

A flurry of political activity is taking place Tuesday ahead of an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament. The special session has been called by the government to push through a new civil service law. The law has been demanded by the European Commission for the last 10 years with the threat now being made that EU funding to the Czech Republic could be blocked. Centre-right opposition parties are warning they will launch delaying tactics during the debate to try and get some last minute changes to the proposed law. The government should be able to push the bill through given its comfortable majority.

Civic Democrats have more than 50 amendments to civil service bill

Civic Democrat chairman Petr Fiala said it had more than 50 changes it wanted to push through to the civil service bill and would do everything in its power to reshape the proposal. Ministers should be given the chance to appoint deputy ministers from the business sector and outside the civil service Fiala said, adding that no negotiations with the government had taken place so far. He said the Civic Democrats were working on a strategy to challenge the bill with the main opposition party, TOP 09. Civic Democrats also said they will also try to cut current Value Added Tax rates to 20 and 14 percent thanks to an unexpected surplus in earnings from the tax.

Culture ministry hit by major fine for accounting errors

The Czech Ministry of Culture has been fined almost half a billion crowns for a series of accounting and spending mistakes. The fine has been imposed by financial watchdogs over mistakes made between 2009 and 2013. These include using European funds for the restoration of some buildings when in fact it was diverted for others. For one of the lowest funded ministries, the fine is a major blow adding up to around 5 percent of its total yearly budget. The ministry says it will seek to appeal the fine though its chances of recouping the cash appear slim.

Czech Labour Office boosts staff for welfare clampdown

The Czech Labour Office has been cleared to take on around 600 new staff by the end of the year. Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Michaela Marksová has said many of the new staff will be directed to make sure that increasing social welfare payments are not being abused. State spending on emergency welfare payments rose by around a third last year to total more than 10 billion crowns. The ministry estimates that the extra checks could results in 5-10 percent savings on the budgets of some welfare payments.

Czech PM opens arms factory in Central Slovakia

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico jointly opened Czech arms producer Česká Zbrojovka’s new factory in Central Slovakia on Tuesday. The factory at Nováky should employ an extra 200 people by the end of the year. The Czech manufacturer said its decision to site the new capacity in Slovakia was caused by the skilled workforce at hand and had nothing to do with the fact that the Slovak government is looking for a supplier of new army rifles.

Ruling parties fail to agree on candidate for EU commissioner

Parties within the country’s centre-left coalition on Monday evening failed to find agreement on a nominee for the post of Czech EU commissioner. The three parties – the Social Democrats, TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats – have all pushed for their own nominees. The prime minister said that on Monday that former finance minister Pavel Mertlík and ANO’s Věra Jourová were the most discussed; negotiations on the matter are set to continue late Tuesday.

iHned: bugging device found at Energy Regulatory Office

A bugging device was uncovered in the office of the chairwoman of Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková, financial news website iHned reported on Monday. The item may have been installed around the time of this year’s Easter holidays. The head of the office said she would be discussing the matter with the police president. The listening device was reportedly located in an area where new legislation as well as steps taken by the bureau are discussed. The bureau’s spokesman declined to comment.

Prague ninth most visited city in Europe: MasterCard

Prague will be the ninth most visited city in Europe this year and the 22nd in the world according to a survey released by the credit card company MasterCard. Prague is expected to host 4.9 million visitors, placing it behind London, Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome and Vienna but ahead of Berlin, Madrid, and Warsaw. The survey estimated that visitors will spend in Prague every day a total of around 3.8 million dollars. Five years ago, in 2009, Prague had 3.8 million visitors and in 2013 4.5 million, the credit card company said. London topped the list of most visited world and European cities.

Barbora Špotákova selected as European athlete of the month

Czech javelin thrower Barbora Špotákova has been chosen as the best woman European athlete in June by European Athletics, the federation of national athletics associations. It said Špotákova had enjoyed an excellent return to serious competition in her sport after maternity leave in 2013. The Czech has won three competitions on the run including a record throw of 66.43 metres at the Diamond League meeting in Rome on June 5. One of the targets of the two times Czech olympic gold winner is to win the European Championships being held in Zurich in mid-August.

