Czech News 31.07.2014 - 22.07.2014

01.08.2014 07:49

CR: 31.07.2014

Czech PM meets with Austrian chancellor

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann arrived in Prague on Thursday for talks with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. On the agenda was the discussion of plans to improve cross-border transport infrastructure including the modernization of railway connections between Vienna and Prague. Also on the agenda were candidacies for the European Commission as both the Czech Republic and Austria are hoping to clinch the post of commissioner for regional policy. On Thursday, Prime Minister Sobotka and his Austrian counterpart agreed to meet in the future on a regular basis, also incuding Slovakia's prime minister; the next meeting is expected to take place next spring.


Police arrest Georgian recidivist at Prague’s international airport

A 36-year-old Georgian national, wanted on an international arrest warrant and regarded as highly dangerous, was apprehended on Monday at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport, a spokeswoman for the Czech Foreigners’ Police has revealed. The foreign national, a known drug addict and recidivist suffering from hepatitis, travelled from Kiev using a fake Russian passport. His luggage contained a large quantity of methadone and a device used for monitoring individuals and their vehicles, the Czech News Agency reported.

According to the police spokeswoman, the country’s unit for uncovering organised crime had determined beyond a doubt the suspect arrived in the country to commit a murder. The identity of his supposed target remains unknown. In the past, the wanted man served eight years in Georgia for illegal arms possession and was jailed in Russia for kidnapping. Extradition proceedings against him have been launched; he faces up to ten years in prison in his homeland.


EC candidate: Talks on postponement of Czech civil service bill possible

The introduction of new civil service legislation by January 1, 2015 is not an ultimatum set by the European Union and a postponing of the deadline could still be negotiated, the Czech candidate for European commissioner Věra Jourová said on Thursday in an interview for Czech TV. She made the statement as it remains unclear whether the coalition government will succeed in pushing through its amendment in the lower house, even though it has a majority, due to the right-wing opposition doing its utmost to preventing a vote on the amendment from taking place. The opposition TOP 09 and Civic Democrats say they will not stop blocking the session unless the coalition accepts a number of changes to the amendment. The ruling coalition Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats discussed the matter on Thursday.


Coalition to debate civil service law with opposition

The three parties in government have agreed to hold talks with the opposition on the final framework of a civil service amendment. According to the Czech News Agency, two representatives from each of the parties in the lower house will meet on Friday. A number of alternatives regarding parts of the legislation have been proposed for debate; critics have charged quality legislation was needed rather than just meeting the deadline of January 1. The centre-right opposition of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have said they will block the bill unless the proposal sees changes.


Czech TV: Former head of Pražské služby charged

According to Czech TV, police have pressed charges against Tomáš Kolinger, the former head of Pražské služby (overseeing waste management in the capital), two days after detectives raided the firm’s headquarters and confiscated material. Police were allegedly searching for documents possibly related to the firm’s multi-billion deals on waste collection as well as a planned acquisition of an additional stake in the company by Prague City Hall. Kolinger faced questioning by the police, his lawyer revealed. The spokeswoman for the state prosecutors’ office in Prague, along with the spokesman for the anti-corruption police unit, said they would not be revealing additional information at present.


Sixty-two people die on Czech roads in July

Sixty-two people died in accidents on Czech roads up to July 31st, the Czech News Agency reports. The month was the second-worst so far this year. The worst was June, during which 67 people died in traffic accidents. The first half of the year saw just over 40,000 road accidents resulting in 266 deaths and more than 1,200 suffering serious injuries. The number of road deaths in 2014 overall has increased by 26 compared to the same period last year.


Vandals damage Václav Havel site in České Budějovice

Vandals damaged an unconventional memorial dedicated to the late Václav Havel located on campus at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. Unknown perpetrators broke three of four glass decorative items on two chairs at the Václav Havel "bench", a small area designed to invite discussion. The decorative elements, like the chairs in Prague’s version, were designed by architect and friend to Mr Havel, Bořek Šípek. Police are checking data from a surveillance system to try and gain information. Besides České Budějovice and Prague, three more such memorials are located in Washington D.C., Dublin and Barcelona.


Daily: Czech-owned military helicopters dependent on Russian supplies

A decision by Russia to halt supplies of spare parts for military helicopters, in response to EU sanctions, would impact the Czech military, financial daily Hospodářské noviny writes. Such a move would, for example, eventually ground the military’s fleet of 16 Mi-171s. Citing analysis by the Defence Ministry, the daily reports the aircraft could only operate for six months without a new influx of parts and supplies. The Mi-171s are highly-regarded within the military, otherwise easy to maintain and capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, the only “flaw” being their dependency on spare parts from Russia, the daily writes. To fulfil urgent tasks, the military needs a minimum of 12 helicopters in operation. A short-term solution, in case of a supply halt, would be the "cannibalisation" or taking parts from some of the aircraft for use in others. In the meantime, the military would have to seek Western-made helicopters to replace the Mi-171s.


Česka spořitelna posts 4.6-percent profit decrease in H1

The Czech Republic’s biggest bank, Česká spořitelna, has posted a consolidated net profit of 7.78 billion crowns for the first six months of the year which is 4.6 percent less than in the same period last year. The bank’s operating profit remained at 11.47 billion. The bank said the decrease in profit was due to decreasing prices of financial services as well as growing costs of commissions paid for credit and debit card transactions. Česká spořitelna’s parent company, Austria’s Erste Group Bank, has meanwhile posted a loss of nearly 930 million euros for the first six months of 2014.


Vítkovice Steel to close Ostrava plant next Sept. at latest

Vítkovice Steel will close its Ostrava plant by September 30, 2015 at the latest, spokesman Jaromír Krisica told the Czech News Agency on Thursday. Vítkovice Steel currently employs more than 1,000 people, with 250 located at the Ostrava plant. It is not yet clear how many people will be dismissed. The company management decided to halt investments in one of its units. Without the unit, a permit which it needs for the steel plant´s operation expires on September 30 next year. Shareholders ordered the management to prepare a phase-out plan for the steel plant that will minimise the impact on employment in the region and will respect customer-supplier relations, Krisica said.


