Daily news summary
Former US head of Tatra truck company seeks compensation over corruption slur
The former US businessman who headed Czech truck producer Tatra is seeking damages of more than 5 million crowns for criminal proceedings launched against him in the Czech Republic. Ronald Adams was charged with paying bribes in August 2012 but a court later threw out the case. Adams says his professional and personal reputation were dragged through the mud as a result. He has said the damages will be paid to an organisation fighting corruption in the public sphere. Former deputy defence minister Martin Bártak was charged in January this year with seeking bribes from the head of the truck company.
Prague city council sets out construction work needed to complete Blanka tunnel
Members of Prague council have agreed on work that should be undertaken to complete construction of the capital’s controversial Blanka tunnel. The work totalling 1.34 billion crowns will be forwarded to construction company Metrostav and a court which is dealing with a dispute between the council and building company. Construction of the long delayed road tunnel, which has already cost around 36 billion crowns, was halted in December because of disagreements about the validity of contracts already signed and outstanding payments due. The court was called in to arbitrate. The tunnel, a key part of Prague’s ring road, should have been opened in the Spring. Councillors are now talking about the possibility it will be finished by September.
Czech climbers caught in avalanche in High Tatras
Two Czechs were seriously injured when they were hit by an avalanche in the High Tatras, Slovakia, and dragged around 100 meters down the slope on Thursday. The two were taken by helicopter to Poprad hospital after initial treatment to their injuries in the mountains. The 36 and 49 year olds were part of a five member team. Czech climbers have died over successive weekends in the High Tatras.
US research cooperation threatened by outstanding debts
The prestigious US Mayo Clinic has threatened to end its Czech collaboration focused on Brno’s International Clinical Research Centre unless outstanding bills are paid by the city’s St. Anne’s University Hospital. Some of the debt has accumulated though the Mayo Clinic’s training of Czech doctors. Both the Brno hospital and Czech Ministry of Education have said that they are keen to prolong the cooperation and pay the outstanding bills dating from last year. The Mayo Clinic is regarded as one of the best research hospitals in the world.
Minister Babiš apologizes for attacking media outlet
Finance Minister and ANO party leader Andrej Babiš on Thursday apologized for his attack on the news website echo24.cz. Earlier this week, Mr Babiš said the website’s investor was a front, and indirectly threatened to audit his tax returns. His comments came after ANO’s Justice Minister Helená Válková suggested in an interview for the website that conditions in Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi rule were not that harsh. Mr Babiš said the interview was not fair. The outlet, which has also expressed critical views of the finance minister and his party, was founded by journalists who left the daily Lidové noviny after it was acquired by Mr Babiš last year. In a statement for another of his papers, Mladá fronta Dnes, Andrej Babiš apologized for his remarks and said it was not his intention to check the media outlet’s finances or to silence anyone.
German MEP says Andrej Babiš faces conflicts of interest as minister
A German Christian Democrat politician has expressed fears that Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš represents such a danger of conflicts of interests that cooperation with Prague will be difficult. CDU member of the European Parliament and member of its budget control committee, Ingeborg Grassle, expressed her concerns during a press conference, adding that Babiš’ companies have been paid 2.6 million euros from EU funds. She added that the Czech Republic’s system for pumping EU funds laid them open to massive abuse. The head of the budget committee later said she was expressing a personal opinion. Concern have frequently been expressed that billionaire Babiš’ media, agricultural and chemical interests make it difficult for him to make objective decisions as finance minister.
Press: Czech government did not respond US jets offer
The Czech government did not respond a US offer to lease 14 fighter jets for the Czech Air Force, the news website aktulane.cz reported on Thursday. The report says the offer to lease US-made F-16 aircraft was last made in February, before the Czech government decided to lease the Swedish jets Gripen instead. The conditions of the deal were reportedly better that those offered by Sweden. The website quotes David Cannavo, the head of a US company which was mediating the deal, as saying they never heard back from the Czech government, and that the US embassy in Prague told the firm the deal on leasing Gripen fighters had been sealed long before.
Škoda Auto unions give strike warning over future pay deal
Unions at car maker Škoda Auto have warned that they could take strike action unless a new pay and conditions agreement is reached by the end of March. Unions say that their real wages have fallen recently and are seeking guarantees from management about future employment and investments by the company. Average wages at Škoda Auto now stand at around 33,000 crowns. A pay deal at joint venture car maker TPCA has already been sealed under which wages will climb by an average 2.4 percent. Average wages at the Kolín plant are around 30,000 crowns.
Baník Ostrava fined and given conditional two game fan ban for match violence
Czech football club Baník Ostrava will be fined 300,000 crowns and its stadium will be closed conditionally to fans for two games as punishment for the outbreak of violence on Saturday, the Czech Football Association has ruled. Violence broke out between Ostrava and Sparta Prague fans with the 15 minute half time interval extended to around 35 minutes before police restored order. Sparta Prague was also fined 50,000 crowns. The Ostrava club, which is struggling financially as well as results wise on the pitch, will not be able to appeal the ruling. The punishment was described as milder than it might have been by authorities. The ban on fans will take effect if there are futher problems.
Czech football association welcomes creation of new UEFA league
The Czech Football Association says it welcomes the creation of a new competition for national teams by Europe’s football authority, UEFA. Association agreed Thursday to the creation of the UEFA Nations League, a competition played every two years in which four of the winning teams will proceed into the European Championships. The Czech association was initially opposed to the new league but representatives said that it now makes more sense after changes and that it will create more interest and more revenues than the friendly games that it will largely replace.