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Breakfast Brief – 10 July 2009

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Table of Contents

LN: Army to mothball tank fleet
Lidové noviny reports that 30 T-72M4 CZ tanks which the military spent CZK 4.5 billion to modernise will be taken out of service due to budget cuts. According to the daily, the tanks will be oiled and placed in air-conditioned halls. The move would mark the first time in the history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic that the country will not have armoured troops. The Defence Ministry would not confirm the information.
LN 1, 2

HN: Diplomats unhappy with Paroubek’s Russia visit
An internal diplomatic report obtained by Hospodářské noviny is highly critical of ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek’s recent visit to Moscow, expressing disapproval that Paroubek did not invite Czech diplomats to accompany him in meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or send a report on the trip to the Foreign Ministry. While in Russia Paroubek promised to improve relations with Russia and to fight the US plan to build an anti-missile radar base in the Czech Republic.
HN 1, 4, LN 5

Schwarzenberg confirmed as Top 09 leader
Former Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek yesterday confirmed that former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will lead the new Top 09 party’s ballot list in Prague.
most Czech press

ODS hires US Republican consultant Finkelstein
ODS has hired prominent US political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who has advised Republican candidates since 1972, to help shape its strategy for the October elections. Commenting on ODS’s plan to target its main opponent, ČSSD, George Birnbaum, Finkelstein’s business partner and a former adviser to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, defended negative campaigning, calling it “a very sophisticated thing that makes the voters think about the opponent”.
MfD A2

Poll confirms Civic Democrats’ lead
A Median survey shows the Civic Democrats would now win general elections with 34.2% of the vote, 1.2 percentage points ahead of the Social Democrats. The Communists would get 12.1% and the Christian Democrats 6.5%. The Greens would get less than the 5% needed for lower house representation.
Právo 3

Website to list ČR’s child friendly places
Online portal has launched a project to identify and promote child friendly restaurants, shops and offices. About 200 places suggested by parents are listed on the site; those given a positive evaluation by at least five parents will receive a sticker identifying them as kid friendly. The first sticker was issued yesterday to Kavárna Cirkus in Prague’s Smíchov.
LN 1, 3

Demand low for new green cards
The green card programme introduced at the beginning of the year has met with little interest on the part of employers and workers. Eighty-six applications have been made, and only one card has been issued to a non-EU worker, with 12 more requests in the pipeline. Few employers are willing to fully employ foreigners, one of the conditions for granting the green card.
HN 19

Report: Czechs rarely steal EU funds
Czechs show one of the lowest rates of embezzlement of EU funding among the 27 member states, according to a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office. More than a half of EU funding fraud takes place in Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Romania and the UK.

Pravčice Gate among ‘7 wonders’ semifinalists
The Pravčice Gate rock formation in north Bohemia’s Czech Switzerland is among 77 semifinalists in Swiss foundation New7wonders’ contest to name seven new natural wonders of the world. Twenty-eight finalists chosen by an international committee of experts will be announced 21 July, on which day public voting for the seven wonders will begin. The winners will be announced in 2011.
LN 12, Právo 4

Neighbours fight new squat in Prague 1
Dozens of residents of Prague 1 have signed a petition against plans by a landlord to accommodate squatters evicted last week from the villa Milada in a building on Truhlářská street.
ČTK, Právo 5

Two officers fined for Savoy affair leak
Prague 1 Circuit Court yesterday imposed fines of CZK 100,000 on former intelligence agent Petr Bakeš and CZK 40,000 on ex-policeman Jiří Dvořák for leaking a video of a meeting between Jiří Weigl, the president’s chief of staff, and Social Democratic lobbyist Miroslav Šlouf last year in Prague’s Hotel Savoy. Media used the leaked video to suggest that behind-the-scene deals preceded last year’s presidential election.

Czechs use Russian to train Afghans
Czech soldiers’ training of Afghan helicopter pilots in Kabul is often conducted in Russian, the main second language of many Afghans and one routinely taught to Czechs before 1989.

Inflation at 5½ year low as joblessness spikes
Consumer inflation in June slowed to 1.2%, down 0.1 points from May and the lowest rate since December 2003, according to the Czech Statistical Office. The Labour Ministry said unemployment grew from 7.9% to 8%, up from some 5% a year ago, and that it might reach 10% by next year.
most Czech press

Klaus vetoes car scrapping bonus
President Václav Klaus yesterday vetoed a stimulus bill that included Social Democrats’ proposal for subsidies for buyers of new cars who trade in their old vehicle. Klaus called the legislation “discriminatory” and “flawed”, saying the scrapping bonus would help big carmakers while neglecting other sectors. The Finance Ministry and some officials of the former centre-right government welcomed the move, as did some economists and business groups.
most Czech press

HN: Roman under pressure from ČEZ rivals
Hospodářské noviny reports that ČEZ CEO Martin Roman is likely to face rising pressure from rival companies over his firm’s political influence and growing market dominance. Other firms might lobby the government to push for Roman’s ouster, the daily writes. Recently ČEZ and financial group J&T purchased heat supplier Pražská teplárenská before competitor Czech Coal managed to enter a bid.
HN 1, 2-3, 16-17

Wood & Co buys Czech Credit Suisse
Czech brokerage and investment bank Wood & Company has purchased the local arm of Swiss investment firm Credit Suisse Asset Management for an undisclosed price. The move adds CZK 8.6 billion to Wood’s assets and expands its service offer to include private individuals and institutional clients’ portfolio and fund management.
E15 6, HN 15, 23

Mortgage bankers see double digit drop
UniCredit Bank’s Tomáš Drábek told reporters yesterday the volume of household mortgages sold this year might be about 40%-50% lower than last year’s CZK 114 billion. Hypoteční banka’s Jan Sadil expects a 20% contraction.
E15 8

Part of United Bakeries is for sale
Czech Radio reported yesterday that the top Czech baker, United Bakeries, is for sale. A company spokesman said owners Marko and Jaroslav Pařík only want to sell a part of the firm. United’s biggest rival on the Czech and Slovak markets, Penam, is said reportedly interested in the deal.
most Czech press

Big power firms in tug-of-war for clients
The Energy Regulatory Office says almost a third of large customers last year changed their power supplier, compared to less than 20% in 2007. The share of households switching to new companies remained low at 0.3%.

EIB will lend CZK 3bn-4bn for flood relief
The Czech Republic will cover damages caused by the recent floods by selling government bonds worth CZK 3 billion-4 billion to the European Investment Bank, the Finance Ministry said yesterday.

Rafaj named antitrust chief
President Václav Klaus yesterday appointed Petr Rafaj to head the antimonopoly office, ÚOHS, replacing Martin Pecina, who resigned in June to become interior minister.
Právo 15

ČTK: Kapsch fined over toll system flaws
ČTK reports that Kapsch, the Austrian firm that built the electronic toll system on Czech motorways in 2006, must pay a CZK 170 million fine to compensate for the system’s defects. Neither Kapsch nor the Transport Ministry commented directly on the fine, but a ministry spokesman said the cabinet will discuss the matter on Monday.

Prima has new head of news
Jitka Obzinová, chief editor of domestic news at public service broadcaster Czech Radio 1, will replace Pavel Zuna as TV station Prima’s chief news editor.
LN 16, Právo 4

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