One of the flagship measures of Minister of Finance and ANO leader Andrej Babiš has been passed by the lower house of parliament. The proposal on electronic cash registers, which would become obligatory for nearly all transactions, was passed after most opposition members from the centre-right Civic Democrats and TOP 09 quit the chamber in protest. The protest had been held up by stalling tactics for much of the last year by the opposition. They say the move amounts to a flawed extra burden on small business. The government argues it will dramatically curb tax evasion and the gray economy.
Czech president Miloš Zeman confirmed on Wednesday that a ransom of around 150 million crowns was paid for the release of two Czech women who were held hostage in Pakistan for almost two years. He said the then government was faced with a difficult dilemma over whether to pay the sum demanded or see the women executed or sold into slavery. Zeman’s comments confirm the broad sum earlier reported by the weekly Respekt. But his words brought condemnation of the Czech head of state from prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and from the head of the Christian Democrats, Pavel Bělobrádek who said that the confirmation of secret details served no useful purpose. The two Czechs were released in March last year. Zeman later said he had not confirmed anything but merley repeated information that was already public.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on a visit to Macedonia on Wednesday that dealing with the so-called Balkans route for immigrants was a problem not just for local countries but was of key interest for the Czech Republic and the EU as a whole. The minister said his visit was not aimed at criticism of Macedonia for failing to stem the flow of immigrants northwards but to help find solutions. He highlighted the material and personnel help already offered by Prague, a contingent of Czech police are already helping their Macedonian colleagues. Zaorálek said it was too soon to say whether the Greek-Macedonian border would in future become the de facto border for immigrants seeking to enter the EU, a scenario floated given Greece’s difficulty dealing with the number of immigrants entering the country.
Around 15 percent of Czech elderly people are faced with poverty, a survey commissioned by the Czech Statistical Office has reported. It found those living on their own in old age, mostly women, are particularly vulnerable to hardship with around 75,000 elderly people falling into the poverty trap. Poverty is defined as having less than 60 percent of the average monthly income.
A deal paving the way for a clash between Czech-Slovak football clubs at the end of this season is ready to be signed, the head of the Czech Football Association Miroslav Pelta announced on Wednesday. The clash should take place at the end of the season between the cup winning clubs from each country. Pelta said full details would be unveiled in May. Associations in both countries have been seeking ways of boosting their cooperation sundered with the split of former Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Brno regional court has declared the Jihlava-based diesel engine and auto parts producer Motorpal unable to meet its debts. The company is a player on world markets and employs around 1,300 in Jihlava and more at other plants in the Czech Republic. It is a world player on the market for fuel injection systems for diesel engines. A restructuring plan, which was reported to have the backing of most of the banks and companies owed money, was not accepted by the court. Motorpal is reported to owe around 800 million crowns. It’s annual turnover in 2014 was around 1.3 billion crowns.
The Ukrainian ambassador in Prague has complained about the publication of a Czech map showing Crimea as part of Russia, according to a local news agency in Kiev. The offending map forms part of an Atlas of World Football published by the Ottovo publishing house last Autumn. The ambassador has pointed out Prague’s official stand is that Crimea has been illegally annexed and he reportedly called for the book to be withdrawn or corrected. The publisher has said the map was the result of human error.
In the National Hockey League on Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens won their third straight game, downing Tampa Bay by a score of 4:2. The Habs are inching towards a final wild card berth for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tomáš Plekanec played a key role in the match, scoring twice and earning two assists. Afterwards, Plekanec was named the first star; the Czech forward has picked up a total of seven points in three games.
In other action, Jaromír Jágr scored for Florida against Buffalo, putting him two points off third-place Brett Hull (retired) for all-time NHL career goals. The Panthers beat the Sabres by a score of 7:4.
Fifteen thousand people involved in traffic accidents in the Czech Republic last year fled the scene, Czech Television reported on Wednesday. Police say one in six motorists implicated in collisions drove away. There were 14 hit-and-run incidents involving death and 58 involving serious injury. Motorists caught fleeing the scene receive a seven-point penalty on their licence; however, driving away from an injured person is regarded as a crime and can result in a five-year jail term.
Eleven prisoners at a jail in Pardubice, east Bohemia were taken to hospital on Tuesday after being poisoned. A spokesperson for the regional emergency services said two of the prisoners, who are under guard at the hospital, were in a serious condition. Czech Television reported that the inmates had apparently deliberately overdosed on medication intended for heart arrhythmia. Two of them had to be resuscitated.
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