Czech PM: EU’s sanctions on Russia won’t hurt Czech economy

Extended EU sanctions against Russia adopted over Moscow’s alleged support for the rebels in Ukraine will not have any significant impact on the Czech economy, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said in a statement on Wednesday. The sanctions are targeting Russia’s oil sector, defence equipment and sensitive technologies. However, the Czech Republic’s trade to Russia is based on civilian goods, Mr Sobotka said. The opposition Civic Democrats have questioned the prime minister’s claim, and said any effective sanctions must also logically hurt those who impose them.

Opposition slams government for not backing Israel in UN vote

The opposition Civic Democrats have slammed the centre-left Czech government over what they called a diversion from the country’s policy of supporting Israel. The party criticized the fact that last week, the Czech Republic was one 17 countries that abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution to launch a probe into Israel’s actions in Gaza. Civic Democrat chair Petr Fiala demanded explanation from Foreign Minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, and said Israel deserved the Czech Republic’s full support. In a reaction, Minister Zaorálek said the Czech position on the UN vote had been coordinated with other EU member states.

Top court strikes down legislation denying tax breaks to working pensioners

The Czech Constitutional Court has struck down legislation that denies tax breaks of some 25,000 crowns to working pensioners. Acting on a motion filed by a group of senators, the court said the legislation created inequality by only denying tax breaks to people who were receiving pensions on January 1 of the given year but not to others who began receiving pensions on any other day. The legislation was introduced in 2013 as part of the then centre-right government’s austerity measures. However, the lower house of Parliament is set to vote on a bill that would re-introduce tax breaks for working pensioners regardless of the Constitutional Court’s verdict.

Report: Student allowed to retake exit test after accusing teacher of anti-Islamism

The regional authorities in Ústí nad Labem have allowed a Muslim student to repeat her school-leaving exams at a local secondary medical school after she accused one of the teachers on the examination board of anti-Islamism, the news website reported on Wednesday. The student reportedly failed her Czech language exam in May; she claimed she was deliberately failed because she had objected to the teacher showing students anti-Muslim videos during his classes. The teacher, who also serves as an evangelical pastor in the city, has denied the accusations but the regional authorities have approved the student’s request to resit the exams.

Anti-corruption police raid Prague’s municipal services firm

Detectives from the anti-corruption unit of the Czech police on Wednesday raided the headquarters of Pražské služby, a city-run firm providing municipal services in the capital, the news website reported. A spokesman for the unit did not comment on the operation but the website said the police were searching for documents possibly related to the firm’s multi-billion deals on waste collection as a planned acquisition of an additional stake in the company by Prague City Hall.

Social Watch criticizes Czech Republic over social housing, anti-Romany riots

Social Watch, an international anti-poverty advocacy group, has criticized the Czech Republic over increasing numbers of overpriced and substandard accommodation facilities often used by the poor, and continuing anti-Romany rallies. In its annual report for 2013 released on Wednesday, the group says the country was affected by chaos, incompetence, record-high unemployment and decreasing living standards for a majority of the population. The group has also criticized a lack of women in the lower house of Parliament and other top political positions.

Czech Aeroholding’s operating profit down in 2013

The state-owned Czech Aeroholding’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, or EBITDA, reached 2.2 billion crowns last year, the firm said in a statement on Wednesday. That is 0.4 billion less than in 2012. The company took in 16.3 billion crowns in revenues last year. The company said the results were affected by the incorporation of the carrier Czech Airlines and Prague’s Václav Havel Airport into the firm.

Court clears TV anchor of communist-era secret police collaboration allegations

A court in Prague on Wednesday ruled that a former anchor for the commercial Czech TV channel Nova, Karel Voříšek, was wrongfully listed as a collaborator of the communist-era secret police, the StB. Mr Voříšek stopped working for Nova in 2012 after allegations surfaced that he reported to the StB on his fellow students while studying at the Faculty of Arts of Prague’s Charles University in 1980s.

Heavy storms with hail to hit Czech Republic

Meteorologists have warned of heavy storms with hail that are to hit the Czech Republic on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. The storms are expected to move in from Germany to western Bohemia before advancing to the east of the country. The warning is in place until Thursday evening. Meteorologists have also warned that torrential rain could flood roads and buildings in low-lying areas.

Attack victim Hrůza brought out of induced coma

Doctors have brought musician Michal Hrůza out of an induced coma, his manager told reporters. The singer and songwriter, who is 43, suffered brain injuries as a result of being attacked in Ostrava nearly two weeks ago after reportedly attempting to calm an altercation on the city’s bar-filled Stodolní Street. Hrůza was in the city to perform at the Colours of Ostrava music festival.

Sparta beat Malmo 4:2 in Champions League third qualifying round first leg

Sparta Prague beat the Swedish club Malmo 4:2 in the first leg of their third round qualification tie for European soccer’s Champions League on Tuesday night. Sparta twice fell behind but recovered thanks to a hat-trick from captain David Lafata. The away leg takes place in Sweden next Wednesday. If the Czech title-holders capitalise on their advantage they will enter the final qualifying round for the lucrative competition.


Foreign Ministry advises Czechs not to travel to Libya

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a warning to Czech citizens not to travel to Libya. Ministry spokesperson Johana Grohová said any Czechs already in Libya were advised to leave the country as its government was not in control of the security situation amid fighting with militias. The conflict has led to the closure of the international airport in Tripoli. Ms. Grohová said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unaware of any Czechs being in Libya, though it did know of 10 who had married into local families.

