The Czech-based car maker Škoda Auto increased its sales by 17.9 percent in the first half of this year, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. Between the start of January and the end of June the company sold over 360,000 cars. The greatest increase in sales was recorded in eastern Europe. Russia has seen the biggest upswing in Škoda sales, with a rise of over 80 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, is making a three-day visit to the Olympic Games in Beijing next month. However, Mr Topolánek told reporters he would arrive on August 13, meaning he will miss the opening ceremony, which takes place five days earlier. The Czech cabinet had recommended that the prime minister stay away from the opening following a violent Chinese crackdown on Tibet earlier this year. Mr Topolánek said on Tuesday he had accepted an invitation from the Czech Olympic Committee to support the country’s athletes in Beijing.
Klaus Toppmoller has ruled himself out as a candidate for the post of manager of the Czech national football team. The German coach told a newspaper there were two points on which the prospective appointment foundered – the Czech football association’s insistence that he move to the Czech Republic, and its refusal to hire Toppmoller’s assistants. The new Czech manager is due to be unveiled on Thursday, with the most likely candidate said to be Jozef Chovanec. It would not be his first stint in charge: he held the job before Karel Bruckner, who stepped down after Euro 2008.
An audit that seemed to clear controversial politician Jiří Čunek of corruption has not actually been completed. The website tyden.cz reported that 700 pages of information about his personal finances had not been supplied by Mr Čunek to the US agency investigating his books. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – who threatened to quit the cabinet if the Christian Democrats leader was not exonerated – said the audit would continue. Mr Schwarzenberg told the newspaper Lidové noviny on Tuesday that he had also ordered an audit into the work of the police and the state attorney’s office in connection with Mr Čunek. The latter resigned as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development in November because of an investigation into allegations that he took a bribe while he was mayor of a town in Moravia. When the state attorney definitively halted that probe he returned to cabinet. Jiří Čunek has been involved in a series of controversies, including over seemingly racist comments he made about Romanies.
The great American jazz guitarist John Scofield played a concert on Prague’s Old Town Square on Monday night. Scofield, playing his only show in Europe this year, told the 5,000 fans in attendance that he had heard about Prague decades ago from Czech musicians Miroslav Vitouš, George Mraz and Jan Hammer. The concert was part of the annual Bohemia Jazz Festival which features different Czech, Slovak and international musicians on different nights; after a second show in Prague on Tuesday night it travels to a number of other towns and cities.
A coach driver who caused a crash in which 20 people died has been denied an early release from prison. A court in Brno refused Pavel Krbec’s petition to be freed half-way through an eight-year jail term. The judge said the driver had not shown remorse for causing the accident which occurred in south Bohemia in March 2003.
The head of the smallest party in the coalition the Greens says they will pull out of the government if restrictions on heavy trucks on Czech roads are not extended to cover Fridays all year around. Greens leader and environment minister Martin Bursík called for a cabinet meeting to discuss the matter after, following negotiations with hauliers, Prime Minister Topolánek said talks on the subject had been postponed until the second half of August. Mr Bursík said introducing year-round restrictions on Friday evenings was part of the coalition agreement; if they are not introduced, the prime minister will have to look for a new coalition partner, he said.
Czech-Slovak produced film Bathory went straight to the top of the box office charts in the Czech Republic following its release last week, its distributor said. The movie by Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko is about the 16th century countess Elisabeth Bathory, who is sometimes described as the greatest female mass murderer who ever lived. Over 75,000 Czech viewers saw it on its opening weekend, the highest number for any film this year. Bathory’s budget of CZK 320 million (USD 22) makes it the most expensive film ever produced in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
The prices of petrol and diesel have dropped slightly in the past week, the Czech petrol seller CCS said on Monday. While the average price of petrol dropped by 6 hallers to 32.54 crowns, or 2.21 US dollars, per litre in the Czech Republic, the average price of diesel decreased by 5 hallers to 34.85, or 2.38 US dollars, crowns per litre. Analysts cite the strengthening crown against the US dollar as the main factor behind the drop, and expect fuel prices to keep decreasing in the coming weeks.
Russia announced on Monday that a sharp cut in deliveries of crude oil for the Czech Republic was caused by technical problems. Russian trade envoy to Prague Grigori Sarishvili told Czech Trade and Industry Minister Martin Říman that the decrease in deliveries of crude oil for the Czech Republic happened because of problems with oil extraction as well as of changes to the structure of Russian oil companies, rather than by a political decision in retaliation for last week’s signing of a Czech-American treaty on positioning a US tracking radar base on Czech territory.