News

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PM welcomes halting of criminal investigation

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has welcomed the halting of a criminal investigation involving the Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Mr. Cunek was suspected of having accepted a half a million crown bribe from a building company when he was mayor of Vsetin in 2002. State attorney Arif Salichov questioned the credibility of the key witness, Mr. Cunek's former secretary, and said the investigation was being halted for lack of evidence.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat leader claimed from the start that he was innocent of the charges against him and repeatedly refused to resign from office. Prime Minister Topolanek said he was glad he had respected the presumption of innocence despite growing pressure on him to sack the deputy prime minister. Opposition parties have criticized the decision to halt the investigation.

Cunek says presumption of guilt is bad policy

At a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday Jiri Cunek thanked his party and the prime minister for having retained their faith in him and supported him through the crisis. He slammed the opposition Social Democrats for trying to implement a presumption of guilt for politicians, saying that this was not the way to go. "I am immensely relieved that this matter has finally been closed and that my name has been cleared" the Christian Democrat leader told newsmen.

Zielenec still undecided about nomination

MEP and former Czech foreign minister Josef Zielenec says his candidacy in next year's presidential elections depends on whether he can find broad support in Parliament. Mr. Zieleniec, whose nomination was proposed by the Independents' Association - European Democrats, said on Tuesday he had yet to make up his mind whether to accept it. Political commentators say this is a wise decision since Mr. Zielenec may find it hard to garner enough support. Reacting to news about his possible candidacy the opposition Social Democrats said on Monday they were not prepared to support him, and neither can he expect to win votes from the Civic Democrats who have pledged to support incumbent president Vaclav Klaus. Another possible nominee is Jiri Dienstbier, former foreign minister and special UN envoy for human rights.

Parliament to start debating reform package in mid-August

The lower house of Parliament is to re-convene on August 14th to debate the government's fiscal reform package. The package is aimed at reducing the deficit in public finances to below 3 percent of GDP and has evoked plenty of controversy in the lower house despite having passed through its first reading. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communist Party have slammed the government's proposal saying that such reforms would benefit the rich and disadvantage the lower and middle classes. The proposed package has also come under fire from right-wing politicians for allegedly not being radical enough. The Prime Minister has linked his cabinet's future to the reform plan saying that he would resign if it fails to win approval. With a razor-sharp majority in the lower house the centre right coalition government needs the vote of every single one of its deputies.

President Klaus to address UN conference on global warming

President Vaclav Klaus is to address a UN conference on global warming in September, his spokesman Petr Hajek told the CTK news agency on Tuesday. The Czech president is a strong critic of what he calls "the hysteria surrounding global warming" and has even published a book on the subject called "Blue, not Green Planet" in which he claims that freedom -not the climate - is endangered by "ambitious environmentalism". President Klaus himself confirmed he would be attending the conference, telling Radio Free Europe that he was looking forward to the event and planned to give a very tough speech.

Kulinsky case back to square one

The Prague High Court has ruled that judge Anna Bimova made grave mistakes when presiding over the case of the former choir master Bohumil Kulinsky, who is charged with sexual abuse of underage girls. Judge Bimova allegedly opted for a number of non-standard procedures which have cast doubt on the final ruling. The High Court thus cancelled the verdict of the Hradec Kralove court which acquitted Kulinsky of two cases of sexual abuse and returned the case to the same court stipulating that it should be given to another judge. The scandal surrounding the former choirmaster of Bambini di Pragua, the country's most famous children's choir, broke in 2004 when several dozen girls testified they had been sexually harassed by him. Kulinsky faces charges in 49 cases.

CEZ wins tender to build power station in Moscow

Czech state-run power producer CEZ has won a tender to build a power station comprising three steam-gas blocks with output of 600 megawatts in Moscow. The power station will be situated in the northern part of Moscow, about six kilometres from the Kremlin. A contract on the construction should be signed in six months' time. The power station is the second Russian project announced by CEZ this year. In April, CEZ signed a contract on a joint venture with Russian energy concern RAO-EES on the reconstruction of a power station in Shchokino, about 200 kilometres south of Moscow.

Teaching hospitals to form backbone of Czech medical services

Nine teaching hospitals are to form the backbone of the country's medical services in the future, the daily Hospodarske Noviny writes in its Tuesday edition, reporting on the health ministry's reform plans. The hospitals will remain under state control, they will cover all vital medical services and will receive special subsidies from the state.

Hermes boatel back in operation

A boatel on the Vltava river which provides cheap shelter to homeless people is back in operation after a short summer break for technical maintenance. The boatel Hermes can accommodate 250 people for the price of just 20 crowns per night. It was set by up the town hall in 2006 after a particularly harsh winter revealed a lack of shelters for the homeless and the army had to put up tents for them on Letna plain.

Weather

The current heat-wave should continue over the next few days with some scattered showers and temperatures between 26 and 29 degrees Celsius.