NEWS
Top MPs replace glitzy limos after 1.5 years
The chairman and five deputy chairs of the Chamber of Deputies have replaced their 1.5-year-old BMW 7 Series luxury cars with fresher models of the same brand. The move has cost taxpayers CZK 2 million, which the lower house’s press officer called “a particularly low price”.
iDnes.cz

Paroubek calls Constitutional Court unconstitutional
Yesterday, MPs discussed an amendment enabling the disbanding of the lower house and early elections in case the Constitutional Court rules tomorrow in favour of the complaint filed by unaffiliated MP Miloš Melčák. ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek said it is necessary to open a debate on the future of the court, adding the decision of the judges to delay elections is against the constitution. The amendment, which is likely to be passed on Friday, would enable the elections to take place on the first weekend of November.
Source: most Czech press

ODS and Top 09 mull scrapping ministry
The Civic Democrats and TOP 09 announced yesterday that they might dissolve the Regional Development Ministry after the elections as a way to reduce public spending. The office is now in charge of drawing EU funds and managing housing policy.
Source: ČTK

Minister blackmailed over Čunek review
Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová has been under increased police protection over a growing number of anonymous threat and blackmail letters. Three weeks ago Kovářová reopened a previously shelved case in which former Deputy PM Jiří Čunek was charged with corruption and later cleared; she also said that she would publish the whole file.
Source: Právo 1, 7, ČTK

Czech publishers protest Google Books project
Vladimír Pistorius, head of the association of Czech publishers (SČKN), yesterday announced that the association has turned to the European Commission along with colleagues from other EU countries to complain about the planned Google project of publishing the texts of books online. Pistorius called Google a “pirate” and said the project violates copyright laws and threatens the Czech and international book markets.
Source: most Czech press

New National Technical Library opens today in Prague
The project cost CZK 2.25 billion, was paid for mostly by the state, and was built by the Sekyra Group as the first example of a concluded PPP project. The library can house 1.76 million books and expects 900,000 visitors a year.
Source: HN 23, LN 1, 4

ČR education funding lower than other countries
The Czech Republic spent 4.8% of GDP on education in 2006, short of the 6.1% OECD average. The gap is greatest in university funding.
Source: LN 5, ČTK

Czech scientists invent chemical-poison decomposer
Czech scientists have come up with a genetically modified protein that will get rid of chemical poisons that nature cannot break down, according to a finding published in the prestigious Nature Chemical Biology magazine. The leader of the research team, Jiří Damborský, said that Japanese scientists are also co-operating on the project.
Source: MfD A1, A3

Karfík named ambassador to Slovakia
Jakub Karfík, former ambassador to Pakistan and Egypt, will replace Vladimír Galuška as ambassador to Slovakia next week.
Source: ČTK

Proposal for direct adoptions
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has put together a proposal to enable child adoption right from maternity wards to prevent babies from being emotionally deprived. Currently, unwanted children need to go through institutions where they await their biological mothers’ agreement to their adoptions. Consent can be obtained no sooner than six weeks after birth. The proposal recommends that social workers try to find adoptive parents before birth.
Source: HN 1, 6

Civil servant suspected of record fraud
Prima TV reported last night that an employee of the Czech Social Security Administration in Prague 5 is suspected of embezzling CZK 10 million, the largest scam ever discovered by the agency. The woman seems to have been sending social security refunds to her own bank account for the last 14 years.
Source: ČTK

ČR and Liechtenstein talk again after decades
The Czech Republic and Liechtenstein re-established diplomatic relations that had been severed for decades yesterday in Prague. The foreign minister of the alpine microstate said that the ruling dynasty is not withdrawing its claims to properties confiscated from it in postwar Czechoslovakia, the main reason behind the diplomatic vacuum so far.
Source: MfD A2, Právo 4

BUSINESS
Experts see light amid record downturn
GDP shrank by a record 5.5% in April-June compared with a year earlier, worse than the expected 4.9% contraction, the Czech Statistical Office announced yesterday. Some analysts interviewed by ČTK say that a decline in warehouse stock is behind the drop and that the Czech economy is already recovering from recession.
Source: most Czech press

Experts say job losses have slowed down
The Labour Ministry announced yesterday that the unemployment rate in August was 8.5%, compared with 8.4% in July and 5.3% a year earlier. Analysts said that the figure will keep growing until early next year and could reach up to 10%, but that the largest wave of redundancies is already over. Škoda Auto and Akuma, both based near Mladá Boleslav, are expected to continue layoffs. The Most region is seeing the worst unemployment, at over 16%.
Source: most Czech press

Real estate website: Prices for flats slightly up in August
Housing prices in the Czech Republic have levelled off or slightly risen in August after 12 months of decline, said Michal Pich, head of EuroNet Media, which has monitored the prices of some 60,000 properties since last September. Pich also expects the same development in the following months as well. However, real estate experts say that it is too soon to predict steady growth, as the impression of a rising demand could be false because fewer clients buy than make inquiries.
Source: HN 22, MfD A1, D4-D6

PA Export announces bankruptcy
PA Export, formerly Škodaexport, announced its bankruptcy to the Municipal Court in Prague yesterday. The company had been in insolvency proceedings since June at the request of Siemens Engineering. The formerly state-owned power plant builder was sold to the ČKD Group, which later opposed the privatisation, arguing that all data on foreign investment projects were not known at the time of the sale. Board of directors member Štepán Sádecký said that the bankruptcy is mainly due to unsuccessful talks with investors on two projects worth CZK 5.3 billion to build power plants in Pakistan.
Source: MfD B2, Právo 18, ČTK

Report: ČR improves competitiveness
A report issued yesterday by the World Economic Forum ranks the Czech Republic as the world’s 31st most competitive economy, two notches better than last year. However, the reports also found that the country suffers from inefficient government bureaucracy, insufficient access to financing, and corruption.
Source: ČTK

ČEZ may build Polish power plant
The Polish gas group PGNiG might join forces with the Czech power giant ČEZ to build an 800mw gas-fired power station in western Poland, the Polish daily Parkiet reported yesterday.
Source: ČTK

EU court questions Budvar’s branding rights
A ruling by the European Court of Justice yesterday suggests that the Czech brewery Budějovický Budvar (Budweiser Budvar) may not have the exclusive right to use the Bud trademark in the EU. Budvar has for years been in a branding war against the US’s Anheuser-Busch (now the Belgian Anheuser-Busch InBev).
Source: most Czech press

Centralway to invest in HyperMedia
The Swiss investment fund Centralway is rumoured to have designs on acquiring HyperMedia, which operates the biggest Czech online advertisement website Hyperinzerce.cz and 17 similar portals. Centralway has previously sold Blog.cz, Jyxo.cz and its majority stake in the Invia travel agency, and owns or has shares in the video server Čeknito, webpage creator WebNote, price grader HledejCeny and the TopRecepty cooking site.
Source: HN 17