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Breakfast Brief – 18 May 2009

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Table of Contents

House votes to scrap health fees; minister fears impact
On Friday, the lower house approved and sent to the Senate two alternative healthcare bills, one of which would waive the CZK 30 co-pay for patients younger than 19 years old, the elderly and low-income patients, while the other would abolish them altogether. Health Minister Dana Jurásková said that patients would have to wait longer for surgery and the quality of care would deteriorate without the fees.
most Czech press

ČSSD calls for higher taxes on big earners
The Social Democrats plan to increase mandatory social insurance payments for people with a monthly income over CZK 94,000 and introduce a 38% tax rate on income exceeding CZK 100,000 monthly if they win the October general elections. The party would also consider abolishing the Prague Energy Exchange to reduce ČEZ’s control over electricity prices.
HN 1, 17-19, LN 1, 15

UK tabloid: Czech football star caught buying drugs
Czech national team and West Bromwich striker Roman Bednář was suspended by the club following reports published in the weekly News of the World that he bought cocaine and marijuana worth GBP 440. The new coach of the Czech team is reconsidering Bednář’s spot on the squad.
most Czech press

Beskydy school wants to segregate Roma
Roma groups, education experts and the human rights minister have all criticised plans by the town hall in Valašské Meziříčí to place all Romany children into a separate class at a local primary school.
MfD A4 Sat, LN 4 Sat

Chomutov mayor sues human rights minister
Chomutov Mayor Ivana Řápková has filed a complaint against Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb over a study on the situation in her town that was conducted for the ministry by the nonprofit Socioklub. Řápková called the analysis “full of lies, defamation and insults” and said Kocáb paid for this “compromising material” with taxpayers’ money.
Právo 4 Sat, LN 3 Sat

Klaus: Topolánek government yielded to lobbyists
President Václav Klaus said in a LN interview that of all post-1989 Czech governments, Mirek Topolánek’s cabinet gave in the most to lobbyist pressures. The president also denied any responsibility for the government’s recent fall. In reaction to the criticism, ODS Deputy Head Ivan Langer said Sunday on Czech Television that the president is “old, losing his memory, isolated or suffering from Freudian complex”.
most Czech press

Thousands in Prague protest govt crisis response
Union leaders drew as many as 30,000 people to a Saturday protest outside Prague Castle Saturday, when they called on the government to increase the volume of public orders and allow part-time employees to draw social benefits.
LN 6 Sat, Právo 2

Study: Fifth of restaurants might not survive downturn
According to a recent study by the Czech Association of Hotels and Restaurants, as many as 20% of restaurants here might go bankrupt and up to 15,000 employees in the hospitality sector could lose their jobs due to the economic crisis. Among restaurants, 75% expect lower revenues this year and 65% expect to take a loss. Václav Stárek, general secretary of the association, said hotels have lost 25-30% of clients compared to last year.

Foreign minister: ČR should apply for EU energy post
Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kohout told E15 that the Czech Republic should shoot for the European Commission’s energy slot, citing the country’s expertise and track record in this area.
E15 2

Eggs thrown at Paroubek in Plzeň
Two people were arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour after they threw eggs at Jiří Paroubek at a rally in Plzeň on Saturday. Lidové noviny reported the opposition leader was not hit.
LN 1, 5

Kalousek looking to form new political party
According to Saturday’s Právo, former Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek is currently addressing possible partners with whom he plans to set up a new political party. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg confirmed to Právo he has discussed the new party with Kalousek.
Právo 3 Sat

School principals now required to submit tax returns
Head teachers of primary and secondary schools and kindergartens will have to submit annual personal income tax returns by 30 June for the previous year, after the lower house failed on Friday to address an amendment that would have divested them of this responsibility.
Právo 1, 5 Sat, LN 1, 4 Sat

Czech economy crashes most in 16 years
Preliminary figures released Friday by the Czech Statistical Office show Czech GDP dropped 3.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009, the worst result since Czechoslovakia’s partition in 1993. Analysts say a modest recovery might come at the end of 2009. The central bank expects that the public-finance deficit will spike to 4.3% of GDP this year and as much as 5.4% next year. The prerequisite for euro adoption is a deficit below 3%. Prime Minister Jan Fischer said Friday that in view of the Q1 figures it will be hard to keep this year’s deficit under CZK 150 billion as he had hoped.
most Czech press

House passes car-scrapping bonus
Under a Social Democrat-backed bill passed Friday in parliament, buyers of new cars worth CZK 500,000 or less will get a CZK 30,000 bonus if they scrap a car that is at least 10 years old. For electric, hybrid and CNG-powered cars, the bonus will be CZK 60,000 and price limit CZK 700,000.
most Czech press

FinMin rejects complaint over CZK 115bn commission
The Finance Ministry dismissed a protest by the PPF Group, PD Gruppe-Stavoprogress and Deme-Dredging over their exclusion from what might be the largest tender in Czech history, a CZK 115 billion programme to clean up ecological damage from soil and water contaminated during the communist era. HN reports that some of those excluded will likely appeal to the anti-monopoly office.
HN 1, 17-19, Právo 7

MPs vote to reduce firms’ pension payments
The Chamber of Deputies voted Friday to temporarily reduce employers’ contributions toward social security as part of a legislative package to mitigate the economic downturn.
MfD A1, A2 Sat

House passes bill to regulate retail chains
Parliament passed a Social Democratic bill on Friday to introduce fines of up to CZK 10 million for retail chains that abuse their dominant market position in relation to suppliers or customers. The Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism called the bill “anti-social” and said it might increase food prices.
most Czech press

Tůma says euro is not a cure-all
The Czech Republic might keep its national currency for longer than planned, as euro adoption would not be a cure-all, central bank chief Zdeněk Tůma said Friday at a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

ČEZ mulls cuts in power production
This week, ČEZ may switch off the Dětmarovice coal-fired power plant for four months over declining electricity consumption and record low prices of power futures.
MfD A8 Sat

Building society loans down
Czech building societies lent CZK 20.3 billion in the first four months of 2009, almost 20% less than a year earlier.

ČEZ will help expand Slovak nuke station
The Czech and Slovak prime ministers, Jan Fischer and Robert Fico, respectively, announced on Friday that Czech power giant ČEZ and Slovak nuclear energy firm JAVYS will build an additional reactor at the Jaslovské Bohunice power plant worth some CZK 100 billion.
Právo 16 Sat, E15 9

Window maker goes bust
AQ Okna, last year the third-largest Czech window manufacturer, has terminated production after losing 367 of its 400 staff members and being cut off from supplies of energy, components and telecom services. The firm owes its suppliers and former staff and has been in administration since early April.

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