Deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek has said that the Czech Republic may begin drawing from EU funds for the years 2007 - 2013 by this summer. Jiri Cunek said as much on Friday during a meeting in Brussels. In the years 2007 - 13 the Czech Republic will be able to draw from 780 billion crowns - the equivalent of around 36 billion US dollars - with about one fifth going towards transportation infrastructure. On Friday Mr Cunek provided the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hubner, with a national strategic plan for the country's drawing of funds over the next seven years.
A proposal by Czech-born architect Jan Kaplicky has been chosen by an international jury as the winning design for the new national library building to be built on Prague's Letna plain. The news was announced during a special press conference on Friday. Mr Kaplicky, the founder of the London-based studio Future Systems, has designed landmarks such as the space-age Selfridges building in Birmingham. Mr Kaplicky said on Friday that he was surprised by the decision, calling it "perhaps the most important moment of his life". Jan Kaplicky is widely-considered one of the most important architects working today.
Labour minister Petr Necas has said that senior managers in institutions relying on public finances should undergo vetting under an amendment to the Labour Code to be submitted next year. On Friday, Mr Necas criticised the current code which was pushed through by the political Left shortly before the elections last year. He said that it allowed people in influential posts, such as top managers at Czech TV or the public service Czech Radio, to not have to undergo security vetting. Recently, controversy was stirred up over the revelation that a top Czech TV official had been a member of the communist-era Peoples' Militia.
The regional council in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia, has agreed on an advance payment of two million crowns to a Czech woman, Zuzana Rokosova, who was paralysed after undergoing a medical procedure at a local hospital in 2003. Regional councillors agreed on the payment for Mrs Rokosova, despite the fact the region has appealed a court decision in February awarding the woman 17 million crowns - the equivalent of around 800,000 US dollars. The governor indicated on Thursday the region did not want to complicate matters for her or her husband, but the region chose to appeal mainly because of contradictory assessments in the case. Mrs Rokosova's husband was not available for comment, but reportedly would like to build a home with special facilities for his wife so she will not be confined to an institution.
Police in the United States have detained 36-year-old Czech businessman Vit Studlar who was convicted of embezzlement in the Czech Republic but went missing in 2005 before he was to start serving his seven-year prison sentence, the Czech daily Pravo writes. Mr Studlar is to be deported from the United States to the Czech Republic next week and escorted to prison. Mr Studlar who worked in the used car business was found guilty of cheating his customers out of 19 million crowns (890,000 US dollars).
The Social Democratic Party has said that the leaking of the so-called Kubice report days before last June's national election was a plot masterminded by senior officials from the right-of-centre Civic Democratic party, including current Interior Minister Ivan Langer. Deputy Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists on Friday that the ruling coalition was not interested in solving the Kubice case following the rejection of a proposal on Thursday that a parliamentary commission be established to look into the matter. Jan Kubice, the head of the country's organised crime police unit, submitted a report to the lower house late last May that was almost immediately leaked to the media. His report suggested that organised crime had infiltrated the country's civil service, which was dominated by the Social Democrats at the time.
A new poll by the CVVM agency has suggested that around 61 percent of Czechs are opposed to the idea of the US deploying a radar base on Czech territory. The US has officially asked the Czech Republic to consider such a base as part of a broader anti-missile defence system aimed at preventing potential attacks. The Czech government has indicated a willingness to open negotiations but is expected to reply to the US request only by the end of March. The idea of the radar base, which would complement a rocket installation in Poland, has divided the Czech political scene. The ruling Civic Democrats are in favour, while some of the smaller parties have stressed the need for the project to be implemented within a NATO framework. The Communist Party - most opposed - is calling for a referendum on the issue.
The Czech Republic's biggest petrochemicals and refinery company, Unipetrol, blamed exceptional write-offs on Thursday for a 52.7-percent drop in 2006 group net profit to 1.62 billion crowns (75.7 million dollars). The company, in which Polish state-owned refinery giant PKN Orlen has a 62.9-percent stake, said it had incurred one off losses totalling 2 billion crowns in the sales of non-refinery businesses, such as chemical company Spolana and rubber producer, Kaucuk. Operating profit for the group fell 30.0 percent on a 12-month comparison to 3.565 billion crowns.
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