Draft legislation envisages ban on smoking in Czech restaurants from 2016

Smoking in restaurants and pubs in the Czech Republic could become illegal from January 2016, under a bill being prepared by the Minister of Health, Svatopluk Němeček, for presentation to the government later this year. Mr. Němeček has drawn on a previous unsuccessful amendment put forward by a predecessor, Leoš Heger, but has made some changes to the draft legislation, including adding a provision under which electronic cigarettes would be permitted in eateries. An estimated 30 percent of Czechs smoke, with around 18,000 people dying as a result of smoking in the Czech Republic every year.

PM prefers ministry bill on all national parks to Senate law on Šumava

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is opposed to a special law on the Šumava national park tabled by a group of Senators and approved by the upper chamber. Speaking after a meeting with the minister of the environment, Richard Brabec, Mr. Sobotka said he favoured general legislation on the country’s national parks that has been drafted by the Ministry of the Environment. It would make more parts of four Czech national parks accessible to the public. The government is due to discuss the Senate bill on Wednesday; it was approved despite criticism from environmental groups and contradicts the Ministry of the Environment’s draft legislation.

Ministry rejects pardon request from double-murderer Kajínek

The Ministry of Justice has turned down a pardon request from Jiří Kajínek, who is serving a life sentence for two counts of murder and one of attempted murder in 1993. Mr. Kajínek, who claims he was framed, has twice failed in appeals to the Constitutional Court to have his case reopened. Czech Television reported that the ministry had written to the prisoner on Monday to inform him of its decision. The minister of justice, Helena Válková, has said she regards Mr. Kajínek’s sentence as overly harsh, though President Miloš Zeman said he would not pardon him as his life was not in danger.

Czech government and Hyundai to sign deal on new plant in Mošnov

The Czech government is to sign a deal with the South Korean company Hyundai Mobis on the construction of a four billion crown plant for the production of car headlights in Mošnov, north Moravia. The construction of the plant should start in summer 2015, and be finished in nine to ten months. It is expected to create around 1,000 new jobs in an area where unemployment is traditionally high. Hyundai, which has promised to invest into the local infrastructure, will be eligible to corporate income tax relief for ten consecutive years.

Czech and Slovak banks sign agreement on supporting joint business ventures

The Czech Republic’s Export Bank and Slovakia’s Eximbank are to sign an agreement on cooperation in supporting joint Czech and Slovak business ventures abroad. The agreement, which is to be signed in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Tuesday, aims to bolster the two countries’ positions particularly on markets in the Far East where the now defunct label Made in Czechoslovakia still has a high brand awareness. The head of the Czech Export Bank Karel Bureš told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that the agreement did not envisage the revival of the Made in Czechoslovakia label, an idea that was recently rejected by the Slovak president, but merely intended to support the two countries’ joint presence in business ventures and thereby increase their competitiveness.

Former chief hygiene officer gets suspended sentence over dubious contract

A Prague court has handed former chief hygiene officer Michael Vít a three-year suspended sentence for signing unnecessary contracts for advisory services while he was a deputy minister for health in 2007. Mr. Vít was found guilty of exceeding the powers of an official and breach of trust. He has been ordered to repay the ministry CZK 1.7 million crowns. The verdict can be appealed.

Directorial debut of actor Krobot tops Czech box office

The directorial debut of actor Miroslav Krobot, Díra u Hanušovic (Nowhere in Moravia), was the biggest film at the box office in the Czech Republic in the last week. The movie, an amusing drama set in a small town, took over CZK 3.5 million in its opening weekend on sales of almost 28,000 tickets. Mr. Krobot heads the popular Dejvické divadlo theatre and several of its actors appear in the film.

Exhibition maps history and renovation of Hus statue in Prague

The City Gallery Prague has launched a panel exhibition by a statue of Jan Hus on the city’s Old Town Square mapping the history and ongoing restoration of the large piece. The material holding the different parts together has been replaced, while the next phase of the renovation project will involve conservation work on the bronze exterior, cleaning the stone and renewing the seams. The job is set for completion next year, which will be the 100th anniversary of the statue’s unveiling and the 600th anniversary of Hus’s death.


Catholic primate to mark centenary of death of Franz Ferdinand with mass at Czech castle where archduke lived

The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Dominik Duka, is set to serve a requiem mass on Saturday evening for Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination exactly 100 years ago sparked World War I. The mass will take place in the courtyard of Konopiště Castle – where Franz Ferdinand lived – and will be attended by the Czech culture minister, Daniel Herman, and the Austrian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff. Exhibitions and other events are also being held in various parts of the country to mark the centenary.

Cyclist Kreuziger could face disciplinary proceedings over abnormalities in biological passport

Leading Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger could face disciplinary proceedings from the sport’s international governing body Union Cycliste Internationale over abnormalities found in his biological passport for 2011 and 2012. Kreuziger, who is 28, has issued a statement denying having taken any banned substances. His team Tinkoff-Saxo say they will not enter him in the imminent Tour de France or any other races until the matter has been resolved.

Former police chief Lessy demands compensation over prosecution

Former national police chief Petr Lessy is demanding compensation of CZK 1.2 million and a formal apology from the state for being prosecuted in 2012. He was removed as police president by the then minister of the interior after being charged with slander and abuse of office before a court threw out the prosecution last year. Mr. Lessy told Czech Radio on Saturday that the amount he was demanding corresponded to his legal fees and lost income.

Warning of storms in some regions issued for Sunday

Forecasters say heavy storms are likely to hit the eastern part of the Czech Republic on Sunday. The Czech Hydro Meteorological-Institute on Saturday warned that the Pardubice, the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, Moravia and Silesia regions would see heavy rain, hail and strong winds, with flooding possible in some places. The storms are expected to hit between 9 PM Sunday and 3 AM Monday.

July to be relatively cool and wet, say forecasters

Temperatures in the Czech Republic in July should be on the cooler side and are unlikely to rise above 30 degrees Celsius, according to a monthly forecast issued by the Czech Hydro Meteorological-Institute. Rainfall is expected to be higher than average for the time of year, particularly in the next week.

