Reconstruction of the historical Old Town Hall in the centre of Prague gets underway on Thursday. The Old Town Clock Tower, which attracts over 700,000 visitors a year, will be closed to the public as of the start of May. The reconstruction of the historical Astronomical Clock, one of Prague’s major tourist attractions, will follow in 2018. The clock will be out of order for several months. In the meantime, a projection of the clock will be offered on the covered scaffolding. The renovation works are expected to cost some 46 million crowns.
President Miloš Zeman is seriously considering granting a pardon to one of the Czech Republic’s most notorious prisoners, Jiří Kájínek. During his visit to Čáslav in Central Bohemia, the president said that Mr Kájínek has already spent a long time in prison, adding that there remained serious doubts about his conviction. In 1998, Kájínek is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of two contract killings, a crime he’s always denied committing. He has become known for his incredible escapes from several of the country’s toughest prisons with a feature film later made about his daring exploits.
A Ukrainian man has been sentenced for smuggling dozens of chameleons and geckos from Madagascar to Prague. The man was apprehended last year by customs officials at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport who discovered 232 chameleons and geckos in his suitcase. More than 70 of the specimens did not survive the journey. The man was found guilty by a Prague court of animal mistreatment and received a one-year conditional prison sentence and fine of 200,000 crowns.
Over 90 percent of young Czechs don’t know what the average old-age pension is in the Czech Republic or how much their parents’ or grandparents’ receive, according to a survey carried out by Broker Consulting. Over 60 percent of those asked thought that the average old-age pension ranged between 14,000 and 17,000 crowns, but in fact it only ranges between 9,000 and 12,000, nearly 60 percent of Czechs said they need to receive around 17,000 crowns a month when they retire to make end meets.
The Czech National Bank has ended the regime of foreign currency interventions to keep the crown low against the euro. The bank’s spokesman Marek Zeman announced the move after an extraordinary meeting of the bank board on Thursday. That means the bank will no longer prevent the Czech crown to dropping below the level of 27 crowns to the euro. The bank repeated its previous announcement that it is ready to intervene either way if the crown starts becoming volatile. The Czech National Bank launched currency interventions in November 2013 to head off the danger of deflation and weakened economic growth.
The Czech Republic currently doesn’t fulfil the European Directive on oil and crude oil reserves, the head of State Administration of State Material Reserves Pavel Švagr told the Czech News agency on Thursday. According to the directive, EU countries with no oil of their own must maintain emergency stocks of crude oil or petroleum products equal to at least 90 days of net imports. However, the Czech Republic’s current oil reserves would only last for 87 days. The State Administration of State Material Reserves has already informed the government and the European Commission about the situation.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a compensation claim filed by the descendants of the former shoe magnate Jan Antonín Baťa, the Czech News agency reported on Thursday. Baťa’s descendants are jointly seeking compensation to the tune of 56 million crowns for property that was confiscated from Baťa in 1947 under the post-war Beneš decrees for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. In 2007 a court cleared Bata’s name, ruling that no crime had been committed. Prague municipal court earlier rejected the compensation claim on the grounds that the restitution laws pertain to property confiscated after February 25th 1948 and cannot apply to a case that occurred a year earlier.
The government late Wednesday agreed that the state owned company Prisko could make a bid of 80 million crowns for the hard coal mining company OKD, currently subject to insolvency proceedings and a rescue plan. The decision ends a spat in the government over which ministry, finance or industry and trade would take the lead with a possible state rescue. The ministry of industry firm, Diamo, will also take part alongside Prisko, subject to the ministry of finance, in a possible bid. Prime Minister Bohulsav Sobotka underlined that the state had only decided to make a bid and it was up to the insolvency manager of OKD whether it was accepted. Earlier, it was reported that US firm Alcentra has written to the Czech prime minister offering to pay at least 500 million crowns for the hard coal mining company OKD. The news was reported by the business server, Euro. Alcentra, part of the BNY Mellon group also though threatened to start arbitration proceedings if its offer was ignored.
A strike by bus drivers began at midnight on Wednesday with five regions, mostly in the north and east of the country mainly affected. The biggest impact appears to have been in South Moravia where it was reported that 67 routes were cancelled and buses on another 61 routes reduced. The regional government subsidies 225 routes in total. The strike was reported to be much more patchy in the Olomouc, Liberec, and Ústí regions. The government on Wednesday night offered regions 420 million crowns to boost pay for drivers but this is less than half what might be required. The strike was sparked when some regional operators failed to honour a government promise for minimum wages to be boosted to 98.10 crowns an hour for drivers behind the wheel.
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