The Czech Republic may lose at least 1.1 billion crowns from EU structural funds, because of the failure of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to use up the money allocated to the Human Resources and Employment program. The outgoing Labor Minister František Koníček told journalists on Monday that part of the undrawn funds could be used by the Interior Ministry. Some of the problems with drawing EU funds developed as a result of some of the projects, such as for example the social benefits S-Card project, having been stopped or changed.
A statue of a giant hand with a raised middle finger was put up on the Vltava river on Monday morning between the Charles bridge and the Legií bridge. The 10-meter tall purple colored statue is the work of the well-known contemporary Czech artist and sculptor David Černý. The gesture suggested by the sculpture is directed towards the side of the river where the Prague Castle is located. Mr. Černý told the news server iDnes in a text message that his work is meant as a message to President Miloš Zeman. The president, who is on state visit to Ukraine, said he has not seen the sculpture and thus cannot comment on the matter.
Tomio Okamura of the Dawn of Direct Democracy, Andrej Babiš of ANO 2011 and Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats are the three most popular party leaders, according to a new poll released by the STEM agency on Monday. Almost half of the respondents had a positive opinion of Senator Okamura, while 48 percent had a negative one. Chairmen of the ANO and Social Democratic parties both had a 47 percent approval rating. The leaders of the Green Party, TOP 09, Civic Democratic, Communist and Christian Democratic parties all were positively assessed by around 30 percent of the respondents. Leaders of the rest of the parties running in this weekend’s elections received approximately 20-percent approval or less.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, on Monday as part of a three-day state visit to the country. After the meeting, President Zeman said he would like to see Ukraine sign an association agreement with the EU at the alliance’s Eastern Partnership´s summit in Vilnius in November and said Kiev should use the interim period to introduce further necessary reforms. The EU´s condition for signing an association agreement with Ukraine is the release of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for alleged abuse of power. On Sunday, the Czech president attended a memorial service for Czechoslovak soldiers who died on the territory of today’s Ukraine during WWII.
The Vrtbovský palace in Prague’s Lesser Town district, which also used to belong to the Thurn und Taxis noble family, will be reconstructed into a university building after more than a decade of standing vacant. Prague 1 authorities will invest 143 million crowns in the reconstruction of the building, which will be rented out to the private Anglo-American University, which already occupies a number of buildings in the surrounding area. The Thurn-Taxis or Vrtbovský palace was built at the end of the 17th century and belonged to a number of European noble families.
The American internet shopping giant Amazon will set up its Central European distribution center in the small town of Dobrovíz near Prague’s Václav Havel airport, according to the E15 daily. Most likely, Amazon will build a new 1,000-square meter space with the help of the developer company Panattoni, which already has a large storage complex in Dobrovíz. Although neither Panattoni nor Amazon have confirmed the deal, the only other company competing for this contract told E15 that they are out of the running. Amazon is planning to employ around 1,000 people in its new distribution center, which it plans to open in a year’s time.
Two Czech mountain climbers have been missing in the Himalayas since last week. Jakub Vaněk from Plzeň and Petr Machold from Teplice attempted to scale the Baruntse mountain, which is next to mount Everest, earlier this month. The climbers wanted to reach the 7,162-meter summit from the west side, which has only been done successfully once before by a Russian expedition in 1997. According to Vaněk and Machold’s two Czech colleagues, they began the ascent on 9 October in good weather conditions, but in the next few days heavy snow caught them in the second camp. The bad weather did not permit for air evacuation right away, but when the helicopters arrived at the camp on 18 October, the rescue team found only a torn up tent with no people in sight. It is yet not clear if and how the search for the missing climbers will continue.
In one of the biggest drug busts in Czech history, the police have arrested six members of a drug gang, which produced methamphetamines in the Czech Republic on a large scale. Two Czechs and four Vietnamese nationals have already been charged. They were also able to secure 14 kilograms of the methamphetamine called Pervitin, around 100 kilograms of a substances used to make it, and some five tones of toxic waste from the production of the drugs. In total four laboratories in Prague, South Bohemian and Karlovy Vary regions were raided and the police say some of them produced dozens of kilograms of Pervitin per day. A large part of the drugs produced in these labratories was heading for Germany.
The Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright is due to perform at Prague’s grand Estates Theatre on Monday night as part of this year’s Struny Podzimu (Strings of Autumn) music festival. It will be the flamboyant musician’s first appearance in the Czech capital. The 18th century Estates Theatre is most famous as the venue where Mozart conducted the world premiere of his Don Giovanni.
The minister of health, Martin Holcát, says the Czech Republic’s largest health insurer VZP should receive a CZK 1.5 billion loan from the Czech state by next month. Mr. Holcát made the comments on a Czech Television debate show on Sunday, adding that he was looking at ways to find another CZK 1 billion for VZP, which is struggling financially. The minister also said some parties’ pre-electoral pledge to abolish hospital fees would cause a shortfall of CZK 5.5 billion in the healthcare system; he said they should make clear where they would find the cash.
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