Kvitová edges Venus Williams in epic Wimbledon battle

The Czech women’s tennis number one Petra Kvitová came from behind to beat five-times Wimbledon champion Venus Williams 5-7 7-6 7-5 in an fiercely-contested third-round match on Friday. Kvitová, who is 24, said it was perhaps her best performance at Wimbledon since she won the tournament in 2011. The Czech's half of the draw is considered favourable and to give her a chance of going far at the All England Club.

After Wimbledon exit Berdych questions decision to continue despite dusk

After a third-round defeat at Wimbledon on Friday, Czech men’s number one Tomáš Berdych questioned the umpire’s decision to continue the match despite the fact that it was getting dark. The contest, in which Berdych was beaten 6-7 4-6 6-7 by Marian Cilic of Croatia, ended at 21:38, the latest finish ever to a match at the All England Club not to take place on Centre Court. Berdych, who reached the final at Wimbledon in 2010, praised Cilic’s performance.

Hübschman leaves Shahktar Donetsk after successful 10-year stint

Czech international soccer player Tomáš Hübschman has left Shahktar Donetsk after 10 years. The defensive midfielder, who is 32, was not offered a new contract by the Ukrainian club and is reported to be set to join Czech side Jablonec. Hübschman – who has 58 international caps – won seven Ukrainian league titles and one UEFA Cup with Shahktar.


Health Ministry claims victory in Diag Human arbitration

The Czech Republic has won an international arbitration against the firm Diag Human, Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček said. The company took the country to arbitration in 2008 over its allegedly thwarted blood plasma business int eh coutnry. The Czech Republic was originally ordered to pay eight billion crowns in compensation to the firm but the Czech government appealed the decision and the final ruling, delivered to both parties last week, awards victory to the Czech Republic, according to the Health Ministry. However, the firm disputes the minitry's claims, arguing the ruling in fact confirmed the original verdict. The Health Ministry said it would release details on the case next week.

Storm alert for parts of Czech Republic

Heavy storms are to hit the south and east of the Czech Republic on Sunday afternoon, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has warned. In some places, up to 30 millimetres of precipitation is expected. The warning is in place until 10 PM on Sunday but frequent storms are expected in the Czech Republic over the next several days.

Report: Romany elite rising due to increasing numbers of university graduates

The Czech Republic’s new Romany elite is rising due to increasing numbers of Romanies with university degrees, the news website reported on Sunday. While only around 100 of the country’s 250,000-strong Romany community are currently studying at Czech universities, the number of those receiving some type of scholarships has tripled over the last nine years, from 59 to 151, according to figures by Romea, an advocacy group. Romany leaders quoted in the report say the rising number of university students has a big impact both on the Romany community and the majority society but note their overall number is still very small.

Accident halts traffic on major Czech railway route

An accident on the railway line between Prague and Kolín in central Bohemia has halted traffic on the route used by international express trains with destinations in Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. The accident occurred when a train ran onto a wrong track and damaged a switch. Local trains have been cancelled and replaced with buses while international expresses have been diverted to an alternate route. The authorities expect traffic on the route to resume at 8 PM on Sunday.

South Moravian communities commemorate soldiers killed in WWI

Several towns and villages in South Moravia on Sunday commemorated their men who were killed on the battlefields of the First World War, the news agency ČTK reported. A plaque dedicated to their memory was unveiled in Hustopeče while in Valtice, a memorial cross was erected. In Olešnice and several other places, gatherings were held to remember the fallen soldiers on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the war’s outbreak.

PORG school most successful among eight-year secondary schools in exit exams

The privately-owned PORG school was the most successful of all Czech secondary schools in this year’s state leaving exams, the news agency ČTK reported on Sunday quoting an analysis by the educational consultancy firm CERMAT. Students at PORG, which has branches in Prague and Ostrava, did best in the Czech and English languages, and scored second in math nationwide. The Czech Education Ministry does not officially release rankings of secondary schools based on their students’ performance in the leaving exams.

Light airplane crashes during take-off in western Bohemia

A light airplane crashed during take-off at an airfield in Plasy, western Bohemia, on Sunday. The plane was carrying two people but no one suffered any injuries in the accident, a spokesman for the local fire brigade said. The news agency ČTK reported the plane’s engine lost power during take-off and the pilot ended the manoeuvre. The plane then crashed some 50 metres away from the runway. Causes of the accident are under investigation.

Exhibition of drawings by UK director Peter Greenaway held at Czech film festival

The British film director Peter Greenaway opened an exhibition of his drawings at the Summer Film School festival in Uherské Hradiště, eastern Czech Republic, on Sunday. The exhibit, entitled Eisenstein in Guanajuato, includes some 50 drawings the director made during work on a film of the same name dedicated to the Russian film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein that is to premiere next year. Peter Greenaway received an award at the festival whose 40th edition started on Friday.


Fuel tax bill voted down in lower house

The Chamber of Deputies on Friday voted anew on a bill aimed at lowering the excise duty on fuel. This time MPs voted down the proposal, which first passed in the lower house on Wednesday - to the surprise of the ruling coalition. One of its members had inserted changes into the bill that lowered the tax on petrol and diesel across the board rather than just for farmers, which would have negatively impacted the state budget. After another coalition MP on Wednesday, however, challenged the result, arguing his vote had been incorrectly recorded by the electronic system, a new vote was scheduled. The centre-right opposition, which had threatened to petition the Constitutional Court if a new vote was held, walked out of the chamber.

Finance minister calls steps taken by MPs in lower house "an embarrassment"

The head of the ANO movement, Andrej Babiš, vented disgust in the media on Friday over the recent behavior of some in the lower house, saying he would prefer to resign as an MP if he had a capable successor. The finance minister was reacting to the handling of a fuel tax reduction bill for farmers on Wednesday, which was modified by a fellow coalition MP and former minister for industry and trade to be across the board. The bill, which initially passed but was subjected to a new vote on Friday following a complaint, would have thrown a spanner in government plans. The opposition Civic Democrats say they will petition the Constitutional Court over the matter.

