Daily news summary
European Commission lodges court case over asylum seeker quotas
The European Commission has announced that it has lodged a complaint against the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary for their refusal to accept asylum seekers according to an agreement between EU member states.
Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice-president, had warned that the step would be taken at the start of December but at that stage had still held out the possibility that a solution could be hammered out with the three countries.
Prague has taken 12 asylum seekers with the government saying the agreed quota system does not work. A spokesman for the court said a first hearing into the case would not take place before November or December.
Czech finance ministry proposes to withdraw EU funding from Stork’s Nest and other projects
The Czech Ministry of Finance has proposed that the controversial EU grant to a recreation and hotel complex connected with prime minister Andrej Babiš should be removed from the list of projects benefitting from European funds.
The recommendation regarding the Stork’s Nest centre outside Prague were made as controversy surrounds the refusal of Czech institutions so far to release details of a European Commission fraud investigation into the 50 million crown EU funding for the project.
The ministry said that it proposes to accept a Commission recommendation that 44 regional and ministry managed projects should be withdrawn from those benefitting from EU funds because of doubts about their eligibility and because they were subject to investigations or criminal proceedings.
Some of the projects were already pre-financed from Czech state sources. Withdrawing the projects would reduce the risks of EU funds being withheld from the Czech Republic and allow a line to be drawn under the previous funding period, a ministry spokesman said.
CEFC faces obstacle to Czech purchase of J&T Financial Group stake
The large Chinese energy and investment group CEFC has been refused permission from the Czech National Bank to increase its stake in the Czech-Slovak group J&T Financial Group.
CEFC, already known for a series of acquisitions in the Czech Republic, has been refused its application to increase its stake from 9.9 percent to over 50 percent.
The refusal was reported by the news server Echo.24. It said the bank had not been convinced about where the funding for the deal came from on the part of CEFC. CEFC’s Czech representatives said that the extra information being sought by the central bank had been forwarded by the end of 2017 and proceedings were still continuing.
CEFC has spearheaded Chinese investments in the country, acquiring a brewery, top football club, and real estate.
Czech police file fraud charges against hockey sponsor
The man behind the firm, WSM, which is the main sponsor of the Czech Republic’s second biggest hockey league has been charged by police with fraud. The move was reported by public broadcaster Czech Radio.
It said that Jiří Kubíček is charged with causing damages totalling around a billion crowns to investors in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Russia who had placed money with his forex company.
It allegedly offered high returns for computerised trades but the operation was in fact a pyramid scheme.
Cardinal Josef Beran’s remains can be moved to Prague
Pope Francis has given his consent to the transport of the remains of Cardinal Josef Beran to the Czech Republic, Ambassador to Vatican Pavel Vošalík told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday.
Cardinal Beran was persecuted by the Communist regime and was eventually exiled to Rome, where he died in 1969. He was buried in the Vatican because the Czechoslovak communist authorities didn’t approve the return of his body to his homeland. He is the only Czech buried in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica.
HN: OLAF refused to release report on Stork’s Nest case
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has refused to hand the report of its investigation into alleged EU subsidy fraud at the Stork’s Nest farm and hotel complex, owned by prime minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš, to Czech MEPs, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday.
According to the head of OLAF, Nicholas Illet, the document can only be published by Czech authorities or by the European Commission, which ordered the report.
Eleven people, including Babiš and his deputy Jaroslav Faltýnek, have been charged in connection with the affair. The pair have parliamentary immunity after being elected in October and the Czech lower house has to decide whether to allow them to face trial in connection with the matter. They deny any wrongdoing.
Archaeologists find former Roman presence in Brno
Archaeologists have found evidence that Roman soldiers were present on the site of the Czech city of Brno.
Evidence of a temporary Roman camp has been found in the city. It dates from the second century and probably a Roman offensive against the German tribes then inhabiting the area.
Some of the finds from excavations including dishes used for eating food. Other Roman camps were also present in Moravia and as far north as Olomouc during the wars. The normal border of the Roman Empire was normally much further south along the Danube river.
Avalanche warning in mountains raised to level three
The avalanche warning in the Czech Krkonoše Mountains has been increased to three on a five point scale after fresh snowfall and high winds.
The mountain rescue service said that around one metre of snow had formed on the top of the mountains with wind speeds of around 50 kilometres an hour.
Around 30 centimetres of the snow has fallen over the last 48 hours with another 25 centimetres expected during Thursday.
It expected to be cloudy across most of the Czech Republic on Friday with sunny spells possibly in the north. Rain is expected in the far east of the country. Top temperatures will range between three and 10 degrees Celsius.