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Czech press review – Monday 5 January 2009

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Table of Contents


Schwarzenberg: Fighting is Hamas’s fault

Appearing on the Sunday political show Václav Moravec’s Questions, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg blamed Hamas for the Gaza conflict as it broke the ceasefire. The minister, who left yesterday to lead an EU mission to the region, said he has an idea of how the EU could help broker a new ceasefire but did not elaborate. Schwarzenberg also told Moravec his ministry should not take sole blame for the leak of transcripts of talks between PM Mirek Topolánek and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as multiple state offices could have done so.

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Storm over presidency spokesman’s Gaza comment

The comment Saturday by Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiří Potužník that the Israeli ground incursion in Gaza was “defensive” brought widespread condemnation. Palestinian, British and French diplomats expressed disapproval, and the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi demanded an apology and threatened a suspension of diplomatic relations. Potužník offered his resignation. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg called Potužník’s statement a mistake but said it did not warrant an apology.

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Stehlíková to leave cabinet

Džamila Stehlíková, minister for human rights and minorities, told news site yesterday that she will be dismissed from her position as part of the cabinet reshuffle PM Mirek Topolánek will announce Monday. Stehlíková said the PM has found a successor to take over her portfolio. Topolánek told KDU-ČSL yesterday he would like to dismiss party chief Jiří Čunek as regional development minister.

most Czech press

Milady Horákové closed for tunnel work

Milady Horákové street will be shut down for several months due to construction works on the Blanka tunnel complex. The street was closed Saturday morning and is due to re-open by fall, with the exact date to be announced next month.

LN 6 Sat, HN 3

EU flag at Letná vandalised

A huge European Union flag hung at the Letná metronome at midnight 1 January was damaged within 24 hours. Police said someone cut a piece from the flag. The matter is being investigated as a case of property damage. A spokeswoman for Deputy PM for EU Affairs Alexandr Vondra said the flag was insured and will be replaced.

Právo 2 Sat

Prague Muslims protest Gaza strikes

More than 100 people gathered Friday near the Israeli Embassy in Prague to protest Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The rally was organised by Muslimská obec v Praze, which represents the city’s Islamic community, and joined by other Muslim and Palestinian groups. Protesters said that as current EU president the Czech Republic should intervene in the conflict.

ČTK, MfD A6 Sat

C. Bohemia patients still paying health fees

Many patients in regional hospitals in Central Bohemia keep paying medical fees even though the new regional governor, David Rath (ČSSD), abolished the individual payments and offered to cover them from the regional budget.

Právo 4 Sat, LN 1, 3 Sat

Police authority to use DNA widened

Regulations taking effect this month expand the right of police to use DNA evidence to convict accused thieves. The Office for Personal Data Protection has criticised the new policy, saying innocent people could appear in the DNA database and that DNA samples should only be used to trace individuals with a serious criminal record.

MfD A1, A6 Sat

Cabinet to discuss direct presidential election

Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil will present to the cabinet today three variants for possible direct election of the Czech president, incorporating one-, two- and three-round models. The Opposition ČSSD has a similar amendment ready, and its leader, Jiří Paroubek, said the party is willing to discuss the government coalition’s proposal.

HN 3

Man hangs himself over mall construction

A Jihlava man hanged himself New Year’s Day 1 January at the entrance to a new shopping complex next to his house. Jiří Simon, 50, had fought for years against the City Park mall development. He left a suicide note saying he no longer wanted to live in a society which did not allow him to protect his rights.

Právo 1, 4 Sat

ČR launches first events as EU leader

This week will see the Czech Republic host its first major events as EU president, starting with today’s presentation of a six-month cultural programme. On Tuesday Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will introduce the country’s presidential priorities. On Wednesday the cabinet will welcome the European Commission, with an informal meeting of ministers for EU affairs set for Thursday.



Vondra: EU, ČR should not be affected by gas crisis

After meeting Saturday with Gazprom officials, Deputy PM for EU Affairs Alexandr Vondra said the Russian fuel giant offered assurances that it will meet its obligations for EU and Czech natural gas supplies, even if it fails to resolve its conflict with Ukraine. A number of European countries, including Romania, Poland and Hungary, said their gas supplies have decreased. RWE Transgas, the largest Czech supplier, reported Sunday that its supplies are down by 5%.

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ČEZ expects higher profit in 2009

ČEZ Chief Sales Officer Alan Svoboda told Hospodářské noviny that the state-run energy giant expects this year’s financial results to be better than last year’s, when the company boosted profit by 14% to CZK 48.6 billion. Svoboda says most sales for 2009 power supplies were consummated last year, when energy prices were higher. ČEZ will announce its 2009 profit estimate in February.

HN 17, 18

Share funds down by half in ’08

According to the Czech Capital Market Association (AKAT), share funds lost more than half their assets last year. Funds that bought both shares and bonds saw assets decline by almost 14%, while bond-only funds lost less than 6%.

HN 17

HN: Big travel firms cutting fuel charges

In response to falling oil prices, the two largest Czech travel agencies, Exim Tours and Fischer, are lowering their fuel surcharges, Hospodářské noviny reports. Exim Tours will cut fuel fees – which currently run CZK 1,700-1,900 – to less than CZK 1,000. Fischer will decide on its fuel charges this week.

HN 17

PSE gains, January boost predicted

The Prague bourse closed last week’s trading in the black, with the PX index increasing by 2.7% week-on-week to 870 points. Petr Novák, an Atlantik FT analyst, predicted greater activity this week, saying investors are expecting a boost from the traditional post-Christmas “January effect”.

Employers to pay more for illness, less in tax

The new year ushers in a number of changes for employers, including an obligation to cover the fourth through 14th days of a worker’s illness. Bosses’ social insurance payments have been lowered to 2.3% of salary, and the corporate income tax was cut from 21% to 20%.


Špidla: Crisis to raise EU unemployment

The international financial crisis is expected to raise the unemployment rate in the EU by two percentage points, Vladimír Špidla, EU commissioner for employment and social affairs, told Czech TV yesterday. Špidla predicted joblessness will rise most dramatically in Spain, Ireland and Great Britain.


Pension provider Hild postpones Czech move

Hungarian company Hild, which buys retirees’ property in exchange for a guaranteed lifetime pension, is postponing its entry into the Czech market due to the financial crisis.

HN 19

Bursík: State should pay into flight emissions fund

Environment Minister Martin Bursík will recommend to the cabinet today that state offices deposit money for the emissions produced by civil servants’ flights during the Czech EU presidency into a special fund created by the European Commission.


Labour Ministry tops budget table

More than one-third of this year’s state budget will be spent by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The budgets of the Environmental and Education ministries were increased, while Regional Development, Transport, Culture, Agriculture and Health saw spending cuts.


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