Komárek to step down as head of anti-corruption unit

Milan Komárek will step down as the head of the country’s anti-corruption and financial crime unit on July 31st, his superior, Police President Tomáš Tuhý, told reporters Friday. Komárek took over as head of the unit last June and oversaw the founding of team Kobra, targeting tax crimes. Before, he had worked as a regional deputy chief of police in Central Bohemia. Police President Tuhý said he respected Komárek’s contribution and made clear the unit head was stepping down for personal reasons. The job will be filled in the interim by deputy head Jaroslav Vild. A successor should be found by the autumn.

Deputy expresses interest in top ministerial post

The deputy minister for regional affairs, Klára Dostalová, confirmed on Friday her interest in the post of minister for regional development following the departure of Věra Jourová to the European Commission. Ms Jourová has backed the deputy for the job but Dostálová otherwise had not been contacted. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who reviewed the Ministry for Regional Development on Friday, said it was up to coalition partners in ANO to propose a nominee.

Political parties with fewer female candidates could lose out

Political parties fielding fewer female candidates in communal and regional elections this autumn could receive less money from the state per mandate gained, according to a draft amendment to the election law, the daily Právo reports. According to the newspaper, 30 percent of women candidates could be the minimal requirement to avoid the consequences of the provision initiated by Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier of the Social Democrats. Právo writes that government coalition partners, ANO as well as the centre-right opposition parties and the Communists, are not in favour of the legislation which the Interior Ministry has now sent to ministries and other institutions for feedback. A Czech NGO backing equal representation for women in politics, by contrast, has strongly welcomed the initiative, saying the number of women in politics in the Czech Republic has long been low.

ČEZ says monopoly office charge unfounded

The power utility ČEZ has been asked to issue a stance on an accusation by Bulgaria’s antimonopoly office charging the company abused its dominant position on the local market, the company’s spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová told the Czech News Agency. She stressed that there was no new accusation but that it was related to an inquiry from last March. The spokewoman repeated that ČEZ rejected it as unfounded. Besides ČEZ, Bulgaria's anti-monopoly office on Friday also accused Czech energy company Energo-Pro and Austrian firm EVN of abuse of their dominant position on the market. The companies have been accused of making it difficult for corporate clients to switch electricity supplier or buy electricity on the free market.

Customs officers detain foreign national for ivory smuggling

Customs officers detained a foreign national at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport earlier this week, who had tried to smuggle 24 kilos of ivory on the Prague – Seoul route. The information was released on Friday by the spokeswoman for the Czech Environment Inspection office. The ivory, tusks from the protected African elephant, had been sawed down to size: fifteen pieces which had been wrapped individually and hidden in two pieces of luggage. It is the third time this year that an ivory smuggler at Václav Havel Airport has been caught.

Fortieth Uherské Hradiště film school starts

The 40th Uherské Hradiště summer film school starts Friday with thousands of film fans expected and more than 200 short and full length films being screened. Some of the stars making appearance will be US independent film director and script writer Todd Solondz, who has won prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The main guest is British director Peter Greenaway. Spanish films are one of the main themes of the summer school this year.

New football season begins with Sparta vs Bohemians

This Friday sees tthe start of the new football season, with Sparta facing Bohemians 1905. There will be two matches on Saturday in the top flight. Saturday will see Příbram face off against Plzeň while Jablonec will face Slavia. Last season, Příbram long had to stave off possible relegation before improving to a solid overall 34 points. Plzeň finished second behind season champions Sparta.

Czech clubs progress in Europa League qualifiers

Czech football clubs Mladá Boleslav and Slovan Liberec have cruised through to the next qualifying round of the Europa League. Mladá Boleslav beat Bosnia Heregovina club Široki Brijeg 4:0 away and Slovan Liberec put three goals past Slovak club Košice without reply at home. Both team won the first leg matches. Slovan will face Lyon in the next round with Mladá Boleslav’s opponents Romanian club Giurgiu.


Czech five percent barrier for EP elections could be lifted

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court will recommend to the Constitutional Court that it cancel the current five percent threshold in the elections to European Parliament valid in the Czech Republic, judge rapporteur Tomáš Langášek told journalists on Tuesday. The court panel complied with the complaint lodged by the Green Party; the Czech Pirate Party also presented a similar case in its complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court will suspend both proceedings, awaiting the verdict by the Constitutional Court. In the May elections to the European Parliament, both parties finished not far below the 5 percent threshold with 4.78 percent for the Pirate Party and 3.77 percent for the Greens.

Babiš: New EC president should choose Czech commissioner from list put forward by Prague

The head of the second biggest party in the coalition government, Andrej Babiš of ANO, says the next president of the European Commission should choose from a list of candidates for the Czech commissioner’s post put forward by Prague. ANO and coalition leaders the Social Democrats have to date failed to agree on a nominee to replace Štefan Fuele, who steps down later this year. The Social Democrats’ Jiří Dientsbier said on Wednesday that Mr. Babiš’s suggestion was one possibility. ANO are backing Pavel Telička to become the country’s next commissioner, while the Social Democrats have put forward Pavel Mertlík.

PM praises EU funding system as key solidarity component

European funds aimed at reducing differences among regions in Europe fulfilled European integration goals in terms of solidarity and coherence in the EU, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at a meeting of Visegrad Four prime ministers on Tuesday. The conference, staged by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and focusing on the V4 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), was also attended by outgoing EC President Jose Manuel Barroso. For citizens, the use of the European funds meant a concrete contribution to integration smoothing economic differences between individual EU member countries, Mr Sobotka added. According to the Czech premier, the Czech Republic and the EU will soon sign a partnership agreement enabling the Czech Republic to draw money within the EU´s new budget period.

