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Breakfast Brief – 16 July 2009

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Table of Contents

Sweden backs reciprocal visas for Canadians
EU president Sweden yesterday lent support to the Czech Republic in the dispute over Canada’s new visa law, saying that it favoured making Canadians apply for visas to enter the EU. Tobias Billström, the Swedish minister for migration and asylum, said that the European Commission must make this proposal officially, however, and it would not do so until September.
most Czech press

Janeček re-elected head of Czech TV
Jiří Janeček was yesterday re-elected as general director of Czech Television, the country’s leading public broadcaster. Janeček was voted in again by an absolute minimum majority of Czech TV board members. Deputy chairwoman of the board, Helena Fibingerová, told Lidové noviny that she fears Janeček’s re-election might jeopardise her position, saying the board members might be ousted on political grounds. Another board member told HN the re-election of Janeček would please neither ODS nor ČSSD.
most Czech press

Rath spied on predecessor
South Bohemian Governor David Rath has said in an interview with Hospodářské noviny that he placed former aide Filip Bušina on the administrative staff of his predecessor Petr Bendl (ODS) to collect data about the latter’s management and financing of regional hospitals. Rath said the information was key to his subsequent takeover of the position. Immediately after taking office last year, Rath sacked the heads of all the five regional hospitals.
HN 1, 5

Swine flu contracted for first time on local soil
The last of the 21 Czechs to have been diagnosed with swine flu was also the first to contract the virus inside the Czech Republic.

Court: Rent control is illegal
The Constitutional Court yesterday backed a Brno landlord who is seeking compensation from the state for financial losses caused by rent control. The court upheld its previous finding that rent regulation practice breach ownership rights, declaring that local courts must now hear landlord’s complaints and grant damages on a case-by-case basis.

Kocáb blames Czech mayors for Canadian visas
Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb yesterday drew public attention to the past anti-Roma statements and conduct of some local politicians citing former Vsetín mayor Jiří Čunek and Chomutov mayor Ivana Řápková. He said that these acts, along with the behaviour of the Czech far right, had prompted the current exodus of Roma and were partly responsible for the reintroduction of visas by Canada earlier this week.

Paroubek says ODS courting far right
The Civic Democrats (ODS) yesterday rejected the request of Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek to distance itself from the Latvian party For Fatherland and Freedom and Polish group Law and Justice. ODS and the UK Tories recently formed a new faction in European Parliament including MEPs from these two far-right parties, which are said respectively to support SS veterans’ parades and believe homosexuality is a disease.

ČSSD replaces three MPs
Three Social Democrats, Jitka Vojtilová, Petr Hájek and Zdeněk Besta yesterday officially took over seats in the lower house, replacing Robert Dušek and Zuzana Brzobohatá, who have been elected MEPs, and Petr Rafaj, who was recently appointed head of the Czech antimonopoly office.

Food truck blocked Prague road all day
Major road traffic disruptions took place in southern Prague yesterday afternoon after the crash of a Polish lorry full of raspberries, blocking a major artery near Prague’s Barrandov Bridge for 21 hours.
Pd 1, 6, MfD C1

Former EU politicians put pressure on Obama
Former politicians of the newest EU member states have written to US President Barack Obama, asking him not to forget central and eastern European countries during his talks with Russia. The letter’s Czech signatories include past President Václav Havel, former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and past Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs Alexandr Vondra. Signatories said the US might be aiming to reach consensus with Russia, and the letter should ensure it would not be at the European countries’ expense.
LN 1, 7

Fake letter tried to lure CZK 6bn from FinMin
The Finance Ministry recently received a letter demanding more than CZK 6 billion to settle debts of former IPB bank, including a fake confirmation letter. The letter was supposedly written by Radek Šnábl, who heads the ministry department now dealing with the administration of state bail-out agency ČKA. A ministry spokesman announced that a complaint had been filed, while Šnábl said this was the first case of fake documents being used to extract money from the Czech state.
HN 13

European car sector recovers
Annual sales of new passenger cars in Europe rose by 2.4% in June in the first improvement seen in 14 months. In contrast, the same figures for January to June were down by 11%. Škoda Auto’s European yearly sales rose by 7.1% in June, but were down 3.5% for the first half-year.
most Czech press

Ekonom: ČD has shady insurance policy
The Weekly Ekonom has reported that although Czech Railways (ČD) wishes to change its current employee and property insurance policy, it remains bound by an exclusive contract with insurance broker Buckley Associates, whose owners are unknown. The suspicious contract was signed in 2003 and then extended in 2008 three days before current ČD CEO Petr Žaluda entered the office. According to unofficial sources, the ČD management does not technically recognise the validity of the contract retaining the insurer’s services until the end of 2015.
HN 16

Poland joins Czech Mint tender
Poland’s coin distributor Inwestycje Alternetywne Profit (IAP) is among the candidates seeking to buy Czech Mint, which now has a monopoly on the minting of all Czech currency as well as commemorative coins. The Polish bidder recently recorded an annual turnover of EUR 23 million. Meanwhile, Jablonex Group, which owns Czech Mint has taken steps to transform it into a joint-stock company.
HN 1, 13

Industrial production prices sink to 18-year low
Czech industrial production prices for June dropped by 4.4% annually, the largest deline since records began in 1991, the Czech Statistical office announced yesterday. Agricultural production prices were down by 27.9% year-on-year, but 4.6% higher than in May.

Czech firms mull going offshore
Almost 20% of Czech firms are considering moving their headquarters or part of their production abroad, according to a recent Czech Chamber of Commerce survey. The majority are looking east in the hope of cutting labour costs, while some are turning to the UK or the Netherlands so as to benefit from local tax laws and a favourable business environment.
LN 14, ČTK

Mortgage loans down for building societies in H1
Building societies in the Czech Republic reaped only CZK 32.4 billion from mortgage loans in the first half of 2009, marking an annual decline of 14%. Česká spořitelna’s building society Stavební spořitelna saw the biggest loss, shedding almost half of last year’s volume because of the company’s new and stricter lending rules and restructuring of its sales strategy.
HN 14

Latest iPhone probably out this summer
The third generation of iPhone 3GS should be released on the Czech market in the middle of this summer although neither T-Mobile nor Vodafone could give exact dates. Mobile phone providers are not planning to provide any special offers for the launch.
HN 13, E15 9

Balkan Travel goes bust
A court yesterday ordered the liquidation of Liberec-based Balkan Travel, a medium-sized firm that went bankrupt last month. Creditors have until 8 August to file their claims.

Car part supplier sacks another 600
AEES Stříbro (formerly Alcoa Fujikura Czech) has announced 613 redundancies, ditching 85% of its current staff on top of another 1,000 sacked earlier this year. The supplier of car parts has recorded a fall in orders and is moving part of its production to Romania.

Bike discounts come early
Bike sellers are already advertising significant discounts of up to 30% on bikes, including some well-known brands such as Trek and GT. The sales will only last until the end of summer, they said.
E15 8

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