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NEWS

Coalition wins battle over medical fees in lower house

The coalition yesterday managed to push through the lower house a Senate proposal that would preserve medical fees but that would cancel them for children under 18 and lower the total maximum amount that seniors pay from CZK 5,000 to 2,500. Last year, the opposition forced through an amendment that would have abolished the controversial fees altogether. The Senate proposal will now come into force if signed by the president.

most Czech press

Plzeň study shows thousands of illegal foreigners

Plzeň Town Hall has published the results of a project that examined how well foreigners are integrating. After three months of fieldwork, the study found dozens of illegal dormitories, housing more than a thousand of unemployed and thousands of illegal foreigners. A number of recruiting agencies were found to be running scams. The project was carried out in cooperation with the Interior Ministry.

HN 15

Lavrov: ČR part of ‘eastern’ Europe

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says based on UN regional groupings the Czech Republic and Poland are part of “eastern” and not “central” Europe. He made the comment during a meeting yesterday in Moscow with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. LN speculated that Lavrov wanted to point out these countries are still within the Russian sphere of influence.

most Czech press

Majority of Czechs favour euro

A Eurobarometer survey published yesterday shows 53% of Czechs support the euro, while 40% are opposed. Almost half of Czechs, 46%, consider EU membership to be positive, 12% negative, and 40% are neutral. The European average positive perception of EU membership is 53%.

ČTK

Czechs announce two EU meetings to address crisis

An extraordinary EU summit called by the Czech presidency to deal with the financial crisis will take place on 1 March in Brussels. The Czech presidency will also hold an extraordinary EU meeting to address the impact of the crisis on employment in May.

LN 1, 13

Publishers call on Klaus to veto wiretap amendment

The Czech Publishers Association and the World Association of Newspapers have appealed to President Václav Klaus not to sign an amendment to the criminal code that would make it illegal to publish material obtained via wiretaps. The lower house approved the amendment last week in spite of objections from the Senate.

HN 2

MfD: ČSSD government subsidised brothel

Mladá fronta DNES reports that ČSSD politician Miloslav Mrština’s brothel received CZK 5.3 million in subsidies during the ČSSD government before 2006. The first subsidy, amounting to CZK 1.32 million, was sent from the Ministry of Regional Development in 2005, while the second, for CZK 4 million, was sent by the Labour Ministry to support the creation of new jobs. Mrština used the money to rebuild a hotel that no longer functions as a brothel.

MfD A1, A3

Langer suspected of corruption and abuse of power

Journalist Petr Tomášek has filed a complaint with the Prague Prosecutors Office accusing Interior Minister Ivan Langer of abuse of power and corruption in connection with Langer’s relationship with businessman Luděk Sekyra. Langer admitted earlier that he lobbied for Sekyra but yesterday said he considered the complaint to be absurd.

ČTK

Rath ‘disgusted’ by porn on website bearing his name

ČSSD MP and Central Bohemia Governor David Rath called the appearance of a pornographic video on a website bearing his name a “tasteless and disgusting” attack. He said the site was not official and that he is consulting with lawyers. He is also considering filing a lawsuit against the magazine Reflex, which carried a cover last week likening him to Adolf Hitler.

ČTK

BUSINESS

HN: Fixed electricity prices may not pay off

HN reports it may not be advantageous for households and small companies to opt for fixed electricity prices as prices are expected to fall further. Chad Tschudi from ČEZ, quoted by Bloomberg, and Jiří Gavor from ENA said they expect prices to go as low as EUR 45/MWh, while ČEZ’s and PRE’s fixed tariffs are based on a price of EUR 50/MWh. Customers have until the end of February to choose fixed rates.

HN 13, 14

PPF expanding in real estate, media

The weekly Ekonom reports that PPF is seeking to buy ECM Group, which holds a majority stake in the publicly traded developer ECM Real Estate Investments. PPF did not confirm or deny the information. PPF is also expanding in media by launching a news website and founding an education centre for radio, print and web-based media.

HN 17, 19

Czech industrial output plummets in December

Czech industrial output in December fell 15%, its third straight monthly drop, according to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ). Metallurgy was hardest hit, dropping 25.1%; output in the car industry fell 20.7%. Petr Kužel from the Czech Chamber of Commerce said the drop in production was caused by lower orders from Germany and other western countries.

most Czech press

New labour code to simplify redundancies

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas has proposed changes to the labour code that would simplify the process of hiring and firing employees. Nečas told Hospodářské noviny the proposal would shorten the notice period for laying off workers by a month; severance pay would be based on the number of years a worker spent with a company. The probation period would be lengthened from three to four months for workers, and six months for managers. The cabinet will discuss the amendment in June.

HN 1, 3

Survey: Salaries are stagnating

A Robert Half survey of salaries and benefits shows salary growth slowed at the end of last year and wages are currently stagnating or falling. Entry-level wages for unskilled positions have returned to 2007 levels, said Aleš Křížek, the company’s head in the Czech Republic. Salaries for highly skilled employees with long-term experience are still rising slightly as experts are still lacking in many fields.

most Czech press

State guarantees for SMEs to be available as of Friday

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is launching a programme tomorrow that will provide CZK 3.75 billion in state guarantees to companies seeking bank loans. Companies can apply for the guarantees through the Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank (ČMRZB).

MfD B1, B3

Court: Bulgaria must pay ČEZ EUR 4.3m

The International Court of Arbitration in Paris has ruled that Bulgaria must pay EUR 4.3 million to Czech energy giant ČEZ. ČEZ filed a complaint in 2006 claiming the Bulgarian privatisation agency published false information during the sale of three state-owned energy distribution centres, which ČEZ bought in 2004.

Euro.cz

Czech Rail calls off CZK 1bn tender

Czech Railways (ČD) has cancelled a tender for the supply of 34 engines worth almost CZK 1 billion. ČD’s Petr Šťáhlavský said only one company bid and that company failed to meet the requirements. ČD will now call on suppliers to send in offers.

ČTK

‘Hooters’ to open by year-end

The first Hooters restaurant, a US chain featuring scantily clad waitresses, will open in the Czech Republic by the end of the year. The company Na Zdravi Ventures has been granted a licence by Hooters of America and plans to open at least six restaurants in the Czech and Slovak republics.

ČTK

Express train ticket to Prague Airport should cost CZK 120

An express train ticket from the centre to Prague Airport should cost CZK 120, according to the former deputy transportation minister, Emanuel Šíp. The ministry expects the trains to start running at the end of 2013.

MfD C1, C3, Právo 12

Report: Sanofi-Aventis likely to raise Zentiva stake

Reuters news agency reported yesterday that the private company Belviport Trading Ltd is likely to sell its 10.06% of pharmaceuticals company Zentiva to the French Sanofi-Aventis. Sanofi is currently the majority shareholder in Zentiva, with a 24.9% stake.

HN 19

Number of ADSL internet lines growing

The Czech Republic had some 700,000 ADSL internet connections at the start of the year, approximately 90,000 more than a year earlier, Czech Telecommunication Office (ČTÚ) data show.

ČTK

Wind power output doubles in 2008

Electricity production generated from wind power nearly doubled last year to 245 GWh, up from 125 GWh in 2007, according to the Czech Energy Regulatory Office (ERÚ).

ČTK