Police charge four with corruption at Prague hospital

The police’s anti-corruption unit have charged four people with manipulating a tender to digitise medical records for Prague’s Na Homolce hospital. The four are accused of having conspired to launder money and rig public tenders, the Czech News Agency reported. It said the four, who were arrested following a raid on Wednesday morning, stood accused of causing over CZK 50 million in damages to the hospital. Police raids were also conducted elsewhere, including at a company that administers the hospital’s accounts.

Prague drops fine against PM for appointing cabinet member without clearance

Prague City Hall has thrown out a fine against Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who had been accused by the Prague 1 authority of a misdemeanour for naming Andrej Babiš to his government despite the latter’s lack of a security clearance. Prague 1 had ordered Mr. Sobotka, who heads the Social Democrats, to pay a fine of CZK 10,000 for giving the ANO chief a cabinet post. The prime minister welcomed the decision.

Man gets five years after metal theft leads to death of woman

A man who caused the death of a woman by stripping metal from the roof of a house has been sentenced to five years in jail. A court in Ústí nad Labem heard how Slovak Koloman Miker cut out a metal girder from the structure of the unoccupied building which collapsed on the woman. Miker’s own mother was also inside the house and was seriously injured in the 2012 incident.

Czech Philharmonic perform to 4,000 at Prague Castle

Czech Philharmonic perform to 4,000 at Prague Castle

The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra performed a free concert to around 4,000 people on Hradčanské náměstí in the Prague Castle complex on Tuesday night. The concert, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, featured pieces by Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana and a number of other composers and brought the orchestra’s 118th season to a close. During the performance, which was broadcast live on Czech TV’s Art station, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the release of the recording DVOŘÁK Complete Symphonies & Concertos.

World renowned Compagnie Marie Chouinard to appear at Prague dance fest

One of the world’s leading dance troupes, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, is set to appear at Prague’s Musical Theatre on Wednesday night as part of the annual Tanec Praha festival. The group, led by Canadian choreographer Marie Chouinard, will perform their renowned interpretation of The Rites of Spring. A repeat performance on Thursday will bring the 26th edition of the dance festival to a close.

Kvitová and Záhlavová-Strýcová into third round at Wimbeldon

Czech tennis players Petra Kvitová and Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová have reached the third round at Wimbledon. Kvitová, who won the Grand Slam tournament three years ago, on Wednesday overcame Mona Barthel of Germany 6-2 6-0 in just 52 minutes to set up a meeting with former world number one Venus Williams. Záhlavová-Strýcová beat Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-4 6-2 and will now face Li Na of China.

Lev Praha not to take part in Kontinental Hockey League next season

The ice hockey club Lev Praha will not play next season in the Russia-centred Kontinental Hockey League. The Prague club, who reached the finals of the competition’s Gagarin Cup last season, are reported to be in financial difficulties. Lev Praha was the only Czech club in the Kontinental Hockey League in the last two seasons. The Czech News Agency reported that one possibility was that Lev would sit out next season and return in 2015-2016.


New US ambassador to Czech Republic approved by Senate

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed the US president’s proposal for top lawyer with Czech roots, Andrew Schapiro, to be the country’s ambassador in the Czech Republic. The current ambassador, Norman Eisen, is due to quit the Prague post in August. Schapiro is said to be close to the president, having been a fellow student of law at Harvard University and later going on to help with the financing of Obama’s political campaigns. He is currently a practicing lawyer at the firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, known for its business litigation. Schapiro’s mother left Prague in 1939 in fear of Nazi persecution.

Czech economic confidence slips in July

Czech economic confidence fell for the first time this year in July according to the Czech Statistics Office. The overall composite confidence index slipped over the month by 0.7 points to stand at 7.6.points. Although consumer confidence continued to firm, companies have become more worried about the economic situation and outlook, the office said. Confidence in the hard hit construction sector climbed but industrial companies were among those which have switched to a more pessimistic and cautious outlook. The composite index stood at 5.5 points in January.

TOP 09 seen winning Prague local elections

Centre right party TOP 09 has a high chance of retaining its position as the biggest party in the Czech capital when Prague City Council elections are held in October. A survey by the polling agency SANEP suggested that TOP 09 would be the strongest party with 21.3 percent support. A three way coalition of the Christian Democrats, Mayors and Independents, and Green Party could win 14.2 percent of votes. The ANO party would come in third place with 12.4 percent followed by the Social Democrats with 11.8 percent, Civic Democrats with 11.1 percent and Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia with 7.6 percent. The Pirate party and Free Citizens Party would also get more 5.0 percent of the vote according to the survey. TOP 09 currently govern Prague City Hall in coalition with the Social Democrats.

PM Bohuslav Sobotka says committee will continue to monitor restitution

Ongoing problems with the restitution of church property will be resolved by a government committee prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka told the lower house of parliament on Thursday. Sobotka intervened in a debate over the controversial subject called jointly by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and the Dawn party. The prime minister attacked the deal to compensate churches and religious group for confiscations undertaken by the former Communist regime, saying that mechanism were lacking to check that property was not given back which religious groups had not owned in the first place. Sobotka’s Social Democrat party has attempted to reopen the restitution settlement agreed by the former centre-right coalition government without success.

Inspectors found more than half Prague restaurants inflate bills for foreigners

Czech inspectors have found that more than half the restaurants they checked up on discriminated against foreign clients. The inspectors from the Czech Commercial Inspectorate found that eight out of 13 restaurants they checked up on added extra charges to the bills of foreign customers compared with Czechs. Agents went undercover for the inspections by pretending they could only speak English. Other shortcomings were found at nine out of the 13 restaurants. The inspectorate pointed out that Prague is highly reliant on tourists with the aim that they should be treated fairly and not exploited. The inspectorate said it would continue checks throughout the tourist season and beyond because restaurants also served ex-pats living in Prague.

