Daily news summary


Foreign Minister Zaorálek visits Lebanon

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek arrived in Beirut on Wednesday for a two-day visit of Lebanon and Jordan. Mr Zaorálek held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil and the Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri. Czech Foreign Minister said the Czech Republic was ready to support Lebanon in its fight against Islamic radicals by providing military aid. The foreign ministers have also discussed potential areas of cooperation on the economic front, as well as continuing humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Government to scrap second pillar of pension insurance scheme as of 2016

The government on Wednesday announced its plan to abolish the second pillar of the pension insurance scheme, introduced by the former centre-right cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, by January 2016. The so-called second pillar of the pension scheme allows people to put part of their pension funds into private insurance companies. Bohuslav Sobotka told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday that the scheme was disadvantageous for the vast majority of people and there was very little interest in it. People who joined the second pillar should get their investments back by the end of 2016. Scrapping the second pillar of the pension scheme was one of the election promises of the ruling coalition.

ANO’s Prachař steps down as minister of transport

Antonín Prachař has resigned as minister of transport, the head of his ANO party, Andrej Babiš, announced on Wednesday. Mr. Prachař becomes the second member of the Social Democrats-led cabinet to leave office after Věra Jourová, who became a European commissioner. Mr. Babiš said he would nominate as his replacement Dan Ťok, who works for the company Skanska and is active in the American Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Prachař had been criticised both by his own party chief and the Social Democrats’ Bohuslav Sobotka.

Government to debate annual environment report

The government on Wednesday is set to debate the annual report on the Czech environment, published by the Environment Ministry. According to the report, the environment has been slightly improving over the recent years, with cleaner water and increasing number of households connected to a public sewage system with wastewater treatment plants. One of the persisting problems highlighted by the report is poor air quality, which is affecting especially the heavily-industrialised Moravia and Silesia. Air pollution is a problem especially in the winter months, when the situation gets worse due to city transport and coal heating.

Press: Hospital chief recommends judges weigh up making Janoušek serve sentence for health reasons

Influential businessman Roman Janoušek, who is due to serve four and a half years in jail over a hit and run incident, is seeking to postpone serving his sentence for medical reasons. Lidové noviny reported on Wednesday that Mr. Janoušek had a letter from hospital chief and former senator Vladimír Dryml recommending he undergo a brain operation prior to entering prison and recommending that judges think twice before making him serve the sentence; any blow to the head could lead to extensive hemorrhaging, the document states. The businessman’s hit and run incident came in 2012, days after a daily published wiretaps giving the impression that he had held such influence over politicians and officials in Prague that he was a kind of “shadow mayor”.

Case of doctor planning murders from prison goes to court

A court in Liberec on Wednesday starts dealing with the case of Jaroslav Barták, a doctor serving a 12-year jail term for the rape and blackmail of his assistants, who is also charged with conspiracy to murder. The state attorney says the 56-year old Barták planned three killings while he was in custody in Liberec at the end of last year. If found guilty, he could face 15 to 20 years in prison. Dr. Barták was allegedly planning to murder the former military intelligence chief Andor Šándor, lawyer Oldřich Choděra and Orthodox priest Eugen Freimann.

68 percent of Czechs regard their living standards as good

A record number of Czechs, 68 percent, regard their living standard as good, suggests a survey carried out by the STEM agency in October. Ten percent of respondents have improved their opinion on their living standard, which is the highest increase registered since monitoring started. According to the poll, people with a higher education tend to be more satisfied with their living standard. The same level of optimism was last recorded in 2007 and 1996, when 65 percent of Czechs said they regarded their living standard as good.

Czech pharmacies begin selling medical marijuana

Pharmacies in the Czech Republic have begun selling medical marijuana on prescription. So far the drug – which goes for around CZK 300 a gramme – is available only at one chemist’s in Prague and one in the south Moravian town of Uherské Hradiště. The marijuana, which was legalised last year, can only be acquired using an electronic prescription and is provided to people suffering from multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and other ailments.

Kubín painting sold at auction for 4.9 million

A painting by Otakar Kubín entitled “Cubist Figure” sold for 4.9 million crowns (GBP 140,000 pounds) at auction, which is held at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday. The auction house is holding a sale of modern art from Europe and the Mediterranean, including the collection of Mary and Roy Cullen, who have amassed over a 100 pieces by Czech avant-garde artists.

CEZ posts drop in annual profits

The annual profits of the state-owned Czech power giant ČEZ in the first three quarters of 2014 dropped by 38 percent to 19.6 billion crowns. The company’s turnover has dropped by nine percent to 147 billion year-on-year. According ČEZ, the downfall is caused mainly by the decreasing electricity prices and a mild winter, which depressed demands for electricity and heat.