The management of the ailing betting company Sazka is meeting with creditors and bank representatives to try to secure an emergency loan. The company has generated a debt of around 10 billion crowns, mainly related to the 2004 construction of Prague’s O2 Arena. Part of the debt, amounting to some 1.5 billion, was acquired by financier Radovan Vítek, who on Monday asked a court to start insolvency proceedings against the company.
Last year’s fruit harvest is reported to have been the worst in 20 years, the ctk news agency says. In spite of price rises farmers will lose tens of millions of crowns, particularly on the biggest local commodity –apples. The apples harvested last autumn are also of inferior quality and will mostly be used for processing. The majority of apples sold on the Czech market this year will thus be imported.
The committee meeting to select a new police chief has rejected both candidates in the first round and is to meet again on Wednesday to consider three others. The selection procedure – proposed by Interior Minister Radek John – has evoked controversy on the Czech political scene and divided the governing coalition. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said it was unacceptable for the future police chief to be co- selected by those lower down the hierarchy and legal experts have expressed the view that such a committee might even be in breach of the law. Former interior minister Ivan Langer even accused Mr. John of tailoring the selection procedure to a single candidate, coincidentally one of the two rejected in the first round.
Transport Minister Vít Bárta has asked the daily Mladá fronta Dnes to publish the full text of any documents it may have acquired which allegedly prove that his former detective agency ABL spied on Civic Democrat politicians. The minister himself said he would make an official statement in response to the claims within three days. Mr. Bárta, who sold the detective agency to his brother before taking office, said that before offering an explanation he had to consult the matter with the company’s former clients in order to get their approval. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes broke the story in September of last year when the transport minister heatedly denied the claims. Earlier this month the daily said it had acquired photos, videotapes and other documents to prove its case.
The Czech Agrarian Chamber has appealed to local meat processing plants not to buy cheap pork from Germany for fear of dioxin contamination. Jan Veleba, president of the Agrarian Chamber, said the dioxin scandal had acquired immense proportions and the case was clearly far more serious than it originally appeared. He slammed the Czech authorities for not double-checking Germany’s initial assurances that pork-imports to the Czech Republic were free of contamination. He said that given the fact that animal feed in Germany had been contaminated since March of 2010 it was still not clear how much contaminated meat had actually been imported and consumed in this country. The Czech Republic imports 17 tons of German pork monthly, with 85 truckloads of it being delivered every day.
An attempt to kidnap four Czech tourists in Yemen was stopped by local security forces on Monday, according to the Yemeni Ministry of the Interior. The tourists are said to be unharmed. The incident took place in a tourist village in the Al-Haima district, about 60 kilometres west of San‘a, the Arab country’s capital. Two soldiers and a child were reportedly wounded during the clash between police and kidnappers. The would-be kidnappers were later captured by the security forces and are being interrogated to determine their motivation, the ministry statement said.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has said he would support sanctions against the Lukashenko administration in Belarus. Presenting a lecture on Czech foreign policy priorities in 2010, the foreign minister said he was against a complete severance of relations with Belarus, but that he would support some sanctions against the country’s political leaders, for instance in the form of travel restrictions. Mr. Schwarzenberg said he could not imagine maintaining friendly relations with an administration which has jailed its political opponents. Belarusian former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, who has been charged with abuse of power in his homeland, was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic last week.
The ongoing controversy over the selection of a new police chief triggered a meeting on Tuesday between the ruling Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats. The opposition Social Democrats who were offered two seats on the committee have refused to take part in the selection process on the argument that it is not clear if such a procedure is not in breach of the law. The controversy follows weeks of strained relations between the Civic Democrats and their coalition partner Public Affairs, after Interior Minister Radek John of Public Affairs accused the former police president Oldřich Martinu of being a puppet in the hands of the Civic Democrats.
Health Minister Leoš Heger has said he is prepared to resign if doctors feel that such a step would alleviate the crisis in the health sector. The minister said on Tuesday that he was doing everything in his power to prevent a mass exodus of doctors from state hospitals under very strained conditions and that he was prepared to seek guarantees of better work conditions from the prime minister should his word not be enough. In the face of close to 4,000 resignations from dissatisfied doctors the health minister has appealed for patience saying that a radical overhaul of the health sector would make it possible to start raising doctors’ salaries as of next year.
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