An investigation into Czech government spending linked to its six month presidency of the European Union at the start of 2009 has been launched by Finance Ministry inspectors according to the business daily Hospodářske noviny. The inspectors will check for waste from the more than 1.0 billion crown bill for the six month Czech stint at the head of the EU. The period under scrutiny runs from 2007 until 2009, when current government minister Alexandr Vondra was in the cabinet as European Affairs minister. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has denied the probe is connected to a highly publicised rift between himself and Mr. Vondra, who now heads the Ministry of Defence.
In volleyball, the Czech men’s team was drawn on Thursday against Russia, Portugal and Estonia in the opening group stage of the European Championship being jointly hosted by the Czech Republic and Austria in September next year. The Czech team’s games will be played in the western city of Karlovy Vary. Prague will host Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Germany. Sixteen teams are taking part in the championship with the winners of the initial groups going directly through to the semi-finals and second and third placed teams playing off to go further.
Czech police announced on Thursday that they had caught a 64-year-old British citizen who has been on the run for more than two years for his alleged involvement in a multi-million crown property sting. He was tracked down near the central town of Kutná Hora and has been detained in Prague. The man is being sought in connection with a 120 million crown fraud in which he posed as a Czech property middleman taking money from investors from around the world.
Czech rail unions called on Thursday for an immediate meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Transport Minister Vít Bárta after the minister announced plans to transfer up to 10,000 workers, including dispatchers and signallers, from Czech Railways to the state-controlled company responsible for rail track and infrastructure. Rail union representatives said proper consultations had not been held about the move and warned that they could take dramatic steps if they gained no satisfaction from talks. No strike warning has yet been declared. The ministry has justified the transfer as part of the ongoing transformation of the rail network.
The Czech centre-right government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas has marked
its first 100 days in office. The daily Lidové noviny on Thursday gave the
prime minister its highest score for the initial period in office. A poll
of readers put the prime minister in third place behind the Justice
Minister and Foreign Minister. Worst ranked by the paper and its readers
was Minister of the Interior and Public Affairs party leader Radek John.
The three-way coalition government formed after elections in May has described itself as a government of fiscal responsibility, pushing through cuts in public spending and sparking protests, especially from plans to cut public sector wages and staff to save around 10 percent in labour costs. The business daily Hospodářske noviny said that in spite of its failures the government has embarked on its main pledge of making savings.
Two times ice hockey world champion Eduard Novák has died at the age of 63. Novák won his first world championship in 1976 and was a member of the winning Czechoslovak team again a year later. In the domestic league he was five times a winner of the championship with Kladno and scored 306 goals in 16 seasons at the top level. He afterwards became a trainer at Kladno and with other clubs. In April of this year Novák was made a member of the Czech ice hockey hall of fame.
The Czech and Hungarian prime ministers, Petr Nečas and Viktor Orbán met in Prague on Wednesday and discussed primarily issues of the EU, which Hungary will preside over in the first half of 2011. Regarding budgetary regulations that the union wants to introduce in order to increase fiscal responsibility, Mr Nečas said the countries agree that they are opposed to their budgets being dictated by Brussels and for national governments to merely intermediate instructions from EU bodies. He also said that neither country wants to see their EU membership fees increase to more than 1% of the GDP. The EU is currently discussing how to raise its budget for the years 2014 to 2020.
Police appear to have made a breakthrough in a week old search for a missing nine-year-old schoolgirl. They said on Thursday that they had detained a man suspected of being linked to her disappearance. At the same time, police have returned in mass to the scene of the girl’s disappearance, the Prague suburb of Troja, with digging and excavation equipment. A nationwide search for the girl, who disappeared on her way home from school on October 13, has involved up to 800 police, sniffer dogs and special heat seeking equipment. The internet news site novinky.cz said police were led to the suspect, who has a criminal record, thanks to DNA samples left on the girl’s belongings.
Police have prepared charges against the first people in an alleged corruption scandal surrounding top Czech league football, according to the daily Hospodářske noviny. Four charges have been prepared against the goalkeeper of first division Sigma Olomouc and the manager of the then first division outfit Bohemians Prague and two players of accepting bribes. The alleged corruption took place before a game in May 2009. The Bohemians manager said in March this year that he advised players to take the cash offered saying he would contact the police later. But he did not get in touch till several months later. Olomouc, now second in the league, could face punishment for the affair this year with one possible sanction being banishment to a lower league.
Solar power producers in the Czech Republic have reacted angrily to a raft of government moves aimed at curbing electricity prices which have been squarely blamed on an ongoing solar power boom. A representative of the Czech Photovoltaic Association told Czech Radio on Thursday that he expected some operators would launch arbitration procedures against the state. He said operators faced a 30 percent cut in earnings following the latest moves and pointed out that some investors had taken out loans on the basis of a business plan which the government has now torn up. The government announced measures on Wednesday aimed at capping electricity price rises next year below 5.5 percent. These include a surcharge on agricultural land used for solar facilities, a 26 percent tax on solar companies and a tax on carbon dioxide allowances given out by the government.