On Wednesday, the Ministry of the Environment stifled rumours that Martin
Bursik, the Environment Minister, was dead. Several websites had run
stories on the disappearance and even death of Mr Bursik - who is also head
of the Czech Green party - during a mountain-climbing expedition in the
The Czech Embassy in Pakistan has, however, confirmed that one member of Mr. Bursik's expedition has been killed. They are yet to reveal the dead man's identity.
The Czech Health Ministry and the national medical association are
planning to re-evaluate the way that medicines are sold in Czech
pharmacies, reported TV Nova on Tuesday. Currently, medicines are available
either directly over the counter, or with a prescription from a doctor. The
Health Ministry would like to give chemists themselves increased powers, so
as to cut down on the quantity of over-the-counter medications being used
in the production of illegal drugs like pervitine.
According to the new proposals, chemists will be able to ask for ID when selling painkillers, and a note will be kept of who buys what. Experts suspect that around 90% of the pervitine produced in the Czech Republic is cooked-up using readily available non-prescription drugs.
The Parliamentary Budget Committee recommended on Wednesday that mps
should not approve the government's package of tax reforms, when it comes
up for discussion on August the 14th. Finance Minister, Miroslav Kalousek
has said that the committee's verdict 'was to be expected', as members of
the governing coalition were outnumbered by opposition Social Democrats and
Communists, who are against the reforms. Radim Fiala of the ruling Civic
Democrats was missing from the meeting, and the reforms were vetoed by 11
votes to 10.
The reforms have already passed through a first reading in the lower house of Parliament. But with the smallest of majorities, the centre-right coalition needs the support of every single one of its deputies to get the reforms approved.
The vice-chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, Milan Urban, has called for state prosecutors to be given an increased amount of independence from the government. He made the announcement on Wednesday morning, one day after the deputy prime minister, Jiri Cunek, had all charges of corruption against him dropped. Mr. Cunek stood accused of accepting a half-a-million-crown bribe from a building company, when he was mayor of Vsetin, in 2002. His case was transferred from one prosecutor to another by Renata Vesecka, the Supreme Public Prosecutor, in early June, in a move that was considered by many to be politically motivated.
Negotiations to extradite the fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir will only start in September, according to TV Nova's Jiri Hynek. Mr. Hynek says that he was informed of the news by Radovan Krejcir himself, during a phone conversation on Wednesday. Mr. Krejcir appeared before a South-African court on Wednesday, but insists that the topic of extradition was not on the agenda. Radovan Krejcir was detained in South Africa in April on the Czech Republic's request, after travelling to the country on a false passport. He is wanted in Prague in connection with a string of violent crimes and cases of fraud.
On Tuesday, the sale of the Central-Bohemian Krusovice brewery to Dutch group Heineken was approved by the Czech anti-monopoly office. The merger is expected to give Heineken an 8% share of the Czech market, making it the third biggest beer-producer in the country. Heineken already owns the Starobrno brewery in Moravia, and with this new addition to its portfolio is expected to produce more than 1.85 million hectoliters of beer a year, here in the Czech Republic. The largest brewery in the Czech Republic remains, however, Plzensky Prazdroj, with a share of almost 45% of the domestic market.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic grew slightly in July, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Unemployment rose from 6.3% in June to 6.4% the following month. The rise was predicted by analysts, who cited the new wave of graduates from Czech universities as one of the major reasons for the upturn in the number of unemployed. The unemployment rate is at its second lowest since July 2004, when the current measurement system was adopted.
At a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday Jiri Cunek thanked his party and the prime minister for having retained their faith in him and supported him through the crisis. He slammed the opposition Social Democrats for trying to implement a presumption of guilt for politicians, saying that this was not the way to go. "I am immensely relieved that this matter has finally been closed and that my name has been cleared" the Christian Democrat leader told newsmen.
Czech state-run power producer CEZ has won a tender to build a power station comprising three steam-gas blocks with output of 600 megawatts in Moscow. The power station will be situated in the northern part of Moscow, about six kilometres from the Kremlin. A contract on the construction should be signed in six months' time. The power station is the second Russian project announced by CEZ this year. In April, CEZ signed a contract on a joint venture with Russian energy concern RAO-EES on the reconstruction of a power station in Shchokino, about 200 kilometres south of Moscow.
The lower house of Parliament is to re-convene on August 14th to debate the government's fiscal reform package. The package is aimed at reducing the deficit in public finances to below 3 percent of GDP and has evoked plenty of controversy in the lower house despite having passed through its first reading. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communist Party have slammed the government's proposal saying that such reforms would benefit the rich and disadvantage the lower and middle classes. The proposed package has also come under fire from right-wing politicians for allegedly not being radical enough. The Prime Minister has linked his cabinet's future to the reform plan saying that he would resign if it fails to win approval. With a razor-sharp majority in the lower house the centre right coalition government needs the vote of every single one of its deputies.