On Thursday, A Prague court acquitted Zdeněk Doležel of charges of attempted fraud in connection with the privatisation of Unipetrol. Mr Doležel was suspected of demanding a 5 million CZK (250,000 USD) bribe from a Polish businessman when he was secretary to the prime minister in 2005. Jacek Spyra says that he was asked for millions of crowns by Mr Doležel, in return for bringing the firm that Mr Spyra represented back into negotiations. Mr Spyra’s claims appeared to have been reinforced by footage recorded secretly by TV Nova, which shows Mr Doležel asking for ‘five million in Czech’ during one of their meetings. Mr Doležel insists, however, that this was a coded statement meaning something completely different. It is not yet clear whether today’s verdict will be appealed.
Prague’s Barrandov Film Studios are celebrating 75 years of operation on Thursday. On January 25, 1933 the filming of the studios’ first motion picture ‘Vražda v Ostrovní ulici’ (Murder on Ostrovní Street) began. The film premiered some two months later, and received a good deal of critical acclaim. The movie was the first ever Czech film to have both dialogue and music, thanks to the studios’ then state-of-the-art equipment. In more recent years, films such as James Bond – Casino Royale have been shot on location at Barrandov.
Representatives of the state and the Czech Catholic church have signed an agreement which deals with the day-to-day running of Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. The cathedral currently belongs to the state, having been seized by the Communists in the 1950s. The church has put in a formal request for the cathedral to be restituted, which is still to be decided upon by a court. On Thursday, delegates from both parties signed an agreement which specified that the state would pay for the upkeep of the cathedral, and that entrance to the place of worship would be for free. According to the newspaper Právo, the church will now pay the state a token rent of 500 CZK (25 USD) a month for the use of the premises. Both parties stressed after the signing of the agreement that this does not resolve the issue of the cathedral’s ownership.
In 2007, the Czech Republic received some 49.1 billion CZK (2.46 billion USD) from the European Union. Over the same period, it paid 32.1 billion crowns into the EU coffers. On Thursday, the Ministry of Finance revealed the figures, stressing that the Czech Republic had received 17 billion crowns more from the EU than it had paid in. According to a ministry spokesperson, this was the largest amount the country had received from Brussels since joining the EU in 2004. The Czech Republic received large sums in particular last year from the EU’s structural and cohesion funds.
The head of the Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, has said that it was due to an administrative error that a 1.4 million-crown credit (70,000 USD) on his mortgage was not declared. Mr Čunek was fined 20,000 CZK by an Ostrava court for failing to announce the credit on his mortgage account. He was found guilty of breaching a conflict of interest law which obliges politicians to disclose their income and property assets. In Thursday’s Právo, however, Mr Čunek said that he had not withheld information intentionally, but that it had been an administrative error. Whether this was his or someone else’s error he was unable to say. Other investigations into whether Mr Čunek accepted bribes and misused welfare benefits have recently been dropped.
One hundred and twenty-two new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the Czech Republic in 2007. Statistics released on Thursday showed that there were a total of 1042 Czechs diagnosed as being HIV positive, and 239 citizens with AIDS. Miroslav Hlavatý, who treats AIDS patients and who was in charge of presenting the statistics, said that there could be ten times as many people in the country carrying HIV without knowing, as the statistics only reflected the number of people who had undergone a medical test.
The Czech Republic will make a profit out of the EU’s new strategy to cut emissions, reported Lidové noviny on Thursday. The European Commission set targets on Wednesday for each of the 27 EU member states, obliging them to raise to a set percentage the use of renewable energies in their overall energy mix by 2020. Prague has been ordered to practically double its reliance upon renewable energy sources. But, Lidové noviny reports, the Czech Republic will be one of six EU states to actually benefit financially from the plan. Analysts predict that the scheme should raise Czech GDP by 0.51% annually. The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade has responded by saying that it is impossible to tell whether such estimates will prove to be founded.
Three antelopes reared at Dvůr Kralové Zoo, in north Bohemia, are to be set free in Swaziland under a programme to reintroduce endangered species back into their homeland. The three young roan antelopes will be shipped to Africa next week. The chief zoologist at Dvůr Kralové zoo said that the facility has already sent more than 100 animals to Africa ahead of the antelopes. He added that the antelopes are relatively tame having been reared in a zoo, and will take a bit of getting used to life in the wild. Dvůr Kralové Zoo specialises in African fauna and has some of the biggest groups of giraffe, antelope and rhino worldwide.
The health minister Tomáš Julínek has said that he will give way to unions’ demands, providing they call off a strike planned for March 5. Hospital workers are unhappy with the Health Ministry’s plans to extend their working week, and change the system of overtime. Mr Julínek told journalists on Thursday that if unions called off their strike within the next 24 hours, then he would scrap his plans to extend hospital staff’s working hours.
Share-prices on the Prague Stock Exchange rose by 8.42% to 1,523.4 points on Thursday. This is the biggest growth posted since the Autumn of 1993. The rise meant that the loss accumulated on the Prague Stock Exchange since the beginning of the year was brought down to 16.1%. Both energy-giant ČEZ and Telefonica O2 gained over 10% in the course of the day’s trading. Analysts said that the panic selling seen in the last couple of days had given way to a buying frenzy on the Prague bourse. Experts recommended, however, that investors remain cautious, as concern about a possible recession in the USA persists.
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