Confidence in the Czech economy has risen in September, for the second month in a row. The overall confidence index grew in September by 3.2 points compared to the previous month, and reached plus 1.2 points, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Tuesday. Compared to the same month last year, the index grew by 5 points. Business confidence is up in all sectors of the economy; consumer confidence, meanwhile, has grown by 15.5 points but remains in the red at minus 14.3 points.
Customs officials at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport recently seized almost 200,000 fake erectile dysfunction pills, Customs Administration spokeswoman Sarka Miskovska told the CTK news agency. A total of 194,300 counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills were seized with an estimated street value of 87 million crowns. They reportedly arrived in two shipments from an unspecified country in southern Asia. It is not clear whether the pills were meant for the Czech Republic or another country.
Chechen national Ali Acajev will not be extradited to Russia where he is wanted on suspicion of contract murder. The Czech Constitutional Court on Tuesday overturned a 2009 ruling by the Supreme Court which opened the way for his extradition. Acajev’s lawyer argues that his client would not get a fair trial in Russia in view of the fact that between 1994 and 1996 he fought for Chechnya’s independence in the war against Russia.
The controversial political “lobbyist” Miroslav Šlouf who co-founded the Citizens’ Rights Party–Zemanites’ has announced he is leaving the party and will not support it in the upcoming general elections. Mr. Šlouf told the daily Pravo he feels hard done by over the way he was scratched off the party’s Prague ballot and by the attitude of several leading party members. One-time chief political advisor to President Miloš Zeman, Miroslav Šlouf is a highly controversial figure – a former communist believed to have enormous influence and connections to the underworld who has been linked to many political scandals and shady deals. Although he is credited with Mr. Zeman’s election victory, the president has publicly distanced himself from his former advisor and the party he co-founded now sees him as a liability.
The chief-of-staff to former PM Petr Nečas Jana Nagyová on Tuesday refused a police interrogation on health grounds. Mrs Nagyová is charged with abuse of office for having secretly commissioned the country’s military intelligence service to shadow the former PM’s wife and soliciting bribes to three Civic Democrat MPs. The scandal brought down the centre right government in June, triggering early elections, and badly damaged the credibility of the Civic Democratic Party. The former prime minister resigned from all posts and last weekend married his one-time chief-of-staff. The case is expected to come to court in the autumn.
In an interview for the daily Financial Times, President Miloš Zeman said that he would not support a government coalition which would comprise of parties from different sides of the political spectrum. Mr. Zeman himself was the chairman of a minority left-wing government between 1998 and 2002, which was supported by the right-of-center Civic Democratic party based on a so-called opposition agreement. In the FT interview published on Sunday, the Czech president underscored his support for EU integration but criticized the bloc’s attempts to micromanage issues such as smoking and energy-saving light bulbs.
Most Czechs – some 80 percent – believe the introduction of a direct vote for the president was a good move, according to a new survey by the STEM agency released on Monday. Among those who support the change are mostly left-leaning voters. Another 90 percent of people who took part in the survey said the president should be strictly non-partisan. After years of debates, direct presidential vote was introduced last year; in January, Miloš Zeman became the historically first directly elected Czech president.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok on Monday awarded the author Pavel Kohout an honorary plaque in recognition of his contribution to Czech literature. Pavel Kohout, who turned 85 in July, started his career in the 1950s when he was one of the most vocal supporters of the communist regime. He became a dissident after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and was one of the authors of the Charter 77 manifesto. In 1979 the communist authorities prevented him from returning to Czechoslovakia from a stay in Vienna. Pavel Kohout’s play Poor Murderer – premiered on Broadway in 1976.
The French firm Areva has filed a lawsuit against its exclusion from a multi-billion dollar tender to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant, a spokeswoman for a court in Brno said. The company’s bid was rejected by the plant’s operator, ČEZ, over alleged failures to meet the tender’s conditions. In July, the Czech anti-monopoly office rejected Areva’s appeal against that decision but the French firm says its exclusion was unjustified. Two other bidders – the US-Japanese firm Westinghouse and a Russian-led consortium Mir 1200 – remain in the tender whose winner should be announced next year.
A court in Prague on Monday began hearing the case of the overpriced Opencard smart card system. Five former Prague City Hall officials are charged with infringement of competition regulations and breach of trust in the case; they stand accused of having caused tens of millions of crowns in damages by awarding disadvantageous contracts to the anonymously owned firm Haguess. The city has asked for 70 million crowns in damages. One of the accused is the former head of the IT department, Ivan Seyček, who is facing up to eight years in jail. The police are investigating dozens of other city hall officials in connection with the Opencard scandal which took place under the then mayor Pavel Bém.
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