Former defense minister Martin Barták has been appointed deputy finance minister. He will replace Jan Málek, a member of the Christian Democrats party, which did not get any seats in the lower house in May’s general elections. Mr Málek was let go by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek last week; Mr Barták is due to start on Monday. Among other responsibilities, he will be in charge of auditing of EU funds. He was originally meant to be appointed to the office of deputy interior minister, but did not receive the post due to austerity measures in the interior ministry.
The Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic has upheld a fine of 51.000 Czech crowns for a taxi driver who charged four times the recommended fare and was caught by quality inspectors. The man, who was appealing a verdict from a lower court, will also loose his taxi license for two years. He argued that a video tape, which was used as evidence against him, was an infringement of his privacy rights. The ruling judge agreed with him on that point but nonetheless ruled in favor of upholding the fine. Recently, the administrative court has seen a number of cases in which taxi drivers have appealed verdicts from lower courts.
While the health ministry will see a budget increase of a hundred million Czech crowns next year for its research and sciences department, all other departments will see a cut in funds. The ministry’s salary budget will be reduced by ten percent. The ministry is currently trying to determine whether to implement across-the-board salary cuts or reduce its staff. Nurses and doctors are not affected by the cuts since their wages are not paid out of the state budget. The newly installed government approved the parameters of next year’s state budget last Wednesday. Ministries will see their budgets cut by a total of 10 billion Czech crowns in 2011.
The Czech capital was hit by a severe hailstorm on Sunday night. Six people were injured; one man suffered a serious injury after glass from a broken roof window cut an artery on his leg. Another suffered a head wound after falling in the street and four women were treated for lighter injuries. Fire fighters were called over 130 times, pumping water from cellars and removing fallen trees and branches from streets in the Czech capital. According to the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute, the city saw between 40 and 45 millimeters of precipitation in the night from Sunday to Monday. Meanwhile, the storms led to a rise in water levels of rivers in the Dečín region in the north of the country, which was badly flooded a week ago. Fire crews were called out 40 times during the night to help remove water from flooded houses.
Motorcycle accidents have claimed a total of 27 victims in the month of July alone. According to police data, that is the highest number of deaths linked to such accidents in the past three years. In the first seven months of 2010, a total of 64 motorcyclists have died, eleven more than in the same time period of the previous year. According to the head of traffic police, most motorcycle accidents happen in the summer.
Due to extensive damages resulting from the floods that hit the region a week ago, a total of four train routes in the Liberec region will remain out of service. Trains connecting Liberec with the town of Frýdlant, which was badly affected by the floods, will not start running again until the end of September. Other routes will resume service this week. Autobuses serving the region have also been discontinued but are slowly starting operating again.
In an interview for Monday’s edition of Mladá fronta dnes, Petr Fejk, who is the current head of the Czech Center in New York, said that he was having a hard time pushing through his vision of how the center should be run. Mr Fejk, who is the former director of Prague zoo, added that his main goal was for the center to not be fully dependent on state funds. He said he believes that renting the building out for private events can help generate a budget to be used towards cultural events. Mr Fejk is not currently planning to resign from his post and has turned down an offer to run for Prague mayor.
Czech Railways have announced a 325-million-crown-tender for the purchase of the wireless communication system GSM-R, to be installed in 600 of its trains. After consultation with the Ministry of Transport, Czech Railways was able to secure EU funds, which will finance fifty percent of the tender. The GSM-R system facilitates communication between trains and railway control centers.
Police have found human bones at the site of an alleged mass grave in the town of Dobronín, where some 15 Germans are said to have been murdered by Czech locals at the end of World War II. The number of victims cannot be determined yet, criminal police officers and archaeologists say they will be working at the site until Friday. Their goal is to identify the victims, who were Germans living on Czechoslovak lands who were facing expulsion from the country.One of the investigators told the Czech News Agency that police had been looking into the case since last September.
President Václav Klaus is to receive Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek at Prague Castle on Tuesday, continuing a series of meetin+gs between the president and ministers of the newly installed government. Mr Klaus is meeting all ministers to familiarize himself with issues and goals of the new government. He has already received the environment, foreign affairs and transport ministers, as well as Prime Minister Petr Nečas. Mr Kalousek’s main task will be a reform of the tax system as well as ridding the country of debt. Last week, the government approved a state budget deficit of 135 billion Czech crowns for the year 2011.
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