Sparta Prague in Champions League qualifier

In football, Czech league and cup champions Sparta Prague take their first step towards playing in the prestigious Champions League on Tuesday night. Sparta take on Estonian league champions Levadia Tallinn at home in the first leg of the second round prequalifying stage. Sparta are favorites to go through although the Estonia champions are now in the midst of their league season which runs from March till November.


A Czech soldier, who was critically injured last week in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, has died

A Taliban suicide bombing which killed four Czech soldiers last week near the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan has claimed a fifth life: that of a Czech sergeant who was critically injured in the attack. The Czech, who was transported by a military A-319 to a military hospital in the Czech Republic late Sunday, had undergone several difficult operations earlier. His condition had been deteriorating and he succumbed to his injuries on Monday morning. The chief of the Czech Army’s General Staff, General Petr Pavel, was informed of the death of the fifth Czech serviceman shortly afterwards. He called it a "huge loss" and said that he and other members of the military had hoped for a miracle.

President Zeman to attend meeting of V4 heads-of-state

Czech President Miloš Zeman has accepted an invitation to attend a meeting with other V4 heads-of-state in Warsaw next week, according to the president’s spokesman. The invitation was issued by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and the meeting will also be attended by Slovakia’s Andrej Kiska and Hungary’s János Áder. The V4 compromises of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Mr Zeman will reportedly use the opportunity to discuss efforts in the fight against international terrorism; also on the agenda will be preparations ahead of the NATO summit in Wales in September.

Defence Ministry and Vodochody sign contract on brokered sale of L-159s

The Defence Ministry and Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody have signed a contract on a brokered deal to sell the military’s unwanted L-159 fighter jets to the American firm Draken International. The deal will officially be announced later this week. The US company is buying 14 fighter jets at the cost of 220 to 250 million Czech crowns, with the option to purchase an additional 14. The Czech Republic, however, is also keeping the doors open for a possible sale of additional L-159s to Iraq. According to Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, the Iraqis are interested in up to 15 planes.

Czech coalition will meet to agree on single candidate for Czech EU commissioner

Coalition leaders are to meet on Monday to try and reach agreement on who should be the next Czech EU commissioner. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he wants the ruling coalition to agree on a single nominee whose name he will put forward in Brussels later in the week. The three party-coalition has been deadlocked on the issue for weeks now. The prime minister’s Social Democrats are backing the former finance minister Pavel Mertlík, the ANO party has nominated Regional Development Minister Věra Jourová, while the Christian Democrats now support a high placed Czech official in Brussels Petr Bližovský. It is not yet clear what portfolio the Czech commissioner will be given.

Czech soldiers killed in Afghanistan to be buried with military honours

The Czech soldiers killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan last Tuesday will be buried with military honours, army chief of staff spokesperson Jana Ružičková told the ctk news agency on Monday. The army has also released the names of the four soldiers with their families’ consent. Another soldier who was badly wounded in the same attack has been transported to Prague. He remains in serious condition.

Zeman to attend cabinet meeting

The Czech head-of-state will attend a cabinet meeting next Monday, according to his spokesman. Mr Zeman had promised to attend earlier several times but his attendance had been put off for various reasons. The president is expected to bring up issues including economic diplomacy and relations with target countries, as well as to take a critical stance on delays, for example, in passing a bill on social housing or steps taken in the health care sector, which he in the past labelled a ‘black hole’ for funds.

Finance Ministry to issue bonds worth more than 670 billion to cover deficit and debts

The Czech Finance Ministry plans to issue bonds worth around 670 billion, of which over 192 billion would be used to cover the budget deficit for this and last year, according to a bill on a state bond programme published on the government's website, the Czech News Agency noted. The state budget deficit last year reached 81.3 billion. For this year it is planned to rise to 112 billion crowns. Under the bill, a total of 478.7 billion crowns from the bonds would be used to cover debts that will be due in 2015 and 2016. These include an issue of domestic bonds from 2005 and 2010, and a euro bond issue worth 300 million from 2009.

