Klaus invites Obama to Prague
President Václav Klaus sent a letter to newly inaugurated US President Barack Obama congratulating him and inviting him to visit Prague. The letter was published on the Castle’s website.
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Černý to return state money for Entropa
Artist David Černý has signed an agreement pledging to return the CZK 1.9 million in state funds he received for his controversial Entropa project displayed in Brussels. The state will also not pay the agreed CZK 1.2 million to rent the artwork. Černý will only receive a symbolic CZK 1.
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MEP: ČR should encourage energy cooperation with Iraq
MEP Jana Hybášková said yesterday the Czech Republic should foster energy cooperation with Iraq during its EU presidency. Hybášková visited Iraq last week with a European Parliament delegation and said the country could supply natural gas to Europe within five years.
Iran criticises EU over Gaza conflict
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Czech chargé d’affaires Jan Kouřil on Tuesday to protest what it called EU inaction against human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip. The EU discussed the situation in Gaza yesterday in Brussels and demanded that Israel allow humanitarian aid to enter the area.
ČSSD criticises Schwarzenberg
ČSSD yesterday criticised Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg’s call for including Russia in the proposed US anti-missile shield project. ČSSD’s shadow foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, called it “grotesque”. Schwarzenberg yesterday said Russia’s involvement could lead to linking the country’s radar network with the new anti-missile radar scheme.
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Pope to visit ČR in September
Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic for two or three days in the second half of September, Olomouc archbishop Jan Graubner said, following information by the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio Diego Causero. The Vatican has not yet confirmed the visit.
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Hospitals not collecting fees could lose insurance
Alena Palečková, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health and Social Policy, has pushed through an amendment to the bill on health insurance that could cause hospitals that do not collect medical fees to lose their contracts with insurance companies. The Senate will discuss the proposal in a week.
Bursík introduces environmental priorities
Environment Minister Martin Bursík yesterday presented the Czech EU presidency’s environmental priorities to the European Parliament. The main topics include climate change, human health and environmental protection, sustainability, and the protection of biodiversity.
Kožený’s accounts unblocked; clients to get nothing
Czech financier Viktor Kožený, prosecuted in the US and the Czech Republic, won access to his bank accounts again after reaching a settlement with Omega Advisors that sued him for USD 177 million, a sum he allegedly misappropriated in Azerbaijan’s privatisation. The ruling will not affect Czechs whom Kožený defrauded of CZK 16 billion in the voucher privatisation scheme, according to Czech police.
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Telefónica O2 to run DHL centre
Telefónica O2 will manage communication services for DHL in 28 European countries from its Prague centre in the next five years. Construction of the new operating centre is part of a EUR 350 million contract that O2’s parent company Telefónica signed with the Deutsche Post World Net group.
Tůma: GDP growth will be slower than expected
ČNB Governor Zdeněk Tůma said yesterday that Czech economic growth this year will be lower than the most recent central bank prognosis. A ČNB report in November said GDP growth this year would reach 2.9%, while an alternate scenario expects growth of just 0.5%.
Singer: ČNB could cut interest rates next month
ČNB Vice-Governor Miroslav Singer yesterday told Reuters the central bank could further lower interest rates next month as the economy is facing stagnation. He said the possibility of further rate cuts could be limited by a weakening crown.
CZK 6bn in petrol taxes missing
The tax authorities uncovered a CZK 6 billion shortfall in petrol taxes last year. Mladá fronta Dnes reports that financial offices have already started to secure the missing money by seizing bank assets and property of indebted companies.
Demand for mortgages slows
Hospodářské noviny reports demand for mortgages has slowed. Tomáš Kofroň, a spokesman for one of the largest mortgage providers, Raiffeisenbank, said demand in January was 50% lower than a year ago. The economic crisis has resulted in a greater difference in interest rates, with rates on some loans ranging from 4.56% at UniCredit Bank to as high as 7.06% for a similar product at mBank.
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ČR wants all EU countries to open labour markets
Labour Minister Petr Nečas said yesterday the Czech EU presidency would try to bring down barriers to labour mobility that still exist in some EU countries. Nečas said the ČR would demand a thorough explanation from countries that still restrict labour movement.
BNB Governor to boycott EU meeting
Bulgarian National Bank Governor Ivan Iskrov warned that unless the Bulgarian part of the Entropa sculpture is completely removed he will not attend a meeting of EU finance ministers and central bank heads in April. Iskrov made the warning in a letter to Czech National Bank head Zdeněk Tůma. Some 600 Bulgarian citizens signed a petition asking that the Bulgarian part of the controversial art installation be uncovered again.
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Lukoil to open more Czech petrol stations
The new head of the Russian Lukoil subsidiary responsible for activities in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Belgium, Denis Ryupin, said in the next five years his company plans to become one of the top players on the Czech market with a share of at least 10%. Lukoil currently runs 44 petrol stations in the country.
Roman: Nuclear energy is best way to go
ČEZ CEO Martin Roman told the weekly Ekonom that nuclear energy offers the best energy solution since it is the only non-emitting power source that can produce the necessary amount of energy.
Customers to look into heating plant costs
The lower house’s Committee on Budgetary Control yesterday approved an amendment to the energy law that would allow heating plant customers to look at heat producers’ costs and compare prices. The proposal is intended to prevent unjustified increases in heating prices.
Zetor to limit production, lay off employees
Zetor Tractors announced yesterday that due to falling demand the company would only produce four days a week in February and March. The company also plans to lay off 130 out of 1,100 employees.
ČOI discovered unsatisfactory fuel
Czech Trade Inspectorate (ČOI) discovered that 5.6% of the examined 2,500 samples of fuel from Czech petrol stations last year were insufficient. More insufficient samples were diesel.