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NEWS

Obama may give public address during Prague visit

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said yesterday US President Barack Obama would give the “European speech of the year” during his visit to Prague. Obama arrives on 4 April with his wife Michelle and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The programme includes dinner with President Václav Klaus, a meeting with EU heads of state and possibly breakfast with former President Václav Havel. A US advance team examined the possibility of Obama giving a public address, with Prague Castle, Old Town Square and the embankment near the Rudolfinum mentioned as possible venues.

most Czech press

Kommersant: Obama letter would cancel radar

In a letter to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, US President Barack Obama said he was prepared to give up plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland in exchange for Russia’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear programme, the Russian daily Kommersant reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources. There would be no need for the radar if Iran’s nuclear programme is stopped, the daily said.

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Ministry inspectors to examine Liberec ski championships

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek and Education Minister Ondřej Liška yesterday agreed to send inspectors to Liberec to investigate possible fraud at the recently concluded FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. The organisers spent some CZK 1 billion more than originally planned. Liška said they would likely have to return some of the money. The event is already being examined by the Supreme Audit Office.

HN 4, MfD A4

Vondra: Crisis should not stop EU enlargement

There is no reason for the EU to slow down the enlargement process because of the economic crisis, Deputy PM for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said yesterday. He said enlargement would contribute to faster economic growth in Europe. Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey are candidates for EU accession.

ČTK

PM comments on Sarkozy statement

The economies of central Europe should be seen as a whole but evaluated separately based on their economic results and market conditions, PM Mirek Topolánek said yesterday. He was reacting to a statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said the crisis in central Europe was a threat to the EU.

MfD A2

Chomutov to use container housing for debtors

Mayor Ivana Řápková (ODS) is planning to move Chomutov debtors to container housing. Container housing has already been used in Vsetín by then Mayor Jiří Čunek in 2006. The idea has been criticised by ombudsman Otakar Motejl and Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb.

LN 1, 4

New rules would prevent foreign employment

The cabinet has issued new regulations that would prevent foreign workers from taking jobs by barring job agencies from giving temporary unqualified work to uneducated people. The regulation would apply to Czechs as well. Martin Kratochvíl from the job agency Brigádník said uneducated workers constitute a majority of clients and that the rules could force many agencies to close.

HN 2

KDU-ČSL deputy chair Línek may run for party head

The deputy chairman of KDU-ČSL and Pardubice regional deputy governor, Roman Línek, said yesterday he may run for party chairman at the party congress in June. He said a reshuffling of government posts held by Christian Democrats could take place after the new leadership is elected.

ČTK

Commissioner Špidla wants to retain post

The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimír Špidla, said yesterday he would like to remain in his post. Špidla’s term ends in June with new elections to the European Parliament.

ČTK

BUSINESS

Cabinet approves crisis measures

The cabinet yesterday approved a proposal to reduce social insurance contributions paid by employers for workers who earn less than CZK 27,000 a month before taxes in a bid to save 50,000 to 70,000 jobs. Another anti-crisis measure the government approved would introduce quicker tax write-offs for small businesses.

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PPF, ECM Group join forces in real estate

The PPF investment group and real estate developer ECM Group have agreed to set up a real estate holding, with PPF to be the majority shareholder, PPF spokesman Alexej Bechtin said yesterday. He said it would be one of Europe’s largest real estate holding companies.

HN 1, 13, MfD B1, B4

Cabinet approves Pandur purchase with Czech industry participation

The cabinet yesterday approved the purchase of 107 Pandur II armoured carriers from the Austrian company Steyr for CZK 14.4 billion. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek confirmed yesterday that Czech companies would take part in the production, which would help save thousands of Czech jobs. The Defence Ministry said the move would bring in some CZK 18.2 billion over the next few years.

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ČEZ manager accused of insider trading

The Prague Municipal Court has begun hearings on whether ČEZ’s chief sales officer, Alan Svoboda, misused inside information to make some CZK 1.6 million in trading ČEZ stock. Svoboda told the court yesterday he acted on his banker’s advice and using information available to the general public. If found guilty, Svoboda could serve up to eight years in prison.

HN 2, LN 14

ČEZ signs insurance deal with Kooperativa

The power company ČEZ has negotiated insurance coverage for its 2.7 million household customers with the insurance company Kooperativa. The insurer will cover up to three months of electricity payments for any customer who loses his or her job and registers with the labour office.

HN 15, Právo 17

Bank of America: Czech economy to fall 1.7% in 2009

In its latest forecast, the Bank of America said the Czech economy will contract 1.7% this year and economic growth in other central European countries will also slow down.

iHned.cz

Škoda Yeti to be available in June

Škoda Auto spokesman Evžen Krauskopf confirmed at the Geneva auto show yesterday that the new model Yeti will go on sale at the end of June, with the price to be announced before sales start.

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Expensive restaurants in Prague closing

The economic crisis is apparently taking its toll on high-priced restaurants. El Gaucho and HOT on Wenceslas Square recently closed due to lack of business. The owner of the restaurants V Zátiší and Bellevue, the Zátiší Group, also confirmed a drop in revenue. Pavel Hlinka of the Czech association of hotels and restaurants said revenue at higher-priced restaurants is down as much as 50%.

HN 13, 14

State budget posts CZK 5.4bn surplus in February

The state budget showed a surplus of CZK 5.4 billion in February, the Finance Ministry said, adding that a year ago the state had a deficit of CZK 5 billion. The 2009 budget is expected to reach a deficit of about CZK 73 billion.

ČTK

Budvar expands to Italy, Spain

Czech brewery Budějovický Budvar will expand sales of its dark lager to Italy and Spain, increasing the number of foreign markets where the lager is sold to 23. Budvar began brewing its dark beer in 2004.

ČTK

Survey: Crisis causing Czechs to reduce spending

Four in 10 Czechs have cut spending due to the financial crisis, according to a GE Money Bank survey conducted by the STEM/MARK polling agency in January.

iHned.cz

Bank cards increasingly used for payments in ČR

The volume of card payments in the country grew by about one fifth to 170 million last year, while cash withdrawals rose 8% to 155.5 million, the Bank Card Association said. Czechs withdrew some CZK 587.5 billion from ATMs last year.

ČTK