Czech car output up by 10 percent at 634,913 units in H1

Czech passenger car output rose by 10.3 percent to just under 635,000 units in the first half of 2014. Skoda raised output by 24 percent to 391,844 units. Hyundai produced 159,980 cars, up by 3 percent year-on-year. TPCA, on the other hand, registered a decrease by 20 percent to 83,089 cars. For the entire 2014, the association expects total passenger car output to reach 1.18 million units, which would be the second biggest result after record-high figures in 2011.Bus output rose by 15.5 percent to 1,644 units, of which company Iveco had market share of 86 percent, SOR Libchavy 12 percent and KH motor Centrum almost 2 percent. Lorry production decreased as Tatra, the sole lorry maker on the Czech market, reduced output by 13 percent to 337 vehicles. The output of Jawa motorbikes increased by 6 percent to 890 units.

Five people injured in bus crash

Five people were injured in Liberec on Monday in a crash involving a personal automobile and a bus. The traffic accident was the fault of the driver in the car, who failed to acknowledge right-of-way. She suffered light injuries; four more people, the driver of the bus and three passengers, also suffered light injuries. Damage to the car was estimated at 150,000 crowns and 80,000 to the other vehicle.

Masters of Rock draws 25,000 visitors

The 12th annual Masters of Rock festival, which wrapped up on Sunday in the Zlín region, saw 25,000 visitors this year – over 3,000 more than last, according to organisers. Over four days fans turned up to see bands including Dream Theater, Sabaton, Anthrax and Helloween. Also popular was a project entitled Rocksymphony performed by the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra together with Czech rock star Marta Jandová.


Another Czech soldier injured in attack on night patrol at Bagram military base

Another Czech soldier has been injured during an attack on a nigh patrol at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan. The patrol came under fire from insurgents not far from the base which the Czech unit serving under ISAF is protecting. The injured soldier underwent surgery at a US military hospital in Bagram. He is reported to be in stable condition. On Tuesday this week four Czech soldiers were killed and another was seriously injured in a terrorist attack near the Bagram military base.

Czech Republic seen as second worst EU country in which to start up a business

The Czech Republic is the second worst country in the EU in which to start up a business, according to a report by the World Economics Form. A survey among local entrepreneurs indicates that the process of setting up a business is bureaucratic and time consuming. Respondents also noted the difficulties of acquiring start-up loans. Only 15 percent of Czechs have moved to establish their own private business, which is the lowest number in the EU.

ANO party surging ahead in popularity ratings

The ANO party of the ruling coalition has surged ahead in popularity ratings. According to a survey conducted by the polling agency Aisa the party would now get 31 percent voter support, as compared to the 18.6 percent it won in last year’s general elections. The Social Democrats, which won the elections with just over 20 percent of the vote, would now only get 16 percent, followed by the Communist Party with 11.5 percent and TOP 09 with 11 percent of the vote. The Civic Democrats would get 7 percent and the junior party in the ruling coalition would get 5.5 only just crossing the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats in the lower house.

Georgian film Corn Island picks up main prize at Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Georgian filmmaker George Ovashvili’s Corn Island won the main prize –the Crystal Globe Award - at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Saturday night. The psychological drama is the story of an old peasant who transmits the wisdom of life to his granddaughter and reflects on the importance of harmony between man and nature. The winning film was made in coproduction with Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan.

The audience's prize went to a Czech entry - Olga Sommerova's documentary film The Magic Voice of a Rebel, which tells the life story of singer and dissident Marta Kubišová.

The Best Actress award went to Ella Fanning for her performance in Low Down, a U.S. film directed by Jeff Preiss and Nahuel Perez Biscayart picked up the Best Actor award for his role in All Yours, a Belgian-Canadian movie directed by David Lambert.

