The government in resignation has approved a loan of CZK 1 billion to the country’s biggest health insurance company VZP. The minister of health, Martin Holcát, confirmed the decision after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The interest-free loan fills a large gap in the VZP’s budget and means it will now be able to meet payments for health procedures for the rest of this year. The government approved another loan, for CZK 700,000, three weeks ago. The combined figure is less than the CZK 2.5 billion that the loss-making insurer had been seeking.
The Social Democrats and ANO want three positions between them in the leadership of the Chamber of Deputies, the latter’s chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, confirmed on Wednesday. The two groupings are in talks, along with a smaller player, the Christian Democrats, on forming a new coalition government. One party would get the post of speaker while the other would get two deputy chairmanships in the lower house, Mr. Sobotka said. The matter should be clearer after a further round of coalition talks set for Saturday.
A thousand new police officers will be hired next year, the Minister of the Interior, Martin Pecina, has told reporters. Most of the fresh intake will be deployed in places where there is a threat from extremist groups stoking tensions between the majority population and the Roma minority, he said. The officers will receive special training in working in socially excluded districts. Foot patrol numbers will also be stepped up.
The Czech economy could return to recession, the vice governor of the Czech National Bank, Vladimír Tomšík, told an economic forum on Wednesday. Mr. Tomšík referred to recently released preliminary figures suggesting that there had been a 0.5 contraction in GDP in the third quarter of this year. The previous quarter had seen the first growth in a year and a half, bringing to an end the Czech Republic’s longest ever recession. Mr. Tomšík said the central bank aimed to keep the Czech crown at around 27 to the euro, which is where it has been since the bank intervened to weaken it two weeks ago.
The head of the ANO party, Andrej Babiš, is involved in negotiations over the purchase of the Czech Republic’s most listened to radio station, Impuls, Hospodářské noviny reported, quoting the billionaire businessman. Mr. Babiš also said that he would like to work with the leading operator of regional radio stations, Media Bohemia. He already owns Mafra, which publishes the newspapers Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny, and is behind a free weekly magazine, 5plus2.
Police shot an 18-year-old who was attacking staff and customers at a food stand at Prague’s Main Train Station at around 6 PM on Tuesday. A spokesperson said officers had shot the young man, who appeared to be intoxicated, in the hand and stomach after he ignored orders to desist. He later received treatment from rescue services, as did a kiosk employee.
A special independent panel is set to decide on an internal dispute at Czech Television in which journalists said their work had been subject to political interference, the news site iDnes.cz reported. The five-member panel, which includes Rob Cameron of the BBC and Radio Prague, is set to meet in two weeks’ time to consider all materials relating to the affair. At the start of October a number of news staff at Czech TV signed a petition saying that on a dozen occasions a senior editor had interfered with their work, to the benefit of some politicians, in particular President Miloš Zeman. Another group then issued a petition denying that such interference had taken place.
The Czech singer Pavel Bobek has died at the age of 76. Mr. Bobek passed away on Wednesday after a long illness, his daughter told the media. After starting out in the Prague rock’n’roll scene in the 1960s, the singer, who was a trained architect, became best known for his interpretations of US country hits by the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. He was also a member of the popular Semafor musical theatre.
Police in Chomutov in northwest Bohemia have been searching the area around the villa of Roman Houska, a businessman and influential member of the local Social Democrats who was shot dead on Monday. Mr. Houska, who was 51, was gunned down in front of his garage in what appeared to be a contract killing. Police have refused to confirm reports that no murder weapon has been found. Media reports have described Mr. Houska, who reportedly claimed to have compromising materials on opponents, as an eminence grise in politics in the region.
The smog alert, which was issued by meteorologists on Sunday, has been called off in the Moravian-Silesian region. As a long-term solution to the air pollution in the area, the Ostrava city hall is planning to plant hundreds of thousands of new trees around the city, which should separate industrial zones from residential ones and help collect dust participles in the air. Smog alerts are a common occurrence in winters in the Ostrava region, as well as in the Karvina, Frydek-Místek and Třínec regions, which are all industrial centers.
New foreigners’ law to change conditions for non-EU nationals
Czech foreign ministry reports record number of visa applications
Restaurant tells visitors to “clear their plates” or pay a 50 crown fine for wasting food
New index shows locations with best quality of life in Czech Republic
Archaeologists unearth rare Renaissance-Baroque brew house in ‘Czech Paradise’