NEWS

Topolánek, Putin agree on gas flow monitoring

PM Mirek Topolánek and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reached agreement Thursday on conditions for deploying teams to monitor the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine. The monitoring should enable resumption of Russian supplies to EU countries. Main Czech importer RWE Transgas said the Czech Republic has not experienced any shortages thanks to increased supplies from Norway via Germany.

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Senate OKs new penal code

The upper house has approved a new penal code that lowers the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 14 years, toughens penalties for illegal employment of foreigners and reduces punishment for possessing marihuana for personal use. Several senators voted for the code only on the condition that Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil submit the age provision to an additional vote before it takes effect in January 2010.
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Obama praises Czech efforts in Gaza

In a telephone conversation Thursday, US President-elect Barack Obama expressed appreciation to PM Mirek Topolánek for the Czech Republic’s role as EU president in the recent European mission to the Middle East. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg led EU efforts to calm the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

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PM apologises to ČSSD in missions row

PM Mirek Topolánek has publicly apologised to the opposition ČSSD for government leaders’ criticism of the last month’s ČSSD-led vote to end foreign Czech army missions. Topolánek offered his apology in today’s Lidové noviny. ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek accepted it.

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KDU-ČSL to decide today who will leave cabinet

KDU-ČSL leader and Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek yesterday accused Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of trying to bring the party too closely into line with ODS. KDU-ČSL’s national council and national party conference meet today, with each voting on which Christian Democratic minister should leave the cabinet. It is not clear what would ensue if the two bodies do not agree on a name.

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Sedláček declines cabinet offer

Economist Tomáš Sedláček said Thursday that he has rejected KDU-ČSL Chairman Jiří Čunek’s offer to nominate him for finance minister. PM Mirek Topolánek wants to retain current Minister Miroslav Kalousek. Sedláček, who initially accepted Čunek’s offer, said he does not want to be part of a political battle that threatens to scuttle the government.

ČTK

ČSSD preparing another no-confidence vote

MP Bohuslav Sobotka, the opposition Social Democrats’ leader in the lower house, told Euro.cz the party wants to convene an extraordinary meeting for another no-confidence vote on PM Mirek Topolánek’s government. Euro.cz reported that the meeting would take place on 15 February, but Sobotka would not confirm the date.

Euro.cz

Reporters pin ’72 crash on Czechoslovak air force

Peter Hornung-Andersen of German ARD TV and Czech journalist Pavel Theiner, who are investigating the 1972 crash of a Yugoslav airliner near Srbská Kamenica close to the German border, contend the plane was shot down by the Czechoslovak air force. The original investigating committee concluded that the crash, which killed 27 people, was caused by a bomb stashed in a piece of luggage.

LN 1, 4

Website to inform patients on drug prices

The State Institute for Drug Control has launched a website, www.leky.sukl.cz, with detailed information about drug prices, the effects of various medications and a complete list of pharmacies in the Czech Republic.

HN 3

Nečas outlines EU presidency priorities

Free movement of workers, employment and labour market flexibility, family policy and social services will be the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ top priorities for the Czech EU presidency, Minister Petr Nečas told reporters Thursday.

ČTK

BUSINESS

Foreign trade falls into red

The Czech Republic showed a foreign trade deficit of CZK 500 million in November, a CZK 13 billion drop from November 2007 – the biggest year-on-year decline since 1994. For the full year the value of exports decreased by 18%, imports by 13.2% on the year. Hospodářské noviny notes that the trade figures do not include the CZK 1.5 billion worth of small cars produced at the TPCA plant in Kolín.

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Crisis council introduced

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek yesterday introduced the 10 members of the new National Economic Council, which will advise the cabinet. Topolánek asked that before their first meeting next week members write a two to three page proposal outlining how the government should tackle the financial crisis.

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New car sales grow 8.4%

Sales of new passenger cars rose by 8.4% to 143,661 units in 2008 despite declining demand toward the end of the year, the Car Importers Association announced Thursday. SUV sales declined by 3.3% to 59,986 units.

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TPCA ups car production by 5%

TPCA, the Czech-based consortium of Toyota, Peugeot and Citroen, manufactured 324,289 cars in 2008, a year-on-year increase of more than 5%, company spokesman Radek Kňava said Thursday.

HN 17, ČTK

IKEA to build new Czech centres, cut prices

IKEA plans to build two new centres in the Czech Republic in the next five years, including a new 35,000 square metre store in Prague-Zličín. The cost of the projects could reach CZK 2.5 billion. IKEA President Anders Dahlvig told Hospodářské noviny that the financial crisis is good for the company as it reduces the cost of materials and the pressure to raise wages. The firm expects to lower prices this year.

HN 15, 19

Exim launches US charter flights

With the end of the US visa requirement for Czech travellers, Exim Tours will launch the first Czech-US charter flights in April, introducing trips from Prague to Miami. Tomio Okamura, spokesman for the Association of Czech Travel Agencies, said direct charter flights would cut the price of trips to the US by 10% to 15% and could quickly double the number of Czechs flying to America to 100,000 a year.

Aktuálně.cz, Právo 18

E15: Advertisers slow to embrace TV Barrandov

E15 reports that TV Barrandov, which will launch broadcasts on Sunday, will initially operate without commercials. David Bártík, head of ARBOmedia.cz, which is selling commercial time for the new network, said the first ads will run in late January. Aegis Media Executive Director Petr Chajda said advertisers are waiting to judge TV Barrandov’s programming before buying ads. TV Barrandov expects to get up to CZK 100 million from advertising in its first year.

E15 8

ČEZ among world’s 300 most valuable firms

Energy firm ČEZ ranks 208th among the 300 most valuable companies worldwide, as ranked by consultancy Ernst & Young based on their market capitalisation at the end of 2008. ČEZ’s market value was calculated at USD 24.7 billion, compared to USD 44.6 billion a year ago.

HN 15

Government debt nears CZK 1 trillion

Czech government debt increased by more than CZK 107 billion to CZK 999.5 billion last year, the Finance Ministry said Thursday. Per capita debt reached almost CZK 96,000.

ČTK

Troubled Crystalex sought by group of Czech entrepreneurs

A group of Czech entrepreneurs has expressed interest in taking over bankrupt glassmaker Crystalex Nový Bor and resuming production, Nový Bor Mayor Jindřich Mareš said Thursday. He did not name the potential investors.

ČTK