The jury's special prize went to Hungarian film maker Goergy Palfi for Free Fall. The main prize in the East of the West category went to Ivan Tverdovsky’s Corrections Class, a Russian-German co-production.

Czech Post wants hundreds of small outlets franchised

Czech Post wants to franchise around 200 of its small outlets within the next two years, the company’s general director Martin Elkan told Czech Television on Sunday. At present it has 49 such outlets. Czech Post has come under fire for wanting to close down dozens of small unprofitable outlets around the country. Its CEO said that this was no longer on the agenda but that the company had to find a compromise solution.

A viral epidemic is threatening bee colonies in central Bohemia

A viral epidemic is threatening bee colonies in central Bohemia. Experts say it is the seventh outbreak this year. Bee-keepers in more than a hundred towns and villages are at risk and have been placed in a quarantine zone, meaning they are not allowed to move hives and queen bees outside this region. Regulations in this country ban treating infected colonies with antibiotics. All such colonies must be destroyed.

One killed, four injured in Ostrava motorcycle race

Sunday’s motorcycle race in Ostrava ended in tragedy after several drivers were caught up in a dangerous pileup on a closed track. The accident happened shortly after the race had started. One driver was killed and four others were injured, one of them seriously. The cause of the accident is not yet clear.


The 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival to end with gala awards ceremony tonight

The 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is to end with a gala closing awards ceremony on Saturday evening. Two Czech films are in the running for the main prize: Andrea Sedláčková’s Fair Paly and Miroslav Krobot’s Nowhere in Moravia. The festival screened over 200 films including seven international premieres, two Czech premieres and, for the first time ever, an animated film. It will close with a screening of Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales. For the first time ever the closing film and the closing gala ceremony of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will be shown live in cinemas around the Czech Republic.

President and finance minister come out in Kvitová’s defense

President Miloš Zeman and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš have stood up for Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová who is under fire for declaring her official residence to be the tax haven of Monaco. Finance Minister Babiš said in an interview for that since the Czech tennis star generally plays abroad her tournament wins would not be taxed in the Czech Republic anyway. President Zeman noted that Kvitová’s decision was a common practice among world class tennis stars and that the Czech Republic should be proud to have such an ambassador. He said he would be happy to receive her at Prague Castle. Left-wing politicians have slammed Kvitová for the decision and suggested she should no longer play for the Czech Republic.

ANO candidate for EU commissioner says she is up to the challenge

Regional Development Minister Věra Jourová, whom the coalition party ANO last week put forward as its nominee for EU commissioner, says that while regional development is her main area of interest she feels up to the challenge of accepting other portfolios. ANO put forward a new nominee, in place of former EU commissioner Pavel Telicka, in the hope of reaching agreement on the home front and winning support in Brussels which the party feels might be more inclined to favour a woman candidate. The Social Democrats are still pushing their own candidate for EU commissioner – former finance minister Pavel Mertlík. The coalition parties will try to agree on a single candidate next week.

Insurance company puts money into prevention to fight child obesity

A Czech health insurance company has launched a pilot health awareness project for the parents and children to help fight obesity, the ctk news agency reports. Five percent of Czech children are obese and a growing number of them are overweight, largely due to a bad lifestyle. Doctors and insurance companies have been trying to reverse this trend since 78 percent of overweight children carry the problem into adulthood, resulting in serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. The prevention pilot project is for one parent and child and focuses on nutrition and physical activity.

Czech holidaymakers in Craotia get assistance from Czech police

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and Police President Tomáš Tuhý have concluded a three-day working visit to Croatia. Craotia is one of the most popular holiday destinations with Czechs and the two country’s police forces cooperate in dealing with holiday makers’ problems. Throughout the summer and autumn a group of Czech police officers join Croat patrols to help deal with traffic accidents, thefts of documents and other problems. They also operate a phone helpline in Czech. According to the Croat authorities Czech tourists are relatively problem free and the joint patrols eliminate serious problems.

