- The Czech government has approved a military training mission to Mali.
- The Czech National Bank has cut its economic forecast for 2013 to 0.3 percent contraction.
- The lower house of Parliament has accepted the government’s “fiscal constitution” for further debate.
- A court in Prague has sentenced a high-profile doctor to 14 years in jail for sexually abusing his assistants.
- The Czech national football team plays Turkey in a friendly match on Wednesday.
Government approves military training mission to Mali
The Czech government on Wednesday approved a military training mission to Mali. The Czech contingent should be part of an EU mission to the African country destabilized by Islamist insurgency, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said. The mission, consisting of up to 50 instructors, is yet to be approved by the lower house; the opposition Social Democrat leader, Bohuslav Sobotka said however his party would agree provided Czech soldiers would not take part in the fighting. Czech instructors should assist in training Malian mechanized infantry troops at various army bases. The mission’s budget of around 220 million crowns should be paid for by the Czech Defence Ministry.
Central bank cuts growth forecast to 0.3 pct contraction
The Czech National Bank on Wednesday cut its forecast for the country’s economy to 0.3 percent contraction, down from a previous estimate of 0.2 percent growth. The central bank also decided to keep the interest rate at a record low of 0.05 percent, a spokesman for the bank said. Economists expect the interest rate to remain at the current level until the end of 2014.
Czech industry fell by 12.5 pct in December
Czech industry registered a 12.5 pct annual decrease in December, the worst result since July 2009, the Czech Statistical Office said on Wednesday. In the whole of 2012, Czech industrial output contracted by 1.2 percent. In 2013, the industry is expected to decrease by around 1 percent.
Exports in 2012 exceed three trillion crowns
In related news, Czech exports in 2012 for the first time exceeded 3 trillion crowns, or nearly 158 billion US dollars, according to government figures released on Wednesday. The exports consisted mainly of machinery, vehicles and other final products. Some analysts believe the results point to a beginning of economic recovery in the Czech Republic which has been in recession for over a year. The country also registered a record foreign trade surplus last year which amounted to 310 billion crowns, more than 30 percent more than in the previous year.
MPs accept government’s “fiscal constitution” for debate
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday voted to accept the government’s proposed fiscal legislation for further debate. The so-called “fiscal constitution” introduces a limit for the country’s public debt; it also requires the government to come up with ways of curbing spending if the debt exceeds 40 percent of GDP. In case the public debt reaches 48 percent of GDP, the government would be legally bound to cut at least 3 percent of its spending. The opposition has called for changes to the draft legislation which they say would narrow the manoeuvring space for any future government regardless of the economic cycle.
Czech operational programme to return 2.5 billion to EU
The Czech operational programme Northwest will have to return 2.5 billion crowns of EU funds over problems with project management, the head of the programme said on Wednesday, quoting a letter from the European Commission. The commission, which is expected to officially inform the regional administrations of the request in the coming days, said the funds had to be returned over problems with the programme’s ineffective evaluation system and errors in the individual projects. The Northwest operational programme was halted last year and several of its managers are prosecuted on corruption charges.
High-profile doctor sentenced to 14 years in jail for abusing assistants
A court in Prague on Wednesday sentenced high-profile physician Jaroslav Barták to 14 years in prison for sexually abusing his assistants. Mr Barták was convicted of assaulting 10 women between 2006 and 2010 who worked as his assistants; the court found the 54-year-old man guilty on six charges of rape, three charges of sexual assault, as well as on charges of blackmail and restricting personal liberty. Mr Barták, who co-owns a well-known Prague clinic and served as the head of a local branch of Lions Club International, has consistently denied all charges and said he was victim of a conspiracy, a claim rejected by the court.
Court acquits woman charged with child abuse
A court in Prague on Wednesday acquitted a 38-year-old woman charged with child abuse for having beaten her son with a wooden spoon. The woman had received a conditional sentence but the verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court which argued the woman, who had no previous criminal record, otherwise took good care of the child, and was in contact with the boy’s school. Experts also found that the boy did not suffer from abused child syndrome.
New plan unveiled to combat alcoholism
Czech doctors on Wednesday unveiled a new plan to combat alcoholism in the country. The National Action Plan, as proposed by the Association for Addictive Diseases, should increase public awareness of the issue, and make more people with drinking problems undergo treatment, the head of the association, Petr Popov, said. One of the new strategies should curb people’s consumption of alcohol rather than make them give it up for good. The Czech Republic ranks among the countries with the highest consumption of alcohol in the world, with each Czech over 15 years of age annually consuming nearly 17 litres of pure alcohol.
Several streets in central Prague closed after grenade is found at construction site
The police on Wednesday closed several streets in central Prague, including the busy Národní třída, after a WWII artillery grenade was found at a construction site. No buildings in the area had to be evacuated. The police’s explosives squad transported the grenade to a safe location where it could be detonated, a police spokesman said. The unexploded artillery grenade was unearthed at a construction site near the Národní metro station where a new shopping mall is being built; the operation of the metro was unaffected by the find.
Football: Czechs take on Turkey in friendly match
The Czech national football team plays Turkey in a friendly match in Turkish city of Manisa on Wednesday night. Czech manager Michal Bílek included playmaker and captain Tomáš Rosický in the line-up, after a seven-month break due to injury. The Czech side will also feature Matěj Vydra and Ladislav Krejčí.
The coming days should be mostly overcast with rain or snow in higher places. Daytime highs should range between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius.