The Czech Republic’s consumption of natural gas dropped annually by 19.7 percent in the first three months of this year, according to fresh figures by the Czech Gas Association. In total, 2.7 billion cubic metres of gas were consumed in the country in the first quarter. The association says extraordinarily warm weather was behind the drop; this March was the warmest in 50 years. The sharpest drop in natural gas consumption was registered in Prague. Last year, a total of 8.37 million cubic metres of gas were consumed, which was 1.7 percent more than in 2012.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday marked the 69th anniversary of the Prague Uprising of May 1945. Speaking at a ceremony outside the Czech Radio building in the centre of the capital, Mr Sobotka rejected attempts to diminish the uprising’s military significance, and said it was crucial in facilitating the liberation of the country. Around 30,000 people stood up against Nazi troops in early May in Prague; some of the heaviest fighting occurred outside the Czech Radio building in Prague’s Vinohrady district.
Public broadcaster Czech Television has refused to air a campaign video provided by one of the parties running in the European elections. The clip, supplied by a fringe nationalist party No to Brussels – National Democracy, features Jewish, Muslim, LGBT and other symbols; the broadcaster said the clip’s context could provoke strong negative emotional reactions in parts of the Czech society. Czech TV said it asked the party to provide another clip; the head of the group, Adam Bartoš, denounced the decision and said it was meant to hurt the party at the polls.
The Czech government on Monday approved funding for the lease of aircraft for the Czech Air Force, the minister for legislature, Jiří Dienstbier, said. The Defence Ministry will pay 21.4 billion crowns between 2015 and 2027 for the lease of 14 Swedish-made Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets. The Czech government approved the lease in March; the Czech army first leased the aircraft in 2004.
A court in Oloumouc on Monday sentenced a 25-year-old woman to 17 years in prison for murdering her newborn child. The court said that last May, the woman suffocated the child shortly after birth and dumped the body in a stream near her house in a north Moravian village. The court rejected the woman’s argument that the baby was stillborn, and that she disposed of the body because she was afraid of her partner and parents. Both the defendant and the prosecution have appealed the verdict.
German President Joachim Gauck has arrived in Prague for a three-day official visit, his second trip to the Czech Republic since his inauguration in 2012. The German head of state met with Czech President Miloš Zeman on Monday morning; the officials exchanged their countries’ highest state decorations. Mr Zeman told his guest the Czech Republic should no longer act as the EU's troublemaker. Mr Gauck is also scheduled to meet Czech Prime Minister Boshulav Sobotka during his visit that includes trips to the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezín and to the carmaker Škoda Auto, part of the German concern Volkswagen.
A draft state budget for 2015 as proposed by the Czech Finance Ministry expects that most government ministries will be affected by budget cuts next year. The Ministry of Agriculture is expected to lose around 6.8 billion crowns, the Interior Ministry around 3.5 billion while the Ministry of Transport is to lose some 2.5 billion. The draft budget however also proposes to up funds for several ministries; the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs should see its budget increase by 18 billion. The Foreign Affairs Ministry’s budget is to shrink by around 53 million which should mostly affect consular services and economic diplomacy, the news agency ČTK reported citing ministry sources. Overall, the budget’s expenses should rise by 15 billion to around 1.126 trillion crowns, with a deficit of around 100 billion. The draft budget is yet to be discussed by the government.
The European Commission has upped its forecast for growth of the Czech economy this year to 2.0 percent from its former February prediction of 1.8 percent. Growth next year should firm to 2.4 percent compared with the previous 2.2 percent. Public finances are also seen a lot healthier with the public deficit expected to come in at 1.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product this year and 2.4 percent in 2015. The previous prediction from Brussels had seen the deficit at 2.8 percent this year rising to 3.3 percent in 2015. The Czech Ministry of Finance sees growth this year at 1.7 percent and 2.0 percent next year.
Expressions of anti-Semitism on the Czech Internet doubled in 2013 compared with the previous year according to the annual report by the Czech Jewish community released on Monday. Instances of anti-Semitism on the Internet totaled 156 last year compared with 82 in 2012. The number of instances has increased fivefold since 2008. The number of anti-Semitic attacks on individuals or property was stable with the Czech Republic still a country where anti-Jewish expressions are uncommon at a public and political level, the report added.
Czech mobile phone operators O2 and T-Mobile announced Monday that they will share the burden of developing a new fourth generation mobile network in the Czech Republic outside of Prague and Brno. The announcement concludes negotiations between the companies that have been continuing since the end of February. The companies say the plus from the cooperation will be that the new network will be rolled out faster and cover most of the country already this year. The country’s third main operator Vodafone had protested the move by its rivals, which now leaves it with the burden of developing its own site.
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