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NEWS

EU presidency symbolically passed to Czechs

Twenty-seven European Commissioners were in Prague yesterday to attend last night’s gala celebration at the National Theatre to mark the formal handover of the Czech EU presidency. Deputy PM for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra received a symbolic baton. President Václav Klaus met earlier in the day at Prague Castle with European Commission head José Manuel Barroso. Barroso said countries that sign the Lisbon Treaty should also ratify it.

most Czech press

Senate committee recommends postponing Lisbon ratification

The Senate Committee on EU Affairs yesterday recommended postponing ratification of the Lisbon Treaty until a new law can be introduced that would require the cabinet to seek the approval of both houses of parliament before transferring power to the EU.

ČTK

Klaus says natural gas crisis not an EU matter

The current natural gas crisis is not a European question but rather an economic matter between Russia and Ukraine, President Václav Klaus said yesterday after meeting with members of the European Commission.

ČTK

Greenpeace projects EU flag onto Prague Castle

Greenpeace activists projected a European Union flag onto Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge Tuesday night in order to remind politicians of their responsibility to discuss environmental issues at EU meetings.

ČTK

Bursík reveals which ministers will leave the cabinet

In an interview with the weekly Instinkt, Green Party leader Martin Bursík indirectly revealed the names of two ministers expected soon to leave the cabinet. Bursík said it is generally known that Health Minister Tomáš Julínek would be one of them and pointed out that Transport Minister Aleš Řebíček would not have enough time to secure more state commissions for his former company.

Týden.cz

More Prague districts to introduce restricted parking

The districts of Prague 5, 6, 8 and 10 are planning to introduce paid parking zones, joining other districts with restricted parking. HN reports Prague 6 could have the zones in place by the end of the year. Prague Deputy Mayor Rudolf Blažek said existing parking zones must first be evaluated before any new zones can be discussed.

HN 5

Schwarzenberg tomb could be returned to family

The Constitutional Court yesterday overturned the rulings of lower courts that denied Alžběta Pezoldová of the Schwarzenberg family the right to the return of the family tomb near Třeboň. The dispute now goes back to the district court in Jindřichův Hradec.

most Czech press

Regional KDU-ČSL members show support for Kalousek

Almost 200 KDU-ČSL members, including all of the deputy chairmen of the south Moravian branch, signed a proclamation yesterday opposed to a plan by party leaders to remove Miroslav Kalousek from his post as finance minister.

most Czech press

Dryml apologises for comments

ČSSD Senator Vladimír Dryml yesterday apologised for what he called his “unfortunate” statements in connection with allegations that he attempted to collect compromising material on his party colleague Hana Orgoníková. He still calls the whole matter a provocation.

ČTK

BUSINESS

Companies concerned over natural gas impasse

Czech companies say they are concerned about possible financial losses resulting from a shutdown in Russian natural gas supplies, and the Confederation of Industry has asked the government to step up efforts to solve the problem. Companies told ČTK that so far they are drawing gas without any problem, but if supplies were cut several companies would have to stop production. RWE Transgas yesterday sent out a letter to its biggest customers informing them of a possible state of emergency.
i>most Czech press

Euro.cz publishes names of economic committee

Euro.cz yesterday published a list of members of a newly formed national economic committee to advise on the financial crisis. Members include Vladimír Dlouhý, Martin Jahn, Jiří Kunert, Michal Mejstřík, Jiří Rusnok, Tomáš Sedláček, Jiří Schwarz, Jiří Weigl and Miroslav Zámečník. ČSSD deputy chairman Bohumil Sobotka said his party would refuse to nominate members to the committee following PM Mirek Topolánek’s statement Tuesday that ČSSD’s proposed solutions to the financial crisis are three times more dangerous than the crisis itself, HN reported.

most Czech press

EU to discuss sending natural gas observer mission

The EU today is to discuss possibly sending an international mission to observe Russian natural gas supplies travelling through Ukraine to the European Union. The Czech EU presidency has called an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers for Monday if the situation does not improve.

most Czech press

ArcelorMittal to lay off workers

The Steel group ArcelorMittal says it plans to lay off 330-350 people in the Czech Republic in reaction to the economic crisis.

ČTK

Ekonom: Penta will not pay tax for airport land sale

The weekly Ekonom reports that the Penta group, which sold land to Prague Airport, will not pay the 3% property transfer tax. Penta did not sell the land directly but through selling shares of its company, Realitní developerská, that owns the land. The state will lose CZK 120 million.

HN 13, E15 1, 10

Telephone betting could be available soon

Hospodářské noviny reports a new lottery bill may allow for placing bets by mobile phone. Deputy Finance Minister Tomáš Zídek said only systems that could be properly controlled would be approved. The Senate, however, is planning to introduce a bill that would ban placing bets online or through telephone services.

HN 1, 13, 15

Transport unions to decide on strike after 12 January

Eight transport workers’ unions say they will make a final decision on whether to strike after 12 January. The strike, to protest plans by the Finance Ministry to abolish some tax allowances, would affect Czech Railways and Prague’s public transportation. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek plans to meet with union representatives on 13 January.

ČTK

Petrol retailers tightening credit for hauliers

Fuel suppliers like Shell, WAG minerální paliva, OMV, DKV and Benzina are tightening credit conditions for hauliers amid concern over the transport companies’ solvency.

HN 14

Mobile calls should get cheaper

The Czech Telecommunication Office plans to lower the maximum price that mobile phone operators can charge for calls to other mobile networks by 35% this year. The fee would drop gradually throughout the year from the current CZK 2.99 per minute to CZK 1.96 in January 2010. The proposal still needs to be approved by the European Commission and would affect T-Mobile, Telefónica O2 and Vodafone.

ČTK, LN 15

Four companies interested in regional railway tender

Mladá fronta Dnes reports that four railway service companies will take part in a tender called by the Liberec region to supply subsidised regional transport. Participating companies include Czech Railways as well as Britain’s Arriva, France’s Keolis and the Czech Viamont. Keolis is bidding in cooperation with Student Agency.

MfD B2

Number of applications for EU subsidies up sharply

The Ministry for Regional Development yesterday published data showing the number of applications to receive EU subsidies is some 25 times higher than a year ago. The ministry currently has around 14,000 applications on hand, totalling CZK 397.8 billion, for the period 2007-2013.

ČTK