- Police on Thursday closed off a hotel in Zlín in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation into the production and distribution of methanol-laced liquor.
- Former senator Ludmila Müllerová is reportedly being considered to replace outgoing Jaromír Drábek as minister of labour and social affairs.
- Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has cancelled a tender for the post of Municipal Police chief.
- Recently-elected senator Tomio Okamura has announced his intention to run for president.
- Czech RWE gas importer has won an important arbitration case against the Russian Gazprom.
Police close off hotel in connection with methanol investigation
Police closed off a hotel in Zlín, Moravia, on Thursday belonging to businessman Radek Březina, suspected of involvement in the recent methanol affair in the Czech Republic. Thirty people lost their lives and scores of others ended up in hospital after unknowingly buying and consuming alcohol laced with the deadly chemical in mid-September. According to broadcaster Czech TV, Radek Březina is a key figure behind Likérka Drak, linked to the affair. Bottles with Drak stickers were, for example, found in a Zlín warehouse containing 50 percent methanol.
Police have already charged the executive head of Drak, Pavel Čaniga, in connection with the case and are searching for Robert Sedlařík, the head the distribution company that ran the warehouse where some of the tainted alcohol was found. Police on Thursday, meanwhile, stood guard outside the hotel in Zlín, monitoring activity; top officials, including the state prosecutor in charge of the methyl alcohol investigation, have declined to comment.
Former senator, Drábek aide, could be next labour and social affairs minister
The new minister for labour and social affairs, replacing the outgoing Jaromír Drábek who is stepping down over a corruption scandal related to his former deputy, is likely to be former senator and aide Ludmila Müllerová, several sites have reported. She told the Czech news agency she had been offered the post by the outgoing minister but the final decision would be up to party leader Karel Schwarzenberg. Jaromír Drábek steps down on October 31. If TOP 09 nominates the 58-year-old Müllerová, and she is approved by the prime minister, she could then be named to office by the president. As it stands, ČTK pointed out, the future of the government itself is uncertain with risk it could fall over discord within the Civic Democratic Party over proposed tax hikes. The government has tied the proposed bill, which could still see changes, to a confidence vote.
Mayor cancels tender for post of chief of police
Prague Mayor and member of the Civic Democratic Party Bohuslav Svoboda, as was widely expected, has cancelled a tender for the post of Municipal Police chief. He announced the decision to municipal council members on Thursday. The mayor will put forward a concrete proposal in November after holding talks with members of the security committee.
Senator Okamura announces presidential bid
The newly-elected senator for Zlín, Tomio Okamura, has announced his intention to run for president in the country’s first direct presidential election. Well-known as a businessman, onetime TV personality and former tourist agency spokesperson, Mr Okamura told journalists on Thursday he had already compiled half of the signatures needed to file his candidacy. He has until November 6 to pick up an additional 25,000 names. Mr Okamura ran as an independent and recently defeated Social Democrat regional governor Stanislav Mišák for the post of senator.
RWE gets out of Gazprom fines
The Czech RWE Transgas utilities company has won a landmark case against the Russian Gazprom gas exporter over the “take-or-pay” clause in the two companies’ gas importing contracts. The “take-or-pay” clause that Gazprom has in most of their contracts stipulates that customers must buy a minimum amount of gas or pay fines. The arbitration court in Vienna ruled that RWE does not have to pay the 500 thousand US dollars Gazprom wants for their failure to pay take-or-pay fines in the years 2008-2011. This decision may prompt other dissatisfied European customers of Gazprom to challenge the take-or-pay claims from the Russian gas giant.
Poll: almost half of Czechs think Klaus should give up politics
A new poll by the Focus agency for Mladá fronta Dnes, has suggested that more than 48 percent of Czechs think that President Václav Klaus should retire from political life after he steps down as president next March. Nineteen-percent said the opposite; more than 1,000 people took part in the survey. Among Civic Democrat voters, more than two-fifths of those questioned suggested he should retire from politics; seven percent said they could see him as head the party again, while four percent said they would welcome him as prime minister. Mr Klaus is a two-term president: his first term began on March 7, 2003.
Senators pass legislation on pre-retirement pensions
Senators have passed legislation on so-called pre-retirement pensions aimed at helping employees who lose work shortly before retirement. The pre-pensions would cover a period of up to five years. The advantage is that pre-retirement pay will not affect the height of regular pensions; a requirement for eligibility, however, will be to have earned an expected pension of at least some eight thousand crowns per month.
Government approves support for renewable resources
The government on Wednesday approved a proposal counting on a rise in subsidies for renewable sources by seven billion crowns, but at the same time reducing the state's contribution, Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake said at a press conference following the cabinet meeting. The change will lead to a growth in prices that households and companies will pay for electricity as of next year. According to preliminary estimates, electricity prices for households will rise by 2 to 4 percent owing to the new setting of regulations. Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba conceded on Wednesday that support towards renewable sources was high and was a burden for Czech industry. The new government regulation was earlier criticised by the Confederation of Industry. The minister, together with entrepreneurs in industry, is preparing measures to soften the impact of renewable energy costs on companies. However, the steps will affect the budget for 2014 and not next year.
Olomouc hospital sees new case of methanol poisoning
A hospital in Olomouc late Wednesday began treatment of a 54-year-old patient from Moravská Třebová who suffered methanol poisoning after drinking tainted alcohol. His case is the third in the region this week. A 48-year-old man remains hospitalised in Olomouc, another 48-year-old is in hospital in Prostějov. The outbreak of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic began in mid-September after the market was flooded by thousands of litres of tainted bootleg alcohol. Thirty people died as a result.
ČSA plane makes emergency landing
A small Czech Airlines plane with 42 passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport on Wednesday evening, the spokeswoman for Czech Aeroholding revealed. The ATR 42, bound for Geneva, returned to Prague after around 30 minutes en route. Pilots suspected a technical glitch in one of the plane’s motors, and turned the aircraft around. According to the spokeswoman, none of the passengers were in danger.
Cloudy skies with rain are expected on Friday; daytime temperatures will drop to just six degrees Celsius.