Christmas markets officially opened and Christmas trees were lit in many areas, namely public squares, on Sunday, the first day of Advent, the season marked by Christians preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The weekend saw a marked interest by both locals and tourists, for example, at Prague's Old Town Square, a traditional site for Christmas markets, where mulled wine and roasted chestnuts are sold as well as other food and drink and where various attractions can be viewed.
An aerial lift which plummeted 20 metres to the ground on Friday, killing one person on board and injuring four others, may have been operated without a permit, the authorities suggest. On Monday, investigators will look into records at city hall in Špindleruv Mlýn to see if the lift was legally registered and approved and whether it fulfilled technical requirements. Without a permit, the owner of a the mountain cottage Bumbálka could face a fine of up to 10 million crowns. The question of why anyone was on board at all - when the gondola was designed only for transporting baggage, skis and ski equipment - has also not yet been answered. According to some reports, people using the lift in the area may have been common practice.
Newly-elected MP Tomio Okamura, the head of the parliamentary group Dawn of Direct Democracy, has said fellow politician and ANO 2011 leader Andrej Babiš should be the country's next finance minister regardless of whether he failed or passed a screening law blocking those who cooperated with the communist era secret police, the StB, from holding public office. Speaking on a TV debate programme, Mr Okamura stressed that almost 20 percent of the electorate voted for ANO 2011 and that voters "expected" its leader to take up a ministerial post. Mr Babiš, a billionaire magnate, is listed in Slovakia as having collaborated with the secret police under the former regime. He has categorically denied such cooperation and has gone to court over the issue.
Highway vignettes or stickers for 2014, permitting driving on the country's main highways, can be used a month early - as of December 1. The price of the annual permit, last hiked in 2012, remains 1,500 crowns. A Transport Ministry official confirmed the sticker for 2014 could be bought at most gas stations as well as post offices: a total of around 7,000 outlets.
The outgoing interior minister, Martin Pecina, will decide in the coming week on the possible return of former police president Petr Lessý, who was cleared recently of slander and abuse of office charges. Theoretically, a decision to reinstate Mr Lessý would leave the country with two police presidents. After his dismissal last year, Lessý was succeeded by the current police president Martin Červíček. Should it come to two presidents, the interior minister said he would launch administrative proceedings to determine who should head the police force.
President Miloš Zeman has entrusted the country's Justice Ministry with the right to decide on presidential pardons expect for exceptional cases, (applicants suffering from incurable disease or filing on humanitarian grounds). Outgoing Justice Minister Marie Benešová confirmed the ministry would take over in the role and would pass certain cases on to the head-of-state. The move will require the creation of new posts at the ministry to be discussed on Monday. Mr Zeman pledged to give up pardons soon after he was elected, calling them a "monarchistic hold-over".
Electricity prices for households are expected to drop by 10.9 percent on average in 2014, while the regulated component in the price of gas should drop by 5.9 percent, the Energy Regulation Office reported. CEZ clients can expect the biggest price drop of around 12 percent, Pražská Energetika has announced a 9.5 percent drop while E.ON will effect an 8.8 percent price reduction.
Prague City Hall and the construction firm Metrostav have failed to resolve the controversy over the Blanka tunnel complex under construction in the Czech capital. Metrostav recently warned it would cease further construction work on December 7 over unpaid bills. City Hall said it had stopped further payments after having found that the contract on building work was legally invalid. Metrostav claims it is owed 2.1 billion crowns and is handing the matter over to an arbitration court. Prague City Hall had hoped to reach an out-of–court settlement in order not to jeopardize one of the city’s largest building projects.
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