Three complete hour-long closures on D1 highway tonight

Three stretches of the D1 highway between Šternov and Psáří in the Benešov region will be completely closed to traffic in both directions shortly before midnight on Saturday and in the early hours of Sunday. The closures should take place successively and each closure should last for about an hour. The measure is due to work on an overpass which could not be undertaken with the present restriction of traffic to two lanes.

Missing taxi driver unharmed

A Prague taxi-driver who had gone missing for several days, sparking fears he might have been murdered, has contacted his family from Paris to confirm that he is alive and unharmed. His disappearance triggered a nation-wide search in connection with the still unexplained murders of three Prague taxi-drivers since the beginning of this year. One was shot in the head from behind in February after taking his client to an abandoned location outside Prague, the other two were murdered in a similar fashion in April. The case has spread panic among Prague taxi drivers and many are refusing to pick up clients on the street.


ANO puts forward Věra Jourová as European Commission candidate

The ANO party has made an about turn over its candidate to be the next Czech EU Commissioner by saying that Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová is now its nominee and not Pavel Telička. Jourová said she was willing to be put forward as long as a suitable post in line with her current responsibilities is on offer, according to Czech Television. The move seeks to break a deadlock between the two main parties with worries growing that Czech hopes of security an important portfolio are being dented by the delay putting forward a candidate. Czech Prime Minister Bohulsav Sobotka earlier expressed the hope that the Czechs could land an important economic dossier or portfolio such as energy. Telička, elected as a member of the European Parliament, has been damaged by his past lobbying activities in Brussels, notably his connections with the Czech multi-millionaire Zděnek Bakala.

Supreme Audit Office: Czech Republic might lose up to 62 billion in EU subsidies

The Czech Republic could lose up to 65 billion crowns in EU subsidies earmarked for the country in the financial period 2007-2013, according to a report by the country’s Supreme Audit Office released on Friday. The office said that by the end of last year, funds had been released to finance projects worth 395 billion crowns, which represents only some 54 percent of all available funds. The share increased to 57 percent by the end of the first quarter of 2014; however, the country could lose the funds due to slow processing of the projects as well as errors made in choosing projects to get EU funding, the head of the office said.

Czech unions threaten with protests over public employees salary increase

Czech trade unions have threatened to stage protests if public employees are not granted a 3.5 percent pay rise next year. The Czech centre-left government has promised to increase salaries in the public sector by 3.5 percent in 2015 but union leaders say the rise is not planned for all public workers. The head of the Czech trade union association, Josef Středula, said they would raise the issue with government officials by the end of July and in early September when draft state budget for next year is to be finalized. If their demands are not met, they are ready to launch protests in the following months, Mr Středula said.

Audit at Social Democrat ministries finds suspicious deals worth two billion

An audit at government ministries run by the Social Democrats has discovered suspicious deals worth around two billion crowns, Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka told a news conference on Friday. Around half of the potentially wasted funds is related to several problematic IT deals of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Mr Sobotka said the situation in the state administration was worse than expected, and blamed the problems on past Czech governments. The prime minister and his team has reviewed four ministries controlled by the Social Democrats; Mr Sobotka said that audits would continue. A review of six ministries controlled by the ANO party earlier this year found suspicious deals worth 16 billion crowns.

Temelín nuclear plant taken off grid

The Temelín nuclear power plant has been taken off the grid after one of its reactors experienced problems with one of the pumps in plant’s first water circuit, a spokesman for the plant said. The reactor was taken off the grid on Thursday night. The plant’s other reactor was shut down in June due planned flue replacement. The plant’s operator, the state-run firm ČEZ, said the shutdown would not affect customers as the firm has replaced Temelín’s output with electricity from other sources.

Special tax-evasion unit uncovers 270 million fraud

A special tax-evasion unit set up by the Czech Finance Ministry, has uncovered fraud worth 270 million crowns, the head of the Czech Tax Administration, Jiří Žežulka told reporters. Four men have been charged with tax evasion in the case; the men allegedly carried out fictitious sales of technology to offshore firms, and then applied for VAT reimbursement. The alleged fraud is the first case uncovered by the special unit, dubbed Kobra which was set up earlier this year and includes experts from the tax and customs administration and the police.

