Daily news summary


Karel Schwarzenberg to step down as TOP 09 party leader

The leader of the TOP 09 political party and former Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has announced that he will not stand for re-election to the top party post at its upcoming party congress. His position as party chairman was due to be renewed in November. Schwarzenberg, cited health reasons as one reason for his refusal to stand again. He denied, however, that he was withdrawing from public life and said he would stand in elections to the lower house of parliament as one of the leaders for the centre-right party in Prague. The front runner to lead the party would appear to be deputy chairman and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek.

Czech government agrees line for EU interior ministers meeting

The Czech government meeting Monday agreed on the line that minister of interior, Milan Chovanec, should take when EU minister meet again on Thursday to discuss the immigrant crisis. The Czech News Agency reported that Chovanec will call for a reform of the EU’s visa policy and list of safe countries of origin and push for specific steps to strengthen the EU’s exterior Schengen borders. At the same time, Chovanec will resist any pressure for a permanent mechanism to share out immigrants between EU countries. Thursday’s meeting of interior ministers is taking place in Luxembourg.

Head of Prague Castle guard dismissed

The head of the Prague Castle guard, Radim Studený, has been dismissed, the spokesman of the Czech head of state, Jiří Ovčáček announced on Monday. Studený’s imp[ending dismissal had already been signaled by Czech president Miloš Zeman, over the failure of the castle guard to prevent the guerilla artistic group, Ztohoven, hanging some massive red underpants from a castle flagstaff instead of the presidential standard. The stunt has already cost the head of the president’s bodyguard his job. The president’s spokesman said other changes in the staff as a result of the underpants stunt could still be in the pipeline.

Spending watchdog say collection of excise taxes still flawed

The Czech spending watchdog, the Supreme Audit Office, says in its latest report that the state is still losing considerable sums of money from uncollected excise duties on spirits and tobacco. It highlighted the fact that new rules to tighten up checks for bootleg spirits in the wake of the methanol scandal, in which more than 40 people died, have not really delivered. The new measures included tax labels on spirits and use of cameras. However, in many cases the customs inspectorate does not have the staff to carry out follow-up checks. The same picture holds good for excise duty on tobacco with the office estimating that around 1.4 billion crowns was not collected in taxes due between 2012 and 2014. It pointed out that there was a cut of around 20 percent in customs staff between 2007 and 2014, although some of those losses were later made good after the methanol scandal.

Timothy Snyder awarded VIZE 97 prize

The US historian and writer, Timothy Snyder, has been selected for the 17th award of the VIZE 97 prize, founded by dissident playwright and former president Václav Havel and his second wife, Dagmar. Snyder is a distinguished professor at Yale University who specializes in the history of Central Europe. The awards ceremony will be held in Prague on Monday afternoon. Snyder’s book “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” was published in 2010 to considerable acclaim.

Czech Airlines considers scrapping free meals on board

Czech Airlines is considering changes to its onboard catering with one option to drop the offer of free food on flights. There is no set deadline at the moment when a decision over whether to introduce extra charges for food, the airline’s spokesman told the Czech News Agency. Travel Service, which owns a third of Czech Airlines, has already dropped the offer of hot meals as part of the ticket price on its flights in a move which caused some negative reaction from customers. Czech Airlines has been seeking to cut its costs and return to profit.

New car sales surge in Czech Republic

Sales of new cars in the Czech Republic have soared by almost 21 percent in the first nine months of the year with the total reaching just over 171,000. The country’s biggest car maker, Škoda Auto, has seen its sales climb by 28 percent to just short of 55,000. It's slice of the Czech market has risen to 32 percent. Volkswagen is second in the local sales league followed by Hyundai. The latest figures were published Monday by the Car Importers’ Association.

Over 700 libraries offering special events within annual Library Week

Over 700 libraries around the country have prepared special events for readers within the annual Library Week. They include public readings and competitions for children and meetings with popular authors. Library Week is an international event aimed at encouraging more people to read and informing them about the wide range of services public libraries offer in the internet age. The Association of Public Libraries in the Czech Republic has also launched a competition among readers for Library of the Year.

Ombudswoman says country needs to improve care for the elderly

Czech Ombudswoman Anna Šabatová will attend a meeting of the government on Monday where she wants to talk about the need to improve care for the elderly. Šabatová has been particularly critical of the situation in unlicensed nursing homes where seniors often live in undignified conditions with inadequate medical care. The Ombudswoman says that with an aging population the country needs to focus more attention on geriatric services and a support network that would help the elderly remain in their home environment for as long as possible.

Tomáš Berdych wins Shenzen Open

Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has won his first tournament of the year. The top Czech men’s singles player beat Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straight sets: 6:3, 7:6 at the Shenzen Open. He came back in the second set after trailing 0:3. The win puts 30-year-old Berdych on clear course to take part in the prestigious year end Masters tournament at the end of the year in London.