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28-07-2016

Czech investments in Turkey at risk

The situation in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup is putting at risk Czech investments in the country, the daily Hospodářské Noviny wrote on Thursday. Among those detained are the top managers of Naksan Holding a company for which the Czech company Vítkovice Machinery Group is building an electric power plant. The Czech Export Bank provided a 12 billion crown investment loan for the project, one of its biggest investments in recent years. It is now unclear if the project will get finished. According to Hospodářské Noviny there are dozens of other projects involving Czech companies that have been put on hold for which the Czech state has loaned close to 25 billion crowns. The Czech Foreign Ministry is reported to have entered into negotiations with the Turkish side.

European Values think tank likens President Zeman to Russian Trojan horse

The Prague-based European Values think tank has likened President Miloš Zeman to a Russian Trojan horse in an information war. The comparison was made by the think tank’s Jakub Janda within the presentation of a study on Czech websites that serve disinformation purposes. "In the Czech space, Miloš Zeman plays the role of a Russian Trojan horse, systematically embracing and repeating Kremlin’s position on various issues," Jakub Janda, one of the authors of the study, said. The president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček dismissed the allegations as nonsensical saying they were part of an ongoing campaign against the head of state. He further questioned the independence and financing of the European Values think tank.

Czechs have high regard for Pope Francis

An opinion survey in which Czechs were asked to evaluate world leaders indicates that Czechs have the biggest respect for Pope Francis, who received a positive evaluation from two thirds of respondents. More than half of respondents also gave a positive evaluation to US President Barack Obama. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is likewise seen in a positive light. Two world leaders who are viewed negatively are Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose initial popularity with Czechs slumped in the wake of the migrant crisis.

Parliamentary committee hearing on police reform

A Parliamentary committee set up to investigate a controversial reorganization of the police force is hearing evidence from Olomouc’s high state prosecutor Ivo Ištvan and two former elite police chiefs on Thursday, the former head of the squad for fighting organized crime Robert Šlachta and former high placed criminal investigator Jiří Komárek. Mr. Šlachta originally asked to be heard by Parliament’s Security Committee saying he had evidence of links between the police and the criminal underworld. He resigned from office over the planned reform which he believes is being undertaken to bring his team of investigators under greater control and undermine their independence.

State loan offered to OKD to continue operations

A loan of 700 million crowns from the state will be offered to struggling hard coal mining company OKD. The amount and terms of the loan to ensure mining operations can continue while the future of the company is resolved has been fought over during recent weeks by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Industry and Trade. The mining company, which itself launched insolvency proceedings, has said that 1.0 billion crowns would be needed. OKD had warned that the state could be faced with massive costs if mining operations were halted.

Search for nuclear waste storage site continues

Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mládek is to meet with the mayors of seven localities which are being considered for a potential nuclear waste storage site. The ministry’s plans to conduct geological tests at these localities have raised a storm of opposition, leading the minister to narrow down the choice to two localities and then expand it back to the original seven after being criticized for the way in which the ministry was conducting the selection process. Talks now appear to have gone back to square one. Minister Mládek said earlier the ministry would not enforce the decision and the nuclear waste site would only be built with consent from nearby localities. The nuclear waste storage site should be built by 2065.

Social services to get more funds

The government has approved an additional 270 million crowns in 2016 to help tide over the country’s social services. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova made the announcement following Thursday’s cabinet session. Regional governments have clamoured for extra funds saying that social services in the regions are severely underfinanced and some are in dire need of help. The money should help predominantly organizations working with the elderly and disabled. In 2016 the country’s social services received 8.5 billion crowns, whereas they would have needed 12.3 billion to cover their needs. The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry helped them out earlier with an additional 350 million from its own budget.

Teachers wages to rise from November

Wages for teachers will be hiked from September by around eight percent compared with their current levels. The move should mean increases in monthly gross wages of around 2,000 to 2,400 crowns. The government had given priority to raising teachers’ wages, they are among the worst paid graduates in the country, but the remaining question was whether Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš would agree to the early increases at an estimated cost of around 2.24 billion crowns. The Cabinet Wednesday also agreed to a 5.0 percent wage rise for state employees to take effect from the start of November.

Online gambling on the rise among young generation

National anti-drugs coordinator Jindřich Vobořil has warned of a rise in online gambling among the young. In his 2015 report on gambling addictions, Mr. Vobořil said online gambling had become a new phenomenon in the gambling industry. He said there was a dramatic increase in online gamblers among the young with 30 percent of people under 17 saying they had tried it. Earlier this year Parliament approved a law aimed at restricting online gambling which should come into force next year. The national anti-drugs coordinator said a restrictive policy must go hand in hand with prevention and treatment.

Forever 21 to pen its first store in Prague

Forever 21, the American chain of fast fashion retailers, is to open its first store in the Czech Republic this autumn. The chain is