Sixteen firms bidding for medical marihuana deal

Sixteen Czech firms have presented their bids for licences to grow and sell medical marihuana to pharmacies, the State Institute for Drug Control said on Friday. In the first phase of the two-round tender, the institute will review technical conditions while price will be the decisive factor in the second round. The winner will receive a licence to supply 40 kilos of medical marihuana. The drug is now legally imported from the Netherlands but no patients have been prescribed medical marihuana so far due to issues with prescription procedures, the news agency ČTK reported.

Poll: 45 pct of Czechs support gay marriage

Some 45 percent of Czechs support gay couples’ right to marry, according to a poll by the CVVM agency released on Friday. Around 73 percent of those surveyed said they were in favour of gay people’s registered partnership. The share of those supporting gay marriage has decreased by six percentage points since the previous poll conducted last year, the agency said. Meanwhile, some 45 percent of people in the Czech Republic believe gays should be able to adopt children, an idea opposed by 48 percent of those who took part in the poll.

Some 200 trains face delays over faulty power line

Some 200 trains running on a major railway route between Prague and Kolín are facing delays on Friday over a faulty power line, a spokesman for the country’s Railway Infrastructure Administration said. The incident has affected a number of connections between the capital and major cities in eastern Czech Republic including Brno, Břeclav, Olomouc and Ostrava. Several trains have been cancelled while express trains are being diverted to an alternate route. The authorities expect the power line will be fixed by 6 PM on Friday.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová comes under attack for Monaco tax status

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová has come under fire from left leaning Czech politicians for the fact that she has declared her official residence to be the tax haven of Monaco and does not pay taxes in her home country. In a Facebook comment, Social Democrat member of parliament Stanislav Huml suggested that Kvitová lose her Czech citizenship because of the tax move, reportedly carried out at the end of October last year. Parliamentary colleague and head of the Budget Committee Václav Votova suggested that Kvitová no longer play for her country. Most Czech tennis stars are now based in Monaco.

Man arrested over threats to tennis star Petra Kvitová

The police have arrested a 53-year-old man who allegedly made a threating phone call to Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová, a police spokeswoman said on Friday. The man reportedly made the phone call on Thursday, cursed at the tennis player and threatened her with physical violence and death. The tennis player alerted the police who arrested the man several hours later. The man’s motivation remains unclear. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.


Czechs honour four soldiers killed in Afghanistan suicide attack

Sirens sounded and bells tolled across the Czech Republic at midday on Thursday in homage to the four Czech soldiers who were killed in a bomb attack near the Bagram airport in Afghanistan on Tuesday. A fifth Czech who was seriously injured has been operated on again in hospital and is said to be in a stable but serious condition. He will not be able to return home for at least 10 days.

The bodies of the four in coffins draped with the national flag were airlifted back to Prague’s Kbely military airport on Thursday afternoon. President Miloš Zeman, Defense Ministry officials and members of the soldiers’ special unit were present to pay their respects. Flags have been being flown at half mast and candles light. All four soldiers will be awarded medals for bravery in memoriam. President Zeman said the men’s actions in Afghanistan helped protect civilians from attack at home and that was the main significance of their sacrifice.

Parachutists from the brigade in Chrudim, eastern Bohemia, where three of the four dead soldiers were based will start a public collection. Money collected will be divided between the families of the bereaved.

Pressure for Czech EU Commission selection grows

Czech media reported Thursday mounting pressure to select a new European Commissioner as other countries have already made their choice and deals over the hand out of portfolio’s start. The two main government parties, the Social Democrats and ANO, have each put forward their own candidates and in recent weeks have refused to concede. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported that one option that has surfaced is to keep current Czech commission Štefan Füle on. Another possibility might be ANO Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová, be nominated for the post,it said. The business daily Hospodářské Noviny said a vote in the Cabinet might be called for in which the chances would increase that Social Democrat nominee Pavel Mertík would win.

