News Still no final decision on National Library building
A team of experts has failed to reach a final decision on approving plans by architect Jan Kaplický for a new National Library building. The team announced on Wednesday that it would refer the matter to the Office for the Protection of Competition to ascertain whether an architectural contest to come up with a design for the building was conducted in a proper and fair manner.
Kaplicky’s building, which has been nicknamed “The Blob” because of its outlandish futuristic appearance, has proven highly controversial since it was initially chosen for the planned new National Library building on Prague’s Letná Plain last year. It is not clear when a final decision on the building will now be made. Architect Jan Kaplický has since said that he will take the matter to an international court if it is not resolved soon.
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Czech confidence in the European Union has fallen to its lowest level since the country voted to join the political and economic grouping in a referendum in 2003, according to a survey. The survey by the CVVM company shows that now around just over a third of Czechs, 38 percent to be precise, say they now have confidence in the EU. A year earlier the confidence percentage was 52 percent. The rapid fall since then is largely due to the EU’s perceived handling of the immigration crisis. The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004.
The Prague-based Association for International Affairs has identified President Miloš Zeman as one of the most problematic factors in the country’s foreign affairs. In its annual assessment of the past year and pointers for the current one, the association highlighted how Zeman put himself out on a limb by attending end of WWII ceremonies in Moscow and Beijing. Some of his statements conflicted clearly with government policy. The prime minister and foreign minister should clearly distance themselves from Zeman’s stances otherwise Czech foreign policy would be unreadable for outsiders, the assessment added. The assessment said attempts to build a strategic dialogue with Germany and South Korea were pluses. On the immigrant crisis though, the Czech Republic was too often reactive, isolationist, and short on positive proposals to strengthen the Schengen area or tackle the crisis, it added.
Czech electricity giant ČEZ says it is has relocated and cut pay of some workers responsible for failures at its Dukovany nuclear plant last year which resulted in drawn out outages at reactors. The state-controlled company also said that it changing safety check procedures after a sub-contractor was found to have carried out flawed X-ray checks on pipe welds at reactors. ČEZ says around 100 new specialists will be hired at the reactors, a lot more work will be handed to daughter company ÚJV Řež, and steps will be taken to limit sub-contractors from re-sub-contracting work.
The Chinese auto and farm machinery producer Shijiazhuang Zhogxing group has signed an agreement with Czech company Czech Industry Group which includes the investment of 1.0 billion crowns in a new plant near the West Bohemian town of Sokolov to make car discs. The Chinese company is one biggest producers of such discs in the world. The new factory is expected to employ 100 initially, eventually rising to 200 people. There is an above average unemployment rate of around 8.6 percent around Sokolov.
President Miloš Zeman has visited the notorious Stork’s Nest farm linked to ANO leader and minister of finance, Andrej Babiš. The farm was at the centre earlier this year of a scandal over whether Babiš, the owner of the massive agro-chemical group Agrofert, wrongly claimed European funds for the conversion of the complex. Babiš eventually told a special session of the lower house that the farm was owned by his daughters and son-in-law. The president’s visit is being taken as a sign of close links between Babiš and Zeman and their possible mutual support in upcoming election battles. The use of funds for the farm is still being investigated by a European fraud squad.
The comeback of one of the biggest Czech hopes for a gold medal in the Summer Olympics is encountering some problems. Javelin record holder Barbora Špotáková is still unable to train regularly after a bone fracture suffered in March. The athlete had been hoping to take part in her first major Diamond League appearance of the season at Qatar next week but that has now been cancelled. She now expects to compete at the earliest in June.
Customs officers in the Liberec region in the north of the country say they have made a major swoop on Polish exports of drugs used to manufacture the illegal drug Pervitin. The stopped a vehicle crossing the border from Poland with a consignment of 50,000 tablets of the anti-cold drug Cirrus. The drug, only on available on prescription in the Czech Republic but on open sale in Poland, is popular to make the illegal drug. The single seizure exceeds the entire haul of Cirrus in the Liberec region for 2015. It’s estimated around 4 million Cirrus tablets are imported from Poland into the Czech Republic every year. Much of the pervitin produced is then sold in Germany.
Police have called for fraud charges to be pressed against former national ice hockey coach, Vladimír Rúžička, according to the ČTK news agency citing police sources. The charges relate to his period as trainer at the Prague Slavia club when he is alleged to have received half a million crowns from a wealthy businessman in order that his son would play for the club. The sum never found its way onto the books of the hockey club. The allegations came to light ahead of last year’s ice hockey world championships with Rúžička later resigning his post. He is currently the trainer at Chomutov.
More than a fifth of vines in Southern Moravia have been affected by early morning frosts over the last week according to the Association of Vineyard Owners. There will be a clear impact on the future grape crop but the association has so far been unable to put a figure on the estimated damage. Temperatures dropped to below zero on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The worst affected vines are expected to be those in valley locations. Severe frosts last affected vineyards in the region four years ago.
An agreement between three political parties, ANO, the Social Democrats, and the three-way coalition (composed of the Christian Democrats, Greens, and party of mayors, STAN) has been signed aimed at the future running of Prague City Hall. The deal brings together the same three groups who fell out in October last year leaving the Czech capital rudderless. The agreement has the backing of 34 of the 65 members of the council. An new council executive does not feature the Green leader Matěj Stropnický, who previously clashed frequently with mayor Adriana Krnáčová.