NEWS

Czech leaders back NATO expansion

Hosting NATO leaders yesterday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Czech accession to the alliance, President Václav Klaus said it is necessary to expand NATO in a way that strengthens it. Senate Chairman Senate Přemysl Sobotka, Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg agreed that NATO should keep growing beyond this year’s Croatian and Albanian accession.

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Shooter in Petřvald rampage dies

Raif Kačar, the Macedonian man who killed four people Saturday in a Petřvald restaurant and then shot himself, died yesterday in an Ostrava hospital. Police said they will continue the investigation as they have not ruled out that he had accomplices.

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2,500 Czech cops to have Obama duty

Police President Oldřich Martinů said yesterday that 2,500 Czech officers will be on security detail during US President Barack Obama’s visit next month, at a cost of tens of millions of crowns. Czech police are consulting with US officials on security measures, which Martinů said will be similar to those taken during George W. Bush’s 2007 visit.

MfD A1, A2, B2, ČTK

Greens want top prosecutor sacked over Čunek

The Green Party called on its coalition partners to oust Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká, saying she squandered public confidence by her office’s handling of the Jiří Čunek corruption probe. Ex-Justice Minister Pavel Němec is considering a lawsuit against Judge Vojtěch Cepl over Cepl’s ruling that top government officials manipulated the Čunek case.

MfD A1, A4, Právo 1, 2, Aktuálně.cz

Svoboda to run for KDU-ČSL chair

Regional Development Minister Cyril Svoboda will stand for the KDU-ČSL leadership in June. MP Michaela Šojdrová and MEP Jan Březina are also in the race. Current party leader Jiří Čunek has not disclosed his plans.

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Roma seek foundation for Holocaust victims

The Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust has sent a letter to the minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, calling for establishment of a foundation for the relatives of Roma Holocaust victims. The ministry said the issue would be discussed soon after monuments are erected on the sites of former Roma camps.

HN 4

Litvínov: Debtors have four months to pay up

The town of Litvínov will begin diverting debtors’ social support payments to cover outstanding bills in four months. The north Bohemian town is following the suit of Chomutov, which introduced the practice in February. Representatives of several other Czech towns, including Hradec Králové, Kadaň, Ústí nad Labem and Slaný, said they are considering similar steps.

LN 1, 5

Towaways skyrocketing in capital

The number of cars towed in Prague has more than quadrupled in three years, from 16,365 in 2006 to 71,711 in 2008, adding tens of millions of crowns to the coffers of City Hall and towing contractor Besico Services. Besico, the city’s towing provider since 2007, has already met its four-year quota. Municipal Police deputy head Ludvík Klema acknowledged that the city benefits financially by towing more vehicles.

HN 4

Kocáb to continue predecessor’s anti-child abuse effort

Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb endorsed his predecessor Džamila Stehlíková’s plan to fight child abuse and will launch a national campaign on 6 April. The effort will include TV spots featuring prominent public figures and websites detailing events and programmes connected to the zero-tolerance campaign. According to some estimates 40,000 children in the Czech Republic are abused every year.

LN 5, MfD A6

Farmers who brought cows to Prague face fines

The State Veterinary Administration said that farmers who brought cows to yesterday’s protest in Prague against EU agriculture policy violated laws on animal cruelty and could be fined tens of thousands of crowns.

LN 14, MfD A1, Právo 1, 3

Green rebels register new party

The Interior Ministry on Tuesday registered the new Demokratická strana zelených (Democratic Green Party, DSZ), founded by former Greens who were ousted from that party last week.

E15 5, ČTK

BUSINESS

Companies to get social insurance relief

Labour Minister Petr Nečas yesterday unveiled a three-year social insurance payment plan for companies hard hit by the financial crisis. Firms accepted into the programme can put off the heaviest payments until the third year. Nečas said the plan will not require any legislative change.

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Asset sales, land swap boost ČSA profits

National carrier Czech Airlines posted a CZK 500 million profit last year, up from CZK 389 million in 2007, according to pre-audit results. Operating revenues were stable year-on-year, but the sale of assets and a swap of property with Prague Airport boosted ČSA’s bottom line.

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ČEZ facing suit for turning off metres

A civic group targeting “shameless” energy prices is suing power giant ČEZ on behalf of 50 customers who claim the company illegally disconnected their electricity metres. ČEZ spokesman Ladislav Kříž said the company is acting in accordance with the law.

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Crown continues to strengthen

The Czech currency yesterday strengthened to CZK 20.90 to the dollar, its strongest position since mid-January, and to CZK 26.77 to the euro. According to Hospodářské noviny, the result stems from the central bank persuading investors that the country is in better shape than its central and eastern European neighbours. UniCredit analyst Pavel Sobíšek said the crown will not grow any further and is likely to stay around the same level.

HN 1, 22, ČTK

FinMin proposes ending property sale tax

The Finance Ministry wants to abolish the 3% tax paid by property sellers in hopes of reviving the slumping real estate market. Jaroslav Chýle of law firm Clifford Chance could help juice the property market, but Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Štefan Falis does not expect cancelling the tax to have a significant impact.

E15 2

Škoda operational profit down; Russia sales rise

Škoda Auto’s operational profit fell by more than 20% to EUR 565 million last year due to the weakening of the crown. In the first two months of 2009 the leading Czech automaker boosted Russia sales by 24% year-on-year despite a steady decline in demand for cars there.

HN 15, Právo 20

Ad council: Crisis-themed promos not unethical

The Czech Advertising Standards Council ruled that referencing the economic crisis in advertising does not contradict ethics rules. Several companies, including Tesco and cosmetics firm Avon, have been using the downturn in promotional campaigns.

HN 5

German firms in ČR expect steeper downturn

Some 4% of German companies registered with the Czech-German Chamber of Commerce said they consider the current economic situation in the Czech Republic to be good, a view held by two-thirds of such firms last year. Almost three-quarters of the 120 companies surveyed by the chamber expect the situation to get worse.

HN 18, E15 10

State offers CZK 30m to help glassworkers

The state will provide a CZK 30 million subsidy to workers in the glassmaking industry who have not been paid for several months. The money will be distributed by glassworkers’ trade unions. Prague City Court launched bankruptcy proceedings yesterday against glassmaker Crystalex, a part of the Bohemia Crystalex group.

Právo 4, ČTK

Health insurer launches with web focus

New health insurance company Média launched operations yesterday. The firm will not target a particular group of clients but reckons on gaining market share through online communications and prevention programmes.

Právo 4, ČTK