Czech parties seek to get in on Věra Jourová European Commission team

Czech parties are now seeking to get their nominees in the team likely to accompany European Commission candidate Věra Jourová to Brussels. The Christian Democrats have confirmed that they are pushing for unsuccessful European Parliament candidate Eduard Hulicius to be part of Jourová’s team. The Social Democrats are also pressing for a representative to be part of the Cabinet as well. ANO’s first deputy chairwoman and current Minister for Regional Development should be confirmed by the government as the Czech nominee for the future commission late on Thursday.

Kuřim affair aunt conditionally released from prison

One woman in a highly publicized Czech child abuse case known as the Kuřim affair, after the town near Brno, has been conditionally released from prison. Kateřina Mauerová was sentenced to 10 years in prison as one of the ringleaders of a six-strong group who tyrannized her two young nephews. They were kept in a cage, burnt with cigarettes, and beaten in what was described as an attempt to induce total obedience. The case only came to light by chance in 2007 when a neighbour installed a baby monitoring device which picked up images of the close circuit tv used to monitor the abused children. A national furore followed in which the accused were rumoured to be linked to various sects.

Olomouc university centre stage for centipede congress

Olomouc’s Palacký University Faculty of Science is hosting an international conference about centipedes, millipedes and related insects. The conference is giving particular attention this year to the largely untapped medicinal uses that they could be used for. Some of the insects secrete substances which have already been found to give partial protection against malaria or to reduce pain. The first such conference was held in Paris in 1968 and the last was held in Brisbane, Australia in 2011.

Sparta Prague to face Swedish league leaders Malmo in Champions League qualifier

In football, Sparta Prague will face current Swedish league leaders Malmo in the third round of the Champions League. The Swedes secured their place in the next round after a 1:0 win at home. The first round of the two round tie against Sparta takes place next Tuesday in Prague. Elsewhere, Czech clubs Mladá Boleslav and Slovan Liberec play Thursday night in the qualifying stage of the Europa League. Slovan have a 1:0 lead against Slovak club Kosice from the away leg while Mladá Boleslav take a 2:1 victory at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina club Široki Brijeg.

Petr Čech trains with Chelsea after shoulder recovery

Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech has recovered from his injured shoulder and for the first time since April has taken part in a full training session with his club, Chelsea. He has been recovering since the injury in the semi-final of the Champions League against Atlético Madrid and surgery which took place in May. Chelsea are making a pre-season tour in Europe as key members of the squad return after world cup duty.


Committee backs Jourová for commissioner

The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee for European Affairs on Wednesday backed Minister for Regional Affairs Věra Jourová’s nomination for EU commissioner. Out of 19 members on the board, coalition members from the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats voted in favor; members of the opposition abstained. Jourová’s candidacy is to be officially confirmed by the government on Thursday. Leaders of the coalition parties agreed on the candidate after it became apparent that the next president of the EC, Jean-Claude Juncker, favored having at least nine women on the commission. It is thought that a female candidate will have a better chance at gaining one of the more important portfolios.

Czech Airlines continues flights to Tel Aviv

Czech Airlines said that its two flights linking Prague and Tel Aviv took off as normal on Tuesday night and were due to arrive in the early morning of Wednesday at each destination. The Czech airline said that it had consulted with security experts at home and in Israel before giving approving for the flights. Many airlines have cancelled flights to Tel Aviv because of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip with the US Federal Aviation Agency imposing a 24-hour ban on flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. Many European airlines have suspended flights. Rockets fired from Gaza landed near the airport on Tuesday.

Czech exports to Ukraine down by almost a third

Czech exports to Ukraine dropped by 43.1 percent in May compared to the same period a year earlier after a fall of 51.2 percent in April, according to the Czech Statistics Office. During the first five months of this year they have fallen by 3.7 billion crowns, or just short of 30 percent. According to business grouping the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic, Ukraine now risks being excluded from the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s list of 12 priority countries for exports, the confederation said. The list highlighted states where efforts would be made to boost Czech exports until 2020. The confederation warned that no improvement in business looked likely in the short term due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Conditional sentences delivered for wiretapping top state figures

The Czech daily Mláda Fronta Dnes reported Wednesday how two men convicted of wiretapping top state figures received conditional sentences and the identity of those who ordered the spying was never revealed. Former policeman Marian Hudec received a conditional jail sentence of 26 months suspended for four years and Michal Kondla 20 months suspended for three years. The two were convicted tapping the phone calls of Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Rychetský and close aides to the then president Václav Klaus. The tapping took place ahead of parliamentary elections in 2010. The paper said it established links to the security firm ABL, owned by former Public Affairs party leader Vít Bárta. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Report: 98 percent of Czech primary school teachers female

The Czech Republic has the highest percentage of female teachers in primary schools in Europe, according to a Eurostat report published by the Czech Statistics Office. Close to 98 percent of Czech teachers at primary level are women, the report found. However, the Czech Ministry of Education questions the figure of 2 percent male teachers, saying around 15 percent of teachers of first to ninth grade pupils are men. According to the Eurostat report, Denmark has the highest percentage of male teachers, with almost a third of educators in its primary schools being men.

Prague and National Geographic reach settlement

Prague and National Geographic have reached a written agreement putting to bed a case concerning a controversial episode of a TV series broadcast by the National Geographic Channel in 2012. The city maintained that the show Scam City, focusing on the darker side of tourism, had hurt Prague’s reputation, faking some sequences which consequently cast the city in a poor light. Criminal investigators later confirmed some scenes had been staged. Scenes that were reportedly faked included tourists being ripped off by a taxi service or by workers at a sex club (which in reality had long been closed). In the agreement, National Geographic admitted some scenes were staged and agreed to block the episode’s further dissemination. A formal apology, which the city previously sought, was not part of the deal, the Czech News Agency reported.

