Daily news summary

‘Million Moments’ issues ultimatum to PM Babiš ahead of Nov. 16 protest

The group A Million Moments for Democracy plans to deliver an ultimatum to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) in a mass protest march on Saturday: resolve his conflicts of interest and dismiss the justice minister – or resign.

Group leader Mikuláš Minář told at a press conference on Monday protesters want Babiš to exit the holding company Agrofert, which he put in trust funds in but allegedly remains the beneficial owner of, and the numerous media outlets he owns.

If he does not do so, ‘Million Moments’ will stage another wave of weekly protests, Minář told reporters. At the group’s last demonstration in June, more than 280,000 people turned out to call for Babiš to step down. It was the biggest protest since the Velvet Revolution thirty years ago.

The Slovak-born billionaire has been dogged by accusations that a decade ago he illegally obtained 2 million euros in EU subsidies to develop his Stork Nest complex and continues to serve his own business interests, despite placing them in a trust.

Temelín nuclear power plant Unit 1 disconnected due to ‘vibrating’ turbine

Czech utility ČEZ’s Temelín nuclear power plant has disconnected a unit from the grid due to turbine vibrations, very likely caused by a drop in outdoor temperatures.

The unit (no.1) was running at 30 percent power on Monday morning. ČEZ said checks would take place today and again after the turbine has cooled and the reactor stopped.

NKÚ audit: Trade Ministry improperly used EU funds to pay for social events

The Ministry of Industry and Trade improperly used some 1.2 million crowns of EU funds to pay for employee social events characterised as “educational seminars”, according to a Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) audit.

The EU funds came from the Operational Programme Enterprise and Innovation for Competitiveness (OP EIC).

NKÚ inspectors assessed the Ministry’s funding of social events using EU funds as a breach of budgetary discipline and reported their suspicion to Czech tax authorities.

A Ministry spokesperson said the audit report was out of date, and the programme had been suspended and personnel changes made accordingly.

Ex-PM’s wife, top lobbyist, acquitted of abusing BIS classified info

Former PM Petr Nečas’s wife has been acquitted along with two other suspects in a case relating to the leak of classified BIS counter-intelligence agency information in 2013 that helped topple the Nečas government.

The Prague court’s verdict is not final and the prosecution has already filed an appeal. The court found insufficient evidence to convict the defendants, and said that while some of their deeds were unethical, they were not criminal.

In 2017, Jana Nečasová, who led the PM’s office before marrying him, was been found guilty of abusing BIS information but given a suspended sentence. So too were influential lobbyist Ivo Rittig and his lawyer David Michal.

The prosecutor sought a 3-year prison sentence for Nečasová, who passed on BIS information to Rittig and Michal, and financial penalties and other conditions be imposed on the two men.

Czech Republic celebrates Veterans’ Day

The Czech Army is commemorating Veterans’ Day on Monday with ceremonies throughout the country honouring those who have served in uniform, with some making the ultimate sacrifice.

The main event, which includes a wreath-laying ceremony, is to be held at the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill in Prague. On Náměstí míru square, the Czech Army is also exhibiting helicopters and other military equipment.

Deputy Minister of Defence Kateřina Blážková is to bestow honours on eight personalities, including soldiers in active service, veterans, and those who fought for national liberation, several in memoriam.

Czechia ranked fourth among OECD countries in pure alcohol consumption

The Czech Republic has the fourth-highest level of pure alcohol consumption in the OECD, at 11.6 litres per person annually, according to official 2017 sales data in the 36 member states.

Overall alcohol consumption averaged 8.9 litres per person across OECD countries in 2017, roughly the equivalent of 100 bottles of wine annually or 400 pints of 4 percent strength beer.

Lithuania reported the highest consumption (12.3 litres), followed by Austria (11.8 litres) and France (11.7 litres). Neighbouring Germany ranked tenth (10.9 litres), Poland twelfth (10.6 litres) and Slovakia fifteenth (9.7 litres).

Alcohol dependence is most common in Latvia, Hungary, and Russian Federation (more than 9% of adults), according to the OECD data.

Pilsen court begins fraud proceedings against doctors, insurance agents

The Pilsen regional court has begun proceedings in a large-scale insurance fraud case involving two doctors and seven insurance agents from northern Bohemia.

According to the case file, the doctors submitted false medical reports and in collaboration with the insurance agents collected tens of millions of crowns for treating fictional injuries or illnesses.

Thirty years since Teplice environmental protests that just preceded November 17

Monday is the 30th anniversary of the start of protests in Teplice, North Bohemia that took place just days before the Prague demonstration that sparked the Velvet Revolution. People chanted “We want to live!” in response to appalling pollution that frequently left the industrial city covered by a blanket of noxious air.

The environmental protests, which were initially called by a teenage apprentice, led to clashes with the police, who used a water cannon in a bid to disperse the crowd. They ran from November 11 to 13.

Czech anti-monopoly office confirms CZK 8.3 mn fine on Booking.com

The Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) has confirmed a fine of 8.34 million crowns against Booking.com over its contracts with hotels and other accommodation providers.

The ÚOHS said that by obliging hotels to offer more favourable rates to people using Booking.com than they could through competing portals, the company had engaged in anti-competitive practices.

Press: Czech billionaire’s consumer lender Home Credit delaying Hong Kong IPO

Home Credit, the consumer lender backed by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner’s PPF group, is likely to delaying its $1.5 billion Hong Kong initial public offering to next year, Bloomberg reports.

Home Credit was targeting a market capitalization of as much as $11 billion, but some investors it approached thought the company should be valued at even half that, the news agency said, citing unnamed sources.

Kellner, the richest man in the Czech Republic, in February scrapped a plan to sell Home Credit’s Czech and Slovak businesses to rival Moneta Money Bank.

Czech footballers gather in Prague ahead of final Euro qualifiers

The Czech national football squad gathered in Prague on Monday ahead of their final two qualifying games to reach the 2020 European Championship. Trainer Jaroslav Šilhavý’s charges will face Kosovo at home on Thursday before taking on Bulgaria away three days later.

The Czechs, who are without injured striker Patrik Schick, are at present three points behind leaders England and one point ahead of Kosovo in their qualifying group.

Weather outlook

Tuesday should be cold and cloudy, with occasional rain and sleet likely throughout most of the country. Daytime highs should range from 5 to 7 degrees Celsius.