NEWS
Crisis package goes before lower house
ODS Deputy Chair Petr Nečas and ČSSD counterpart Zdeněk Škromach confirmed a final agreement on a package of anti-crisis measures, on which the lower house is slated to decide today. The bill’s seven provisions, most of which will be valid until the end of 2010, will cost a total of CZK 40 billion. The measures increase the tax break for families by about CZK 1,000 per child, and include a car-scrapping bonus and reductions in employers’ social security contributions.
HN 1

Bursík: Parliament should have power to oust president
Green Party Chairman Martin Bursík is calling for a constitutional amendment to enable deputies and senators to dismiss the president. Bursík criticised President Václav Klaus’s failure to respect the political will of Parliament, which elects the president, in connection with the Lisbon Treaty.
Aktuálně.cz, Právo 2

MfD: Audit chief has subsidised flat, three company cars
According to the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Budgetary Control, Supreme Audit Office President František Dohnal uses two BMW limousines and a family Peugeot as work vehicles and lives in a state-subsidised CZK 70,000-a-month flat. Mladá fronta Dnes reports that Dohnal is planning to replace one of the BMWs with a new model this year. Contacted by MfD, Dohnal referred questions to his spokeswoman, who refused to comment.
MfD A1, A9

Protesters hit Paroubek with egg
ČSSD chief Jiří Paroubek was hit by an egg on Wednesday at a public meeting in Kolín. Hospodářské noviny reports that two men threw tomatoes and eggs at Paroubek, striking him once on his jacket lapel. After initially denying anything had happened, Paroubek later acknowledged a “marginal incident”. Protester Lukáš Botka told HN he did not want to hurt the opposition leader but wanted to express his disapproval.
most Czech press

Kohout: EU wants dialogue with Cuba
The EU is interested in developing a political dialogue with Cuba but its stance will depend on that country’s observance of human rights, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said Thursday during a meeting of EU representatives and members of the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean states.
ČTK

Minister: Standardised school leaving exams to begin
Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová will not ask Parliament for a further postponement of the standardised secondary-school leaving exams that are to begin in the next school year. Student groups have criticised the ministry for not providing sufficient information on the tests, and a Facebook group formed to oppose the exams has attracted 32,000 members.
LN 1, 4

Entropa model sold for EUR 85,000
A smaller version of David Černý’s satirical sculpture Entropa has been sold for EUR 85,000 to a Slovak entrepreneur who is planning to open an art gallery. Slovakia’s Kressling Gallery helped negotiate the purchase. The original Entropa will go on display at Prague’s Dox gallery 12 June. Prague City Court yesterday ruled that gallery owner Jiří Švestka must pay Černý more than CZK 1 million for a sculpture he ordered from the artist for a Škoda Auto show in Germany. Švestka had refused to pay, saying the piece was delivered late and did not meet agreed terms.
HN 4, MfD A4

Court upholds ban on Central Bohemia covering health fee
The Prague City Court upheld its previous ruling banning the Central Bohemia region from paying the CZK 30 medical fee for patients at a regional pharmacy in Mladá Boleslav.
MfD A4

Austria: Crisis dictates keeping labour market closed
Austria is not in a position right now to open its labour market to workers from the EU’s class of 2004 due to the economic crisis, Austrian President Heinz Fischer said after meeting with Czech President Václav Klaus in Prague Thursday. Klaus said the restrictions were more a symbolic problem than a real barrier for Czechs who want to work abroad.
ČTK

BUSINESS
Verheugen introduces EU plan to boost small businesses
Speaking at an economic forum in Prague yesterday, European Commissioner Günter Verheugen introduced an EU plan to loosen bureaucracy for small and medium-sized enterprises and establish a fund to invest in projects that are not getting bank financing. Verheugen said the flexibility of SMEs can help Europe’s economic recovery. He also praised the Czech Republic’s performance in the first half of its EU presidency.
HN 17

Mortgage market falls by a third in Q1
Czech banks provided mortgage loans worth CZK 17.7 billion to households in the first quarter of 2009, down from CZK 25.8 billion a year earlier, according to data from the Regional Development Ministry.
HN 16

ČSOB group ups Q1 profit by 22%
Financial group ČSOB raised profit by 22% to CZK 3.073 billion in the first quarter of this year. The volume of loans provided to clients rose by 16% year-on-year to CZK 408.5 billion.
most Czech press

Local businesses seek Vietnamese clientele
Local businesses are increasingly offering special services catering to the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic. For example, Vodafone offers discounts on phone calls to Vietnam, and Makro stores print flyers in Vietnamese.
LN 1, 4

Unipetrol posts Q1 loss
The Unipetrol petrochemical group lost CZK 185 million in the first quarter of 2009, and its sales dropped 34% year-on-year to CZK 14.5 billion. The company announced that it would reduce its workforce 8% this year to roughly 4,000.
most Czech press

Interim FinMin to suspend tax amendment, pension reform
The Finance Ministry will not present the already-prepared amendment to the law on income taxes to Parliament or proceed to the next stage of the pension reform during the Fischer government, but it will continue preparing the Prague Airport privatisation and the project for remediation of past environmental damage, Minister Eduard Janota told Nova television Thursday. The items were among the opposition ČSSD’s 27 requirements for supporting the caretaker cabinet.
ČTK

Private rail firms protest scrapping for old carriages
The Chamber of Deputies will discuss today plans to pay a scrapping bonus for old train carriages and engines. Under the plan the State Environment Fund would pay out CZK 3 billion over the next three years. Private rail road transporters said the plan amounts to a subsidy for Czech Railways. Student Agency head Radim Jančura, who wants to enter the passenger rail market, said he will file a complaint with the European Commission if the plan is approved.
HN 15

EU transporters will have to pay passengers for delays
The European Parliament has approved a regulation under which companies providing passenger transport in the EU must compensate customers for delays and be equipped to carry physically handicapped passengers as of 2011, Mladá fronta Dnes reported.
ČTK

Saxo Bank opens Czech branch
The Danish Saxo Bank, which specialises in online investment on international capital markets, opened its first central and eastern European branch Thursday in Prague.
E15 6

Culture Ministry debuts electronic auction
The Culture Ministry yesterday selected a 2010 energy supplier following an online bidding process. Tomáš Stejskal, a ministerial economic officer, said the the first-of-its-kind electronic auction saved CZK 17 million compared to this year. Other ministries are considering adopting the system.
HN 16

Retail sales drop 1.1% in March
Czech retail sales decreased by 1.1% year-on-year in March, following an 8.5% drop in February. Seasonally adjusted March sales rose by 0.9% year-on-year.
HN 16

JMP to pay CZK 368 per share dividend
Jihomoravská plynárenská (JMP), the largest Czech regional gas distributor, will pay out a dividend of CZK 368 per share, down by CZK 88 from last year.
ČTK