One adult and one child were killed following an explosion and fire at an apartment bloc in the northern town of Česká Lípa in the early hours of Thursday. Three other adults received severe burns and have been taken to a special burns unit in Prague. The worst had burns on 94 percent of his body. The cause of the explosion and fire are being investigated by the police and fire service.
Hopes for the near two year wait for a US ambassador to take up office in Prague to end soon have been dealt a further blow according to Czech Radio on Thursday. President Barack Obama’s nominee, advisor Norman Eisen, was blocked in the Senate by a Republican Senator Charles Grassley. Hopes that this was just an election ploy ahead of mid-term elections for Congress have evaporated. The senator’s office has confirmed to Czech Radio that he is sticking by his stance with diplomatic sources saying that Mr. Eisen’s appointment to the Prague post is now looks unlikely and that another candidate will have to be found. The long delay in filling the post is regarded as a serious flaw in Czech-US relations.
The Czech national football team drew 0:0 in a friendly against Denmark on Wednesday evening in front of around 10,000 stadium-goers in Aarhus. Early in the game, in the 18th minute, a penalty was awarded against the Czechs. But the spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Petr Čech. Goals proved elusive throughout the match, although at one point Václav Kadlec came close, hitting the post. The game was the last international outing for both teams in 2010.
Czech power group ČEZ is in talks with investment banks on 10-year forward contracts for the pre-sale of electricity produced by its coal-fired power plants, the newspaper Mlada fronta dnes reported on Thursday. The paper said ČEZ is in talks with investment banks Morgan Stanley and Crédit Agricole. The contracts would be for up to 300 MW of power a year and be worth around 3 billion crowns, around 165 million US dollars, annually. The state-controlled power giant has been suffering from a fall in electricity prices which has been partly cushioned by earlier sales before prices dropped.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas insisted on Thursday that the government as a whole will have to decide on the share out of any extra money freed up because of better than expected public finances. The scenario of some extra cash being available was raised by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek at a meeting in meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. He said it was 100 percent certain that the state deficit would not exceed the target of 163 billion crowns, or 5.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product, set for this year. He added that hundreds of millions of crowns, but not billions, might be available for the worst hit public services as a result of the better than expected state finances.
Seventy-seven percent of Prague citizens are opposed to a coalition
between the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats to govern the city for the
next four years according to a lightning internet survey by the SANEP
polling agency. Sixty-five percent of respondents said the coalition deal
announced on Tuesday was based on corruption. The coalition deal follows
local elections in October during which the TOP 09 party pushed the
right-wing Civic Democrats into second place in the capital for the first
time in 20 years but fell short of an overall majority in the assembly. The
Civic Democrats’ long time rule in the capital has become tainted by
suspicions of corruption. Around two thousand people protested against the
coalition deal in Prague on Wednesday.
TOP 09 chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg warned on Thursday that coalitions between the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats in many Czech cities would have an impact on the government coalition at national level. He said relations would continue with the Civic Democrats but TOP 09 would not be as accommodating.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg clashed on Thursday over the Prime Minister’s moves to coordinate European policy away from the foreign ministry and within the central government office. The Foreign Minister said he still opposed the creation of such an office headed by a EU state secretary. He said there was no sensible reason for handing over powers from the foreign ministry. Prime Minister Petr Nečas insisted talks with the foreign minister should continue and said he still needed some central coordination unit for dealing with Brussels. The coalition government abolished the European affairs ministry but the prime minister said in June that he wanted a state secretary to oversee European policy. Some EU missions have taken to consulting with the government office over Czech EU in the absence of clear guidelines who to turn to.
A regional court in Central Bohemia on Thursday held its opening hearing into the case against motorist Luboš Lacina who – in an apparent display of road rage in March - slammed his car into a nearby vehicle on the D1 highway, sending it flying off of the road. The female driver in the second car miraculously survived without serious injury after her Mazda rolled several times before hitting a tree. The entire incident was caught on video. Mr. Lacina is accused of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, if found guilty. In his defence, the driver has said he paid a 70,000 crown advance for damage caused, and also said he had called for help following the incident.
Czech politicians have welcomed suggestions from the European Commission about how to shake up its farm subsidy policy, the Common Agricultural Policy. A main plank of the proposed changes released on Thursday is for discrimination in support between old member states and new ones, such as the Czech Republic, to be abolished after 2013. The proposal includes a guarantee that farmers in all states would be paid a proportion of average EU farm support. At the moment Czech farmers say they get around a third less in support than farmers in richer west European countries. The Commission proposal also suggests there should be no transition period to the new subsidy framework. One worry for Czech farmers is the possibility that a ceiling could be put on payments to large farms. Czech farm holdings are six times larger than the EU average.
The Minister of Culture Jiří Besser has said that new director of the National Technical Museum will be the former deputy head of Prague’s National Museum, Karel Ksandr. The official announcement of the nomination should be made on November 22 with Mr. Ksandr taking up the new post by the start of December. The long time former director of the museum, Horymír Kubíček, was sacked in mid-August after an audit found a multi-million crown hole in the museum’s finances. The museum has been closed due to extended reconstruction work.
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