Český Aeroholding boss Miroslav Dvořák steps down

The head of state aviation holding company Český Aeroholding has resigned from his post. Miroslav Dvořák’s departure as board chairman was announced in a press release on Wednesday. He has been under pressure from finance minister and ANO party boss Andrej Babiš to step down. The post will be filled by his former deputy, Václav Řehoř. The change must still be approved by Korean Air, which has a minority shareholding in Czech Airlines. Český Aeroholding’s main asset is its ownership of Prague’s main Václav Havel airport.

Czech president rallies in support of Petra Kvitová

Czech president Miloš Zeman defended Czech Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová when she was received at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Zeman told the fourth ranked singles player that the successful are often subject to envy from those who couldn’t do anything better. The president was referring to the comments of a Social Democrat member of parliament, Stanislav Haml, who suggested that Kvitová lose her Czech citizenship for locating to the tax haven of Monaco. Zeman apologized for not being present at Kvitová’s second Wimbledon singles win earlier this month but said that he disliked politicians’ habit of try to get a share of other people’s triumph. He was presented with a ticket for the Fed Cup finals in Prague in November when the Czech Republic faces Germany.

Leopold König moves up to seventh place in Tour de France

Czech cyclist Leopold König has moved up and is now placed seventh overall in the Tour de France after the 16th state of the race and trails sixth placed US competitor Tejay van Garderen by just six seconds. The 26-year-old Czech is trailing leader Vincenzo Nibali by just over nine and a half minutes. The cyclists face the second of the three part Pyrenees challenge on Wednesday in one of the shortest but most difficult stages.

Sparta reach third qualifying round of Champions League

Sparta Prague have qualified for the third qualifying round of the Champions League. After beating Levadia Tallinn 7:0 in Prague last week the Czech title holders fielded a side largely composed of reserves in the away leg on Tuesday evening, which ended in a 1:1 draw. Sparta will face either Sweden’s Malmo or the Latvian club Ventspils in the next round. That will be followed by a play-off round to decide spots in the group stage of the lucrative competition.


Hundreds honour memory of Czechs murdered in Ležáky

Hundreds of people, including members of the military and the Czech president, attended a ceremony on Sunday in Ležáky in the Chrudim area, to honour the memory of 52 people murdered there by the Nazis in 1942. The town was razed to the ground, following Lidice, as reprisal for the assassination of the 'Butcher of Prague’, Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich. All of the adults were executed and 11 children sent to the Chełmno extermination camp where they were gassed. In a speech on Sunday to mark the 72 anniversary, the president expressed deep gratitude that Czech resistance fighters had fought for freedom with the utmost courage and sacrifice. Among those who attended the ceremony were two sisters, Jarmila and Marie Šťulíková, who are the sole survivors of the Ležáky massacre. After the war, the village of Ležáky was rebuilt with a memorial on the site of the original buildings which had been destroyed.

Czech military asked to continue in new mission

General Petr Pavel, the head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, met at the weekend in Afghanistan with the head of ISAF General Joseph Dunford who expressed the hope Czechs there would continue their work in the country even after NATO combat operations wrapped up. The aim is to help Afghan security forces in the new coming period, under a new mission to be called Resolute Support. Czech personnel staying on in Afghanistan would presumably serve at an American military hospital, train Afghan forces and help with security at the base at Bagram. General Pavel said the Czech Army was prepared to do its part; the mandate for the years 2015 and 2016 will, however, have to be approved in the Chamber of Deputies.

Monday will see 30th anniversary of release of Czechs and Slovaks held captive in Angola

This Monday, June 23rd, marks 30 years that twenty Czechs and Slovaks were released by UNITA rebels in Angola, returning home after some 15 months in captivity. Those abducted in 1984 had to complete a march of more than 1,300 kilometers while in captivity. One of the hostages did not survive. Lubomír Sazeček, one of those held prisoner, spoke to the Czech News Agency on the occasion of the anniversary, saying he never gave up on Africa, but still held the rebels, who assumed power, responsible. In all, 66 Czechoslovak men, women and children were held hostage, but the 20 were the last released. The Czechs and Slovaks were in Angola in the 1980's to help resurrect and run the Angola Cellulose and Paper Company in the area of Alto Catumbela.

Prague mayor remains atop candidates list

TOP 09’s regional committee has confirmed that Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček will remain atop the party’s candidate list in Prague in upcoming communal elections. Some members held the view Mr Hudeček should be removed from the list over the Opencard case, which is due to go to trial. Legal proceedings have been launched against 15 city councillors and two mayors, former and present, over the controversial data card which serves most commonly as a transit pass. The majority was in favour, of the mayor staying on. Second on the list is Mayor Hudeček’s deputy, Jiří Nouza; fourth is former hockey goalie Petr Bříza. The elections take place this autumn.

Czech TV: Prague sent key parts of MUS verdict

Prague has been sent key parts of a Swiss court verdict on the case of the Czech MUS coal mining company, which could help the Czech state regain a part of the 14 billion crowns linked to the suspicious privatisation of MUS now blocked on Swiss accounts, Czech TV reported Saturday. The Finance Ministry confirmed it has received the documentation. The Finance Ministry previously asked the Swiss for the parts of the verdict which related to the Czech Republic. The ministry’s spokesman said only that the documents received were being analyzed before further steps would be considered.

Ten-year-old airlifted to hospital after suffering 12-metre fall at Žebrák

A 10-year-old boy had to be airlifted to hospital on Sunday after suffering a 12-metre fall at the popular tourist destination of Žebrák, castle ruins in the area of Beroun outside of Prague. The boy suffered multiple injuries and was in critical condition. He was taken to Prague's Motol hospital. The boy had been accompanied by adults on the trip, who were apparently looking for a hidden geocaching item at the time of the accident, the Czech News Agency reported.

Student found dead after apparent fall from cliff

A 17-year-old student missing for two days in the area of Kokořín has been found dead, a police spokesman revealed on Sunday. A search involving dozens of police officers and fire fighters preceded the discovery. The boy was last seen on Friday during a school trip. he had told others he was going for a walk shortly after 12 AM. He is believed to have fallen from a cliff in the area.