Czech Republic chastised over failing to carry out air traffic shake-up

The Czech Republic has been criticized by the European Commission along with 17 other countries for failing to take steps for reorganizing its airspace management in line with European rules aimed at establishing more efficient and cheaper routes for planes. The decade old European rules calls for countries to cooperate by organising air traffic in functional blocks instead of along more traditional national lines. Czech neighbours Poland and Slovakia are also fingered for failing to make the required changes.

Two Czech children seriously injured on holiday in Croatia

Two Czech children are reported to have been seriously injured in a boat collision off the island of Hvar in Croatia, local media have reported. The two girls, both under the age of ten, are reported to have been airlifted to a hospital in Split in serious condition. The news site says one of them underwent brain surgery and both remain in intensive care.

European court rules on Czech surveillance camera case

A European court has failed to give a clear ruling on a Czech case focused on whether a property owner has the right to install and surveillance cameras and make use of the footage. The case has ended up before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg after a journalist in Tábor installed cameras after persistent attacks on his house. Footage of two suspects breaking into his home was captured in 2007 and they were identified as a result. But the home owner was then fined by the Office for Protection of Personal Data because the cameras took in part of a public street as well. The advocate general pushed back the case to Czech courts saying that they would have to decide whether the use of the cameras was an exceptional circumstance which took precedence over privacy.

PM Bohuslav Sobotka continues ministry tour at transport

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has continued his tour of ministries with a visit to the Ministry of Transport and its head Antonín Prachař on Thursday. Prachař said that work on the D11 motorway from Prague to Hradec Králové and onwards to Trutnov and the Polish border should start in a few weeks. Effects of a landslide which disrupted work on the D8 motorway to Teplice should be dealt with by the end of the year, the minister added. There was no need to change the planned route of the motorway, he added. Mr. Sobotka stressed the importance of a high speed rail link between Prague and Munich, adding that there was a lot of room for rail services to neighbouring Germany to be improved.

Zdeněk Svěrák awarded president’s prize at Karlovy Vary festival

Czech film actor, scriptwriter, director, and writer Zdeněk Svěrák ws awarded the president’s prize at the International Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Thursday for his lifetime contribution to cinema. The 78-year-old Czech, who won an Oscar in 1996 for the film Kolya in which he starred and directed, was given a standing ovation at the presentation in the spa town. Svěrák, whose films often contain a large dose of humour, said laughter was the main reward for his work.

Police swoop on South Bohemia auto theft gang

Police in South Bohemia say they have caught a gang responsible for stealing a total of around 30 cars, motorbikes, and tractors. The apprehended men are aged between 29 and 40 and could face prison sentences of up to eight years if they are found guilty. Goods were stolen almost daily and many of the vehicles were broken up and sold as spares. For the tractors though, documents were falsified and the group sought to sell them to farmers. The dauntless gang also apparently stole even from the police, with an engine from a car driven by a policemen found mounted in one of the alleged ringleader’s vehicles.

Last day of the Kunín jackal

A jackal has been shot by a hunter near Kunín in the eastern Moravia-Silesia region. The hunter apparently mistook the animal for a fox. It is the first time that a jackal has been found in the part of the Czech Republic though they have been spotted in the past in South Moravia and in Central Bohemia. The jackal is now set to be preserved and put on show at the local museum in Nový Jičín.

Czechs to honour soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The remains of the four Czech soldiers killed in Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Afghanistan will be flown back to the Czech Republic on Thursday. The government special is expected to arrive at Kbely airport around 13 pm CET. President Miloš Zeman, Defense Ministry officials and members of the soldiers’ special unit will be present to pay their respects. Flags are being flown at half mast and at noon bells will toll and sirens will sound around the country in their memory. All four soldiers will be awarded medals for bravery in memoriam.