News

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State Attorney drops Cunek’s case for the second time

State Attorney, Alif Salichov, has dropped his investigation into Jiri Cunek, the former deputy prime minister. This is the second time in four months that Mr Salichov has called a halt to the investigation. Mr Cunek stood accused of accepting a half-a-million crown bribe when he was mayor of Vsetin in 2002. Charges against him were thrown out by Mr Salichov in August, who said that ‘procedural shortcomings’ had undermined the case. But in November, Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecka asked Mr Salichov to reopen the investigation, at which point deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek resigned from the government. On Tuesday, Mr Salichov said that he could find no evidence that Mr Cunek had acted in a way that would advantage the man supposed to have bribed him, and thus he could see no reason why Mr Cunek should have received a bribe. In a statement to the press, Mr Cunek said that the State Attorney’s move proved his innocence, which he had been maintaining all along.

On the same day, another State Attorney’s Office dropped a sexual-harassment case being brought against Mr Cunek by his former secretary, Marcela Urbanova. According to a spokesperson, no crime could be proved.

IMF calls government’s public finance reforms insufficient

In a news conference held on Tuesday, the head of the International Monetary Fund in the Czech Republic, Subhash Thakur, warned that the package of reforms the Czech government voted for in August would not consolidate the country’s finances sufficiently. He said that the reforms would only shore up the country’s finances in the short term, and called for further pension and social benefit reforms. He said that he approved of the move away from direct taxation and towards indirect taxation in the government’s public finance reform package, but called the changes unambitious overall. Despite this, Mr Thakur said that 2007 was proving a very good year for the Czech economy. Growth was strengthened by domestic consumption, and inflation, he said, remained low. According to the IMF, the Czech economy is stable, and remains unblighted by the problems that many of the world’s major economies are currently facing.

Health Ministry unveils brochure informing patients of healthcare fees

The health minister, Tomas Julinek, presented a brochure on Tuesday informing Czechs of the fees they can expect to pay on a visit to the doctor as of 2008. The brochure will be published as a supplement to the dailies Mlada Fronta Dnes on Friday and Pravo on Saturday. The guide, which is published by the Health Ministry, outlines the case for healthcare fees in the Czech Republic, and informs Czechs how much they can expect to pay for a visit to the doctor’s or to the emergency room. Healthcare fees were approved as part of the government’s public finance reform bill in August this year. The health minister admits that they were one of the most controversial facets of the reform package, but insisted on Tuesday that they were necessary to ‘prevent waste’ in the healthcare system.

Press: Zlatuska Greens’ new candidate for education minister post

On Tuesday, the Czech daily Pravo reported that the search for a new education minister, which has lasted nearly two months, could be over. It reported that the head of the Green Party and stand-in education minister, Martin Bursik, had recommended Jiri Zlatuska for the post. Mr Zlatuska is a Green senator and former head of Brno’s Masaryk University. According to the paper, Mr Zlatuska’s nomination now awaits the approval of PM Mirek Topolanek. It is thought that Mr Topolanek will comment on the issue at his party the Civic Democrats’ conference this weekend in Prague.

Former education minister Dana Kuchtova resigned at the beginning of October having failed to secure billions of crowns’ worth of EU funds which had been earmarked for the Czech Republic. The search for a successor has split the Green Party, with some deputies insisting that she should be reinstated.

Delay in distribution of biometric passports to Czechs

The Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday that there would be a delay in the manufacture and distribution of new passports for Czech citizens including their biometric data. The Czech Republic was supposed to start providing its citizens with passports containing a copy of their fingerprints in May 2008. According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, this has now been postponed until April 2009. The delay has been attributed to prolonged negotiations in the European Parliament about the scheme. Biometric passports are something the European Union would like to see implemented across its member states, but questions of data protection are still being discussed in the European Parliament. Czechs have been able to apply for passports containing an information chip since September 2006, but up until now, this chip has only contained a digital photograph of the passport holder.

Around five-hundred pig farmers protest in Prague

According to organisers’ estimates, around 500 pig farmers turned out on Tuesday to protest in front of the Ministry of Agriculture about what they call insufficient subsidies for pig breeders. Czech pig farmers recently asked the Ministry of Agriculture for over 1 billion CZK (50 million USD) in financial aid, which they said they required due to poor wholesale prices for pork coupled with rising costs. The Ministry of Agriculture turned this request down and on Tuesday, agriculture minister Petr Gandalovic was jeered and heckled as he addressed protesters. The pig farmers present handed Mr Gandalovic a pig’s head before moving on to Wenceslas Square, where they handed out pork sausages and information leaflets to passers-by.

Disney opens new mobile phone games studio in Prague

Tuesday’s edition of Mlada Fronta Dnes reported that on Monday, American animation firm Walt Disney’s office in Prague expanded into the mobile telephone games market. A new Disney Mobile Games Studio has been opened in Prague, which, according to Mlada Fronta, puts the city on an even keel with Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beijing – all recognised centres of innovation in this field. The studio is expected to come up with around 10 different mobile phone games annually, and is set to employ 60 people by the end of next year. According to research conducted by Goldman Sachs, the worldwide mobile phone games market is expected to grow by 400% in the next 3 years and be worth some 8.4 billion USD by the end of 2010.

First lesbian publishing house opens in the Czech Republic

The first lesbian publishing house in the Czech Republic has just been opened. The first books to be printed by the publishers, LePress, are two romantic novels by American authors Karen Williams and Karen Kallmaker. The aim of the publishing house, according to owner Marketa Navratilova, is to bring foreign lesbian fiction to Czech readers. At the moment, the books are only available over the internet. According to Mrs Navratilova, the initial reaction to the publishers within the Czech lesbian community has been positive.

Construction in the third quarter down by eleven percent

The number of construction projects being undertaken in the Czech Republic between July and October this year has fallen by 11.3% on last year’s figures. The value of building projects in the third quarter of 2008 amounted to nearly 65 billion CZK (32.5 million USD), which is 21% down on last year’s figures. Analysts have put the drastic fall in construction projects and the amount they generate down to the construction boom that the Czech Republic was enjoying at this time last year. Flat-building is the only area of the construction industry which has recorded growth in the last three months.

Juventus lining up bid for Czech striker Fenin

Italian team Juventus are lining up a bid for Czech striking prodigy Martin Fenin, the player’s agent has revealed. The 20-year-old is the top scorer in the Czech league having hit the back of the net seven times this season for FK Teplice. He has grabbed the attention of several top clubs around Europe but his agent Pavel Zika says his heart is set on a switch to the Old Lady of Turin. Negotiations with the club are set to start at the end of November. Fenin’s price-tag is expected to be around 9 million euros, but it is rumoured that Arsenal and Liverpool are also interested in him and could start a bidding war, according to the Channel Four Football Italia Website.

Weather

Temperatures are expected to rise slightly over the next couple of days, with highs of up to 8 degrees Celsius. The rest of the week is set to be overcast with occasional showers.