Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says government measures to combat the financial crisis will focus on maintaining employment and making loans accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. He made the comments after a meeting of the government’s National Economic Council, a body set up to discuss ways to address the impacts of the credit crunch. Minister Kalousek said the cabinet would present proposals to fight the crisis during the Chamber of Deputies session that began on Tuesday.
The Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, says Prague has not given up on the possibility of hosting an EU-US summit that would be attended by President Barack Obama. Mr Vondra described as mere speculation newspaper reports that the summit would not be held in Prague as part of the six-month Czech presidency of the European Union. The April meeting between American and European leaders may be held in Strasbourg or Brussels, according to press reports. Mr Vondra said, however, that the matter was still open. There has also been speculation that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, may come to the Czech capital during the spring.
The fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř has been ordered to pay CZK 48 million in compensation to a company he was found guilty of defrauding. The Olomouc High Court also confirmed a previous sentence of 6.5 years in prison for swindling the company Frymis out of nearly CZK 75 million. Mr Krejčíř, who is wanted on further charges of fraud and conspiring to murder, fled the Czech Republic in 2005 after escaping from police during a search of his home. He is currently in South Africa, where local authorities have refused requests for his extradition.
The Czech crown fell sharply against the common European currency on Tuesday, ending the day at 28.50 to the euro. The crown is at its weakest point since June 2007 and has lost six percent of its value this year, Vladimír Pikora of Next Finance told the Czech News Agency. He said he expected it to fall further towards the euro in the next few days.
A debate on when to hold a vote on ratifying the European Union’s Lisbon
treaty dominated the opening of an extraordinary session of the Chamber of
Deputies on Tuesday. While the Christian Democrats, the Greens and the
Social Democrats have called for a vote on Lisbon to be held without delay,
the Civic Democrats and the Communists would like to see the matter
postponed for a second time. Discussions on when to put ratification of the
EU’s reform treaty to a vote are set to continue on Wednesday.
Other key subjects on the agenda of the lower house session are plans to build a US radar base in central Bohemia, Czech military missions overseas and reform of the country’s health care system. The Greens have proposed that the subject of whether to allow the radar be removed from the agenda; they say before a vote takes place they want to hear the opinion of new US president Barack Obama on America’s missile defence shield project, of which the radar would be part.
The Czech MEP Miloslav Ransdorf has been stripped of his immunity by the European Parliament so he can face investigation for his part in a traffic accident in Prague. The Czech authorities asked the European Parliament’s legal committee to lift Mr Ransdorf’s immunity after he knocked a woman down at a zebra crossing in 2007. The Communist Party politician did not oppose the move.
A Prague court has a request from a former prosecutor found guilty of the judicial killing of democratic politician Milada Horáková in a 1950s Communist show trial to have her sentence adjourned, the news website novinky.cz reported. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, who is in her 80s and almost blind, received six years for her role in the deaths of Milada Horáková and three other people. However, she has not begun serving her sentence, citing health grounds. Prague Municipal Court judge Petr Braun said on Tuesday that prison doctors would now decide on whether she was capable of going to jail. Ms Brožová-Polednová can appeal the ruling.
The Czech ice hockey player Robert Lang will be out of action indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon. Lang suffered the injury when he absorbed a hard check along the boards in a game between Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Lang, who is 38, has played in the NHL for 15 years and is Canadiens’ top scorer this season.
The security situation in Mladá Boleslav, a town north-east of Prague where the Škoda carmaker is based, has improved after most of the factory’s foreign staff left, a municipal police spokesperson said on Monday. In January, the municipal police was called to 25 percent cases less than in the same month of the previous year. Last year, Škoda employed some 7,000 foreign labourers while now only 400 of them remain in town.
Patients in region-owned hospitals and other health care facilities no longer have to pay health fees. As of Monday, the regional governments, formed by the opposition Social Democrats following their landslide victory in October’s regional elections, will cover the cost of the fees for patients. The health fees for a visit to the doctor, emergency treatment and drug prescriptions were introduced by the centre-right government of PM Mirek Topolánek at the beginning of last year within a broader health care reform plan. They have caused tremendous controversy. The opposition managed to cancel the fees in Parliament’s lower house in December. The Senate has now come up with an amendment to the law which respects some of the objections to the fees from within the ruling coalition.