The electricity company ČEZ is in talks with the European Investment Bank for a five billion crown loan for solar energy investments. Czech Television reported Sunday that the state owned energy giant is attempting to buy up solar projects whose financing may be jeopardised by the government’s plans to tax the sector. Investors fear the tax will harm 1450 companies and many have threatened lawsuits.
Customs officials in Prague have uncovered one of the largest stocks of imitation brand-name goods in recent years. The 12,000 items were primarily women’s handbags and wallets of the labels Louis Vuitton and Burberry, originals of which would have fetched more than 250 million crowns on the market. Two people handling the goods at a storage facility in Prague 4 have been arrested; they were found when police investigated a faint light seen through the roof of the facility.
Almost 200 Romanians who were allegedly exploited by employers in Plzeň have been bussed home with the help of the town hall, the police and charity organisations. On Friday the foreign workers were reported to have revolted against the poor working conditions and accommodation provided them by a private company; a fight then ensued in which one of the was injured. The employees reported the matter to the police and requested transportation to Romania. Police have charged three foreigners and one Czech for extortion and bodily restraint. The workers had been in the country for three months and said they had been promised 18,500 crowns a month but had received only roughly 2,000 and recently had not been paid at all.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Sunday that while a part of foreign aid to Afghanistan was being lost due to corruption within the Afghan government, the alliance must continue to provide its support. Appearing on a Czech Television debate programme broadcast from Afghanistan, Mr Schwarzenberg said that every government in the region of Afghanistan was corrupt, that it cannot be rectified within five years, and that the Czech Republic was hardly in a position to criticise corruption elsewhere. The Czech Republic has implemented 131 projects in Afghanistan at a cost of 200 million crowns, primarily in the province of Logar.
The government will likely reject an opposition, Social Democratic initiative to introduce a 50% income tax on each kilowatt-hour of energy produced by solar electricity plants. The government’s proposed resolution calls the tax unnecessary, as the cabinet has already proposed a withholding tax on solar energy that it says is more systematic and comprehensive.
In related news, Pope Benedict mentioned the Czech Republic on Saturday during a visit to Spain, as an example of a nation that has turned away from faith. Speaking at the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela, the pope called the spread of atheism since the end of the 19th century tragic, and said that faith must be renewed in order to respond to the secularism in countries like France and the Czech Republic, as well as Spain.
The government will likely reject an amendment proposed by the opposition Social Democrats to the law on conflicts of interest that would forbid municipal and regional representatives from receiving payment from their membership in the statutory bodies of municipal and regional companies. Remuneration for such positions can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of crowns. The government is concerned that the proposal would affect representatives who worked in such positions before being elected and says it violates the Charter of Fundamental Rights by prohibiting all such remuneration regardless of how or why a representative was nominated to the business position.
Two legendary figures of tennis history, Swedish Björn Borg and Czech Ivan Lendl met in the latter’s home town of Ostrava on Friday evening for an exhibition match which Lendl won 6:4 7:6. It was the first time the players have faced off since 1981, when Lendl lost to Borg in five sets in the final of the French Open. Ivan Lendl is now 50 years old and Björn Borg 54. Later, in a doubles match, Lendl switched sides to play alongside his onetime rival.
Speaking at the summit, Slovak President Gašparovič said that Roma issues were particularly thorny for his country and the Czech Republic, which are frequent targets of criticism over their Roma communities. Mr Gašparovič said that the individual countries were unable to resolve the problems on their own in the short term, and that they should be discussed further at the level of the European Union. Mr Klaus remarked that he understood why Mr Gašparovič would want to bring Roma issues to the European level, saying that the mass exodus of Roma to France would not have happened had it not been for the Schengen Agreement on open borders.
The news website iDnes.cz reports that the Czech Republic may have to return nearly half a billion crowns received from the EU for modernising the road between Brno and Vienna. The European Union co-financed the planned R52 motorway as one of fifteen important trans-European thoroughfares intended to run outside of cities and thus requiring new construction. However, work thus far has involved repairing a nine-kilometre slip road where the R52 is meant to run. The European Commission is now investigating whether the work has entailed new construction or repair.
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