News

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Czech PM says firms can cope with strength of crown

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek says Czech firms will be able to cope with the current strength of the crown. In an interview with Reuters, he said that the increase in the crown’s value helped offset high energy prices, and added that companies would be able to cope with a gradual rise in the Czech currency’s value. He said that despite entrepreneurs’ complaints, the trade balance was still ‘positive’ and that the Czech Republic was still able to export, even under worsened conditions.

The crown reached an all-time high of 25.93 to the euro earlier this week. The currency has gained 5.8% against the euro since the beginning of this year.

US interested in employing Czech firms to work on anti-missile defence

The United States is interested in employing Czech companies to work on its missile defence system, reported Hospodarske noviny on Wednesday. The Pentagon has voiced an interest in working with Czech firms in the fields of research and development, and industrial production in particular, the paper reports. Around 30 Czech firms and 20 research institutes are set to discuss plans with a US delegation in Prague next month. It is currently unclear how much these contracts could be worth.

A delegation from the Pentagon is expected to finalise these contracts with the Czech Defence Ministry in February. The construction of a US anti-missile radar base will be negotiated at the same time. The White House is hoping to build the base in Brdy, central Bohemia.

International warrant issued for “thief of the century’s” arrest

An international warrant had been issued for the arrest of Frantisek Prochazka. He stands accused of the biggest cash robbery in the country’s history, suspected of taking over half a billion CZK (around 31 million USD). Mr Prochazka was charged with the theft in absentia last Thursday. He has been missing since the robbery occurred. The suspect was working as a security guard for the firm G4S, from which the sum was stolen. G4S have offered a two-million euro reward to anyone who helps track Mr Prochazka or any possible accomplices down.

President Klaus addresses Christian Democrats to gain support for presidential bid

President Vaclav Klaus met with Christian Democrat deputies on Wednesday, in a bid to enlist their support in next February’s presidential elections. The Christian Democrats are still undecided as to whether they will support incumbent president Vaclav Klaus, or his rival, the economist Jan Svejnar. After the meeting, Christian Democrat Jan Kasal said his party may well not opt for any one candidate, with deputies voting instead for their personal preference. Mr Klaus reacted to the meeting by saying that at no point did he feel like Christian Democrat mps were in strong disagreement with his views. Mr Svejnar has already addressed deputies from the Christian Democratic Party, he will announce next week whether he intends to run against Mr Klaus for the presidency.

Breach of EU law not published in Czech cannot be punished, court rules

Czech authorities cannot charge firms and individuals with the breach of European law if that law was not published in Czech at the time of the breach. A spokesperson for the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno made the announcement on Wednesday, adding that the ruling could have an influence on dozens of cases here in the Czech Republic. The ruling was made by the European Court of Justice, which recently solved a dispute between the Czech-owned firm Skoma-Lux, and the Customs and Excise office in Olomouc, Moravia. The European Court decided in favour of the firm, which complained that it had been fined for breaching a regulation which was not published in Czech at the time.

Petition against Czech healthcare fees launched

Around 60 politicians and academics have launched a petition calling on the public not to pay the health fees that will be imposed as of January 2008. Patients have to pay for their healthcare under a government reform package approved in August. The opposition Social Democrats immediately filed a complaint against healthcare fees with the Constitutional Court. The new petition calls on Czech citizens not to pay the fees until the Constitutional Court rules on the matter. Signatories of the petition so far include a number of Social Democrat MPs, journalists, historians and writers. As of January next year, Czechs will pay 30 crowns each time they visit the doctor, and 60 crowns for each day that they spend in hospital. A limit of 5000 CZK per year has been put on any individual’s spending on healthcare; any amount over that will be reimbursed.

Amendment approved granting more foreigners right to education

The Czech president Vaclav Klaus has signed an amendment which grants foreigners better access to education in the Czech Republic. According to the amendment, not only EU citizens, but all those with residency permits for longer than 90 days will be able to attend Czech schools under the same conditions as Czech students. Children of foreigners illegally living in the Czech Republic will also be able to attend elementary schools. The previous law gave only EU citizens or people with permanent residency the right to study at Czech schools, but human rights organizations said that this denied children their right to an education, and breached the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

Press: ‘Technical difficulties’ may lead Havel to withdraw new play from Divadlo na Vinohradech

Former president Vaclav Havel’s new play ‘Odchazeni’ (‘Leaving’) may not be premiered in Prague’s Divadlo na Vinohradech after all. Mr Havel told Mlada Fronta on Wednesday that the theatre was having ‘technical and operational problems’ with the staging of the play, but that negotiations with the theatre were still ongoing. A spokesperson for Divadlo na Vinohradech said that there had been no disagreement between the theatre management and Havel’s appointed director, David Radok, but that difficulties had been encountered in the staging of the play. ‘Odchazeni’ was originally to be premiered at the National Theatre in Prague, but Mr Havel withdrew the play from the theatre, when it refused to cast his wife, Dagmar Havlova, in one of the leading roles. The former president’s highly-anticipated new play is expected to be premiered next May.

National Library seeks to prolong exhibition of Devil’s Bible

The Czech National Library has announced that, due to public interest, it would like to prolong the exhibition of the Devil’s Bible, or Codex Gigas. It was originally meant to be shown in Prague until January 6, but due to the interest the book has generated, the library would like to continue exhibiting it until March of next year. Over 35,000 people have bought a ticket to see the bible since it was put on display in September, and ticket sales have been limited to no more than 60 per hour. The Swedish state, which owns the bible, has agreed to loan out the manuscript for longer. A spokesperson for the library said it was now up to the Czech Ministry of Finance to decide whether to fund the exhibition for an extended period of time.

The Devil’s Bible originates from the turn of the 13th century, it was written near Chrudim, eastern Bohemia. It was taken by Swedish soldiers at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, and has belonged to the Swedish state since that time.

Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Telc celebrate 15 years as world heritage sites

Three Czech towns, Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Telc are celebrating 15 years on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. The historic centres of the three towns were added to UNESCO’s list at a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico in December 1992. This was the first time that the Czech Republic had featured on UNESCO’s list of heritage sites, over the last 15 years, a further 9 Czech towns have made the list.

Weather

Temperatures will dip over the next couple of days. The average temperature will be somewhere between -3 and 1 degrees Celsius. Expect cloudy skies and the occasional snow shower.