Czech leaders fly to Middle East summit
PM Mirek Topolánek and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg yesterday flew to Egypt where they will represent the EU at a summit seeking a solution to the conflict in Gaza. The duo will then travel to Israel. EU presidency spokesman Jiří František Potužník said Topolánek wants an immediate start to humanitarian aid operations.
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Obama nominee: US might revise radar plans
Michele Flournoy, US President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for undersecretary of defence for policy, told Congress Friday that plans for a US anti-missile system in Europe should be reviewed to take into account relations with Russia. The Czech Foreign Ministry said Flournoy’s comments do not signify the end of the proposed US radar base in the Czech Republic. A CVVM survey shows 65% of Czechs oppose the US base, down slightly from polls last fall.
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Regions set to drop medical fees
Visits to hospitals run by regional governments will be free of charge from 1 February. Pharmacies in five Central Bohemian hospitals will hire new staff and, if necessary, open new branches to cope with massive growth in customer numbers after that region waived the CZK 30 prescription fee.
most Czech press Sat
Central Bohemia leader wants private hospitals back
Central Bohemian Regional Governor David Rath (ČSSD) says he will take legal action to reverse the privatisation of 10 hospitals conducted in 2007 under then-Governor Petr Bendl (ODS). Rath said the sale of the hospitals was riddled with procedural errors and the price was too low. The ČSSD-led regional legislature will discuss the proposal today.
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Brno cop charged in killing
A Brno policeman is being prosecuted for beating up a Vietnamese man, who died in hospital the day after the 4 January incident. The officer faces up to 15 years in jail. Two other cops are being prosecuted for failing to stop their colleague.
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Bulgaria leaving Černý’s Entropa
David Černý will remove or cover up the Bulgaria piece of his sculpture Entropa today. Bulgaria protested its depiction as a Turkish toilet in the work, mounted in Brussels last week under the auspices of the Czech EU presidency. Slovakia, which objected to its depiction as a Hungarian salami, accepted an apology from Czech Deputy PM for EU Affairs Alexandr Vondra and is not demanding to be removed from the sculpture.
LN 1, 4 Sat, Právo 10 Sat
ČSSD: MPs can back missions
ČSSD decided on Friday to retract its decree forbidding the party’s MPs from voting in support of the Czech military missions abroad. The Social Democrats still insist on discussing cancellation of medical fees with the cabinet but say they will no longer link the issue with military missions.
most Czech press Sat
New head for anti-drug agency
Jakub Frydrych, former deputy head of the Czech National Anti-Drug Centre, will replace outgoing agency chief Jiří Komorous. Frydrych listed better cooperation with anti-drug NGOs and international agencies among his priorities. Like his predecessor, he considers marijuana to be a hard drug.
most Czech press Sat
Ecstasy use declining
Czechs are above average users of ecstasy compared to other nationalities but consumption of the psychedelic drug has waned in recent years, according to the government’s National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Seven percent of Czechs have tried ecstasy, but the figure is 15% among 18- to 34-year-olds.
Poll: Czech voters turning left
Were parliamentary elections held this month, the opposition Social Democrats and Communists would win 100 and 22 seats, respectively, according to a STEM survey. Such a result would give the left enough votes to pass any laws, including changes to the constitution.
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Visa waiver doubles travel to US
The number of Czech tourists visiting the US has doubled since the country was added to the American visa waiver programme in November 2008, according to the US Embassy in Prague. Embassy General Consul Stuart Hatcher said 6,000 Czechs have applied for US travel authorisation in the past two months.
Army pilots sue over unpaid wages
More than 40 current and retired pilots are suing the military for tens of millions of crowns, saying they were not paid full wages for standby duty during search and rescue services, Czech Television reported.
Deal struck to renew Russian gas supply
Russian PM Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko reached an agreement Saturday night that could renew supplies of Russian gas to central Europe via Ukraine this week. Slovakia yesterday started importing gas from the west via the Czech Republic for the first time ever to offset the 11-day outage.
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Airport train project might be delayed
Aircon, the planned airport rail service scheduled to launch in 2013, will be delayed by at least two years because the project still lacks both a financing proposal and a required zoning change, said Petr Moos, a transport expert working on the plan. Deputy Transport Minister Emanuel Šíp said the project is on target to launch in December 2013, with a tender slated for late 2009 and construction to start about a year later.
Hampl: Crunch may slow euro adoption
The global financial crisis raises uncertainty that the Czech Republic will be able to meet the Maastricht criteria and further harmonise its economy with that of the eurozone, Czech National Bank Deputy Governor Mojmír Hampl said Friday. The Czech economy has deteriorated with unexpected speed, Hampl said, adding that GDP growth could be as low as 0.5% this year.
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Rising mortgage rates trigger subsidy
People under 36 years of age can ask for a 1% state subsidy for mortgages from February until the end of January 2010. Under a state law the subsidy kicks in when the average home loan interest rate exceeds 5%, as it did last year. Hypoteční banka spokeswoman Pavla Hávová welcomed the move but said it is unlikely to significantly affect the mortgage market since it covers only one group of clients.
MfD A8 Sat
E15: Developers to split Rohanský island
Sekyra Group’s Konsorcium Rohan, which last year won the tender to develop Prague’s Rohanský island, has started talks with other builders to cooperate on construction, E15 reports. Sekyra disputed the report, but Serge Borenstein of the Real Estate Karlin Group said the two companies are discussing individual projects each would build in different parts of the island.
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State to enable loan guarantees for exporters
Hospodářské noviny reports that the Industry and Trade Ministry will launch special programmes next month enabling exporters to get loan guarantees. Ladislav Macka, head of Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank, said the programme conditions will be announced on 13 February and the bank will start handling applications within the next 10 days.
Industry suffering huge drop in orders
The Czech Confederation of Industry says businesses have seen a massive decline in orders this month. Machinery manufacturers are hardest hit, with demand down by as much as 80%.
Regions seek lorry tolls for local roads
Regional leaders will push the central government to expand lorry and bus e-tolls from motorways and first class undivided highways to second and third class roads, which the regions say some lorries use to avoid paying the tolls.
Bankrupt glassmaker facing liquidation
A court sent glass and ceramics maker Bohemia Crystalex Trading to bankruptcy Friday after four months in administration. Creditors have 30 days to submit their claims. The owners are seeking liquidation.