News

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Social Democrats call for increased independence of state prosecutors

The vice-chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, Milan Urban, has called for state prosecutors to be given an increased amount of independence from the government. He made the announcement on Wednesday morning, one day after the deputy prime minister, Jiri Cunek, had all charges of corruption against him dropped. Mr. Cunek stood accused of accepting a half-a-million-crown bribe from a building company, when he was mayor of Vsetin, in 2002. His case was transferred from one prosecutor to another by Renata Vesecka, the Supreme Public Prosecutor, in early June, in a move that was considered by many to be politically motivated.

Ministry of the Environment stifles rumours of Minister Bursik's death

On Wednesday, the Ministry of the Environment stifled rumours that Martin Bursik, the Environment Minister, was dead. Several websites had run stories on the disappearance and even death of Mr Bursik - who is also head of the Czech Green party - during a mountain-climbing expedition in the Pakistani hills.

The Czech Embassy in Pakistan has, however, confirmed that one member of Mr. Bursik's expedition has been killed. They are yet to reveal the dead man's identity.

Police seek to question Communist MP in relation to abuse of prisoners

The Czech Police have asked for Communist MP Josef Vondruska to be stripped of his political immunity. They want to question him as part of their investigation into the abuse of prisoners in Minkovice jail, where he was a warder throughout the 1980s. It is alleged that Mr. Vondruska treated political prisoners with particular severity. The Committee on Mandate and Parliamentary Privilege will discuss the matter next week before referring it to parliament, reported Lidove Noviny on Wednesday.

Anti-monopoly office gives Heineken the go-ahead to buy out Krusovice

On Tuesday, the sale of the Central-Bohemian Krusovice brewery to Dutch group Heineken was approved by the Czech anti-monopoly office. The merger is expected to give Heineken an 8% share of the Czech market, making it the third biggest beer-producer in the country. Heineken already owns the Starobrno brewery in Moravia, and with this new addition to its portfolio is expected to produce more than 1.85 million hectoliters of beer a year, here in the Czech Republic. The largest brewery in the Czech Republic remains, however, Plzensky Prazdroj, with a share of almost 45% of the domestic market.

Parliamentary Budget Committee recommends that lower house does not accept government reform package

The Parliamentary Budget Committee recommended on Wednesday that mps should not approve the government's package of tax reforms, when it comes up for discussion on August the 14th. Finance Minister, Miroslav Kalousek has said that the committee's verdict 'was to be expected', as members of the governing coalition were outnumbered by opposition Social Democrats and Communists, who are against the reforms. Radim Fiala of the ruling Civic Democrats was missing from the meeting, and the reforms were vetoed by 11 votes to 10.

The reforms have already passed through a first reading in the lower house of Parliament. But with the smallest of majorities, the centre-right coalition needs the support of every single one of its deputies to get the reforms approved.

Three arrested in conjunction with false nuclear-bomb footage

Three members of the Ztohoven group of artists were arrested on Wednesday morning and charged with spreading alarming news. In June, the group sabotaged Czech Television's Panorama programme, broadcasting images of a nuclear bomb being detonated in the Krkonose mountains. Panorama normally streams live from picturesque Czech locations while providing a weather forecast for the next couple of days. The stunt was a hit on the website YouTube, with hundreds of thousands of viewers both at home and abroad, but Czech Television found it less funny, and immediately pressed charges.

July sees marginal rise in unemployment to 6.4%

Unemployment in the Czech Republic grew slightly in July, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Unemployment rose from 6.3% in June to 6.4% the following month. The rise was predicted by analysts, who cited the new wave of graduates from Czech universities as one of the major reasons for the upturn in the number of unemployed. The unemployment rate is at its second lowest since July 2004, when the current measurement system was adopted.

Nova: Negotiations to extradite Krejcir will only start in September

Negotiations to extradite the fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir will only start in September, according to TV Nova's Jiri Hynek. Mr. Hynek says that he was informed of the news by Radovan Krejcir himself, during a phone conversation on Wednesday. Mr. Krejcir appeared before a South-African court on Wednesday, but insists that the topic of extradition was not on the agenda. Radovan Krejcir was detained in South Africa in April on the Czech Republic's request, after travelling to the country on a false passport. He is wanted in Prague in connection with a string of violent crimes and cases of fraud.

Nova: Czech Health Ministry plans to give pharmacists new powers

The Czech Health Ministry and the national medical association are planning to re-evaluate the way that medicines are sold in Czech pharmacies, reported TV Nova on Tuesday. Currently, medicines are available either directly over the counter, or with a prescription from a doctor. The Health Ministry would like to give chemists themselves increased powers, so as to cut down on the quantity of over-the-counter medications being used in the production of illegal drugs like pervitine.

According to the new proposals, chemists will be able to ask for ID when selling painkillers, and a note will be kept of who buys what. Experts suspect that around 90% of the pervitine produced in the Czech Republic is cooked-up using readily available non-prescription drugs.

Construction of Sejong factory in Karvina underway

The South-Korean manufacturer Sejong has started work on the factory it plans to build in the Silesian town of Karvina. The firm, which produces car-parts for Hyundai and KIA cars in particular, is expected to invest around 520 million CZK (26 million USD) in the project. When fully up and running, it is predicted that the factory will employ some 250 workers.

Weather

There should be showers and even storms over the next couple of days, but high temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees centigrade.