The Social Democrats have said they will freeze a 13 million crown gift from a private sponsor following media claims that he may have a shady past. The news site Aktualne.cz recently reported that Tomáš Melich – a Czech businessman now living in Austria – had collaborated with the communist secret police. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said on Friday that the party leadership had decided not to use the gift – which was a contribution to the party’s election campaign –until Mr. Melich had cleared his name in court.
The right-wing TOP09 party faces criminal complaints over an election gimmick that went wrong. In an effort to emphasize the grave state of the country’s public finances, the party sent thousands of people in the Czech Republic mock bills asking them to pay their share of the public debt –amounting to 121 thousand crowns – without delay. Friday’s papers report that many senior citizens were shocked and upset by what they thought was an authentic payment slip and one elderly woman required psychiatric attention. Two thousand people are reported to have called emergency help lines and the police have confirmed receiving dozens of criminal complaints relating to fraud and scaremongering.
The Czech Republic beat Sweden 2:1 at the ice hockey World Championship in Germany on Thursday night. The goals came from Tomáš Rolinek and Petr Hubáček in what was the Czechs’ first victory over the Swedes in the competition since 2005. It followed a shock defeat to Norway two days earlier. Jaromír Jágr and his teammates now advance to the next round at the World Championship, with their next game against Switzerland on Saturday.
Persistent rain over the past 48 hours has swollen rivers and streams in southern Bohemia putting half a dozen villages on flood alert. The town of Rychnov has reported the most serious problems so far, with a local stream flooding a number of houses and nearby fields. People living in the vicinity of swollen rivers have been piling sandbags along the banks for protection. Meteorologists say the region has seen the worst of the bad weather, with the belt of rain expected to move to the eastern parts of the country over the weekend.
Ex-president Vaclav Havel has shot a video-clip in support of the Green Party. In it Mr. Havel criticizes what he calls money- driven city planning which he says is changing the face of Prague without any consideration for the needs of future generations. He says he is happy to see that at least one party in the Czech Republic feels as strongly about the problem as he does. Prague councillors have frequently come under fire from the Greens for being unsympathetic to the environment and pandering to the demands of lobbyists. The popular ex-president is making no secret of the fact that he intends to vote for the Greens in May’s general elections.
The results of mock elections held in 135 schools around the country indicate that young people favour right wing parties. The most popular party with the 15- to 19-year-olds who took part was TOP09, followed by the Civic Democrats and the Public Affairs party. The Czech Pirate Party – which is against copyright protection – and the far-right Workers’ Party of Social Justice would likewise secure several seats in Parliament, while the Green Party and the Social Democrats would only cross the 5 percent threshold by a very narrow margin. Turnout was 50 percent with more than 20,000 young people taking part. The mock election was organised by the NGO People in Need.
Bulgarian translator Angelina Penchevova on Friday received the Premia Bohemica award at the 16th International Book Fair currently underway in Prague. The award is given by the Czech Writers’ Association for promoting Czech literature abroad. Ms. Penchevova has translated several dozen Czech classics into Bulgarian, among them works by Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal and Karel Čapek. This year’s book fair has attracted more than 400 publishers and authors from around Europe and the United States. The four-day event includes meetings with writers, panel debates and book presentations.
The Czech National Bank has revised its estimate of the public finance deficit in 2010-2011. Figures released on Friday predict the public deficit will amount to 5.5 percent of GDP in 2010 and 5.9 in 2011. The previous forecast reckoned with a 5.9 percent gap this year and a 6.5 percent gap in 2011. In its GDP outlook published last week, the central bank forecast 1.4 percent growth in output this year with a projected 1.8 percent growth figure for 2011. The criteria for euro adoption include a deficit below 3 percent of GDP for three successive years.
Losses incurred by the volcanic ash cloud to Czech Airlines, hotels and travel agencies will amount to well over 700 million Czech crowns, the Ministry for Local Development reported on Friday. Prague hotels reported losses to the tune of 250 to 300 million crowns, Czech Airlines reported damages amounting to 300 million while travel agencies reported losses of around 126 million. The losses were incurred in the course of three days during which Czech airspace was closed to traffic.
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