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Breakfast Brief – 13 November 2009

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Table of Contents

Swine flu cases on the rise, schools shut
The number of swine flu incidents in the country may soon reach 500, with 92 new cases detected over the last week. Yesterday, a patient infected with the H1N1 virus died in a Prague hospital. Authorities in the Karlovy Vary region also closed a secondary school in Cheb after the virus was confirmed in three of the school’s students and up to 270 other pupils showed symptoms. Two more schools have been temporarily closed, according to media reports. Energy companies and banks have already worked out crisis plans in case of a pandemic and are awaiting a flu vaccine that should be available at the end of November for their employees.
Source: most Czech press

Topolánek will not stand for office at party congress
ODS chairman Mirek Topolánek introduced a team of 20 party members yesterday who will cooperate with him in drawing up the party’s vision of Czech society for the following decade, which he plans to present at the November party congress. He said the vision would serve as a political platform for the spring general election. If party elections are held at the congress, Topolánek would not stand for reappointment, he told Czech Television.
Source: most Czech press

Právo: Escapee probably committed suicide
Police yesterday announced autopsy results showing that escaped prisoner Pavel Tauchen who died in a crossfire on Wednesday was not killed by a Czech police weapon. Právo reports that Tauchen committed suicide, but police have not confirmed this claim. Tauchen’s wife, Dagmar Tauchenová who aided his escape and was also injured during the shooting, is now in a stable condition. Police are investigating the circumstances of her injury.
Source: most Czech press

Discharged soldiers used marijuana in Kosovo
Several Czech soldiers had to be recalled home from Kosovo due to excessive alcohol consumption and use of marijuana at a party on 26 September in Camp Vile, Lieutenant General Vlastimil Picek told a general staff meeting yesterday. Soldiers whose blood tests showed marijuana use will be discharged from the army, he said. President Václav Klaus also denounced the atmosphere in Czech military foreign missions yesterday, referring to soldiers in Afghanistan who wore SS emblems on their helmets, as reported by MF Dnes earlier this week.
Source: Právo 4, MfD A4

Unions demand guarantees, strike threat persists
After reaching a preliminary agreement with city hall on Thursday morning, Prague transport union leaders complained that no written guarantees of what had been negotiated had been offered. A strike may therefore be announced as early as today.
Source: most Czech press

Prague tunnel construction delayed by 13 months
The construction of Blanka tunnel in Prague will not end until 20 December 2012, Josef Kalíšek of construction company IDS told Prague councillors yesterday. This is 13 months later than originally planned. None of the parties involved was available to comment, HN said.

VŠFS next on uni audit list
Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová is planning an audit of the University of Finance and Administration (VŠFS), where a number of Prague politicians obtained degrees faster than usual. The accreditation committee will start the review straight after completing one now under way at West Bohemian University law faculty in Plzeň. VŠFS dean Bohuslava Šenkýřová requested the audit two weeks ago, claiming everything was in order. ODS Prague councillor Martin Langmajer received a bachelor’s degree at VŠFS in just over one year.
Source: HN 1, 4

Poll: Most Czechs praise Velvet Revolution
Two thirds of Czechs consider the Velvet Revolution to be a major event in modern Czech history, according to an October survey by STEM. 43% of the respondents said the post-revolution era is one of the best periods in Czech history.
Source: ČTK

Survey: No progress for Czech Roma since 1989
Even 20 years after the Velvet Revolution, the situation of Czech Roma has not improved much, a study by the Romani organisation Dženo suggests. While there is support for Romani culture and language, their working and housing conditions have only deteriorated, and right-wing extremism has grown. Ivan Veselý of the AROIE initiative dealing with Romani issues plans therefore to address the government with a proposal to improve the situation.
Source: ČTK

ÚZSI: Naming former communist spies could harm ČR
Disclosing the identities of members of the security forces of former communist Czechoslovakia is a massive breach of confidentiality that could harm current Czech interests, said the Office for Foreign Relations and Information (ÚZSI) yesterday in response to the release of a list of names by the Institute for the Study of the Totalitarian Regimes. An ÚZSI spokesman said the disclosure may leave some former intelligence officers who had spied for the state in high-risk situations such as the Persian Gulf War feeling endangered.
Source: ČTK

Cardinal backs search for saint’s grave
Local cardinal Miloslav Vlk yesterday expressed support for plans to start searching for the lost grave of Saint Anežka Česká at Saint Haštal church in Prague. The idea that the saint was buried there came from nun Anna Koláčková, who identified the site in a vision. Archaeological research is likely to begin next year, and media coverage will help to fund the dig, church curator Vladimír Kelnar said.
Source: LN 5

Report: ČR could handle another gas crisis
The Czech Republic has passed a simulated exercise testing the country’s readiness to deal with a gas crisis like the one that took place in January this year, Industry Minister Vladimír Tošovský said. He confirmed that if gas supplies are suspended, the Czech gas industry would be able to deal with the impact adequately. According to an October report from the ministries of foreign affairs, interior and industry, the country would be able to last approximately one month in cold weather if Russian supplies were interrupted.
Source: HN 22

Law could change on Temelín bid
The government wants to adopt measures to change the conditions of ČEZ’s current CZK 500 billion tender to build two new blocks at Temelín power plant, claiming it threatens national security. Cabinet is especially concerned that Russia’s Atomstrojexport may win the bid, expanding Russia’s growing influence on Czech energy supplies. ČEZ COO Daniel Beneš told HN that the new law could exclude the case from current tender rules or require an amendment to ČEZ’s statutes. However, such changes to the conditions of an ongoing tender could lead to arbitration against the state, HN writes.
Source: HN 1-3

PPF to sell ArcelorMittal stake for CZK 7bn
Financial group PPF confirmed yesterday it will sell its 13.88% stake in ArcelorMittal Ostrava (AMO) to ArcelorMittal for CZK 6.879 billion, thus increasing the parent company’s holdings to about 96.4% of AMO. The sale could squeeze out minority shareholders.
Source: HN 17, 20, ČTK

Ministry to spend CZK 500m on housing
The Ministry for Regional Development wants to distribute CZK 490 million among the municipalities next year. The state subsidy will cover recultivating of public space at pre-fab housing estates and the construction of technical infrastructure and state rented housing.
Source: ČTK

De Tijd: KBC plans to trade 40% of ČSOB shares
The Belgium-based bank and insurance group KBC is planning to issue 40% of ČSOB’s shares worth CZK 50 billion on the Prague Stock Exchange next year, the Belgian daily De Tijd reported yesterday. The group, which has owned the bank since 1999, expects the listing to take place within the first half of 2010.
Source: most Czech press

German fund buys Gemini office space for CZK 2.8bn
In what is reportedly the year’s largest real estate deal, German fund Deka Immobilien will pay EUR 110 million, or CZK 2.8 billion, for the Gemini administrative centre in Pankrác, Prague, consulting firm King Sturge told HN. The transaction increases the volume of this year’s real estate investments in the Czech Republic to EUR 263 million (CZK 6.71 billion).
Source: HN 19, LN 15, E15 8

Škoda car sales down
The Czech carmaker Škoda Auto sold 570,217 vehicles between January and October this year, marking a year-on-year decline of 1.7%. The company’s car sales in China over the period totalled 95,679, up by more than 90%.
Source: HN 22

CineStar takes over Village Cinemas
CineStar, the largest multiplex network in the Czech Republic, has acquired rival Village Cinemas Czech Republic for an undisclosed price. The acquisition includes Prague multiplexes in Anděl and Černý Most.
Source: E15 9

Survey: Czechs to spend less on Christmas this year
Czech households will spend an average of CZK 13,400 over the Christmas holidays this year, down by 2.5% from last year’s figure, according to a Deloitte survey, which put the average EU spending at CZK 15,300 over the period, a decline annually of 3.8%. One third of Czech respondents plan to spend less this year, with 57% citing the economic crisis as the reason and 38% blaming high debts.

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