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Breakfast Brief – 9 February 2009

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Health Ministry plans insurance subsidies, sin tax hike

The Health Ministry has proposed subsidising companies’ health insurance costs. The plan would lower businesses’ premiums by 1%, with the state budget making up insurers’ resulting CZK 10 billion-12 billion loss. The ministry also aims to raise monthly insurance payments for children, pensioners and the unemployed by CZK 200 per person, with the CZK 13 billion-14 billion cost covered by raising the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco.

HN 1

Sáblíková wins world speedskating title

Martina Sábliková clinched the women’s gold medal in the World Allround Speedskating Championships Sunday in Hamar, Norway. It was the first title for the 21-year-old Czech skater.

most Czech press

Vlk criticises pope over bishop restoration

Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk added his voice to those criticising Pope Benedict XVI for reversing the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, including Holocaust denier Richard Williamson. Vlk said the pope’s action was not sufficiently thought through.

LN 1, 5 Sat

Minister backs EU-US summit in Prague

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg expressed support Friday for holding an EU-US summit in Prague this spring, saying that by backing the proposal US President Barack Obama could signal that his partnership with Europe extends beyond large EU countries.

Právo 2 Sat

LN: Topolánek gets passing mark for EU stewardship

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s was awarded a B- in a survey commissioned by Lidové noviny to gauge the premier’s popularity in relation to the country’s EU presidency. Political scientists said Topolánek has demonstrated his knowledge of European politics in executing the EU role.

LN 1, 4 Sat

Eastern MEPs seek debate over communist legacy

The European Parliament is slated to debate next month a proposal backed by some 50 MEPs, mostly from the former eastern bloc, to equate the victims of communist regimes with those of the Nazis. The measure calls for creation of a Europe-wide institute to examine both communist and Nazi crimes. Czech MEP Jan Březina said many of his western European colleagues still have illusory ideas about the character of the communist regime.

LN 2 Sat

Journalist Slonková fined for protecting source

Prague 1 District Court fined Aktuálně.cz reporter Sabina Slonková CZK 20,000 for refusing to disclose the source of her reporting on meetings between presidential advisor Jiří Weigl and lobbyist Miroslav Šlouf before last year’s presidential election. Slonková is the first Czech journalist to be punished for protecting a source. The Czech Constitution includes the right of reporter’s to protect sources, except when a public servant leaks personal information.

LN 4 Sat, Mfd A2 Sat

Theatre manufactures split over Černý sculpture

Taking advantage of the controversy over David Černý’s Entropa sculpture, Prague’s Divadlo Na zábradlí is publicising a supposed squabble among employees over a work the artist donated to mark the theatre’s 50th anniversary. Na zábradlí Director Doubravka Svobodová said the theatre was inspired by the Entropa case to bring more attention to its Černý’s sculpture, which depicts an embryo growing out of a rain gutter.

LN 1, 17

NGOs, Greens protest deportation order

Fifteen Czech NGOs and the Green Party have called on authorities not to deport a Vietnamese guest worker who started working for a Czech firm three weeks before the start date of his work permit. Le Kim Thanh is holding a hunger strike to protest the decision. His supporters argue that it was his employer who violated the law.



PM: Crisis council expects 2% contraction

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek confirmed to Hospodářské noviny that the anti-crisis plan proposed by his National Economic Council (NERV) is predicated on a 2% drop in Czech GDP this year. Czech National Bank Governor Zdeněk Tůma said the country was able to absorb the initial impact of the crisis, which affected the banking sector, and should be capable of dealing with the next blow, which he expects to hit in the second half of 2009.

HN 1, 2, 3, LN 1, 13

French carmaker will stay in ČR

PSA Peugeot Citroën has no plans to move production from its plant outside Kolín to France, an unnamed company spokesman said Friday. The previous day French President Nicholas Sarkozy had called on French carmakers to eliminate offshore operations. Czech PM Mirek Topolánek told Hospodářské noviny that Sarkozy’s statement endangers passage of the Lisbon Treaty.

most Czech press

Govt to use 2% of GDP to tackle crisis

In an interview with Mladá fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said the cabinet will put 2% of GDP (approximately CZK 75 billion) toward its plan for dealing with the financial crisis. The government hopes the move will motivate banks and private investors to begin lending and spending money.

MfD A12 Sat

Japan to pay ČR billions for emission allowances

The Czech Republic is to receive CZK 10 billion from Japan in exchange for emission allowances. Environment Minister Martin Bursík told TV Prima yesterday that the money will be spent on ecological projects he said will create 5,000 jobs. The country will receive another CZK 15 billion from Japan by 2013; those funds are earmarked for subsidies to households for insulation or switching to environmentally friendly heating systems.

HN 3

MPs propose VAT cuts to fight crisis

Social Democratic MPs on Friday proposed to reduce the discount VAT rate on food, drugs and selected services from 9% to 6% as a way to fight the economic downturn. Civic Democratic MP Vlastimil Tlustý submitted a bill that would cut the 19% basic VAT rate to 15%.


Janota: Slowdown could trigger ballooning deficit

Should the Czech economy contract by 2% this year, the public finance deficit would exceed CZK 100 billion and the country would not meet the Maastricht criteria for euro adoption, Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota said Friday.


Čedok parent eyes ČSA

Finance group Odien, owner of Czech travel agency Čedok, has shown interest in taking over state-run Czech Airlines. Aeroflot and Czech charter airline Travel Service have announced plans to take part in the planned privatisation tender earlier.

HN 15, Právo 3 Sat

Hyundai plant resumes full production

The Hyundai plant in Nošovice has increased production to full capacity after cutting output in January due to low demand.

HN 15

AAA’s sales tumble 24%

Prague-listed used car dealer AAA Auto sold 60,560 vehicles last year, 24% fewer than in 2007, due to the global crunch and closure of all Polish and most Hungarian branches.


Sick pay costs down CZK 3bn in 2008

The government paid CZK 24.8 billion in sick pay last year, CZK 3 billion less than in 2007, due to new legislation restricting sick pay in early days of illness.

Právo 3 Sat, ČTK

Coal mining at Centrum extended

Czech Coal has extended lignite extraction at the Centrum mine in the Most area until 2012 due to high demand for brown coal. The mine was slated to close last year.

LN 7 Sat

PPF gets top Russian white goods chain

Czech-owned finance group PPF has reached an agreement to take over a controlling stake in Eldorado, Russia’s largest household appliances retailer. The Russian antimonopoly office has approved the deal. Russian daily Vedomosti reports that billionaire Igor Yakovlev will hand over the stake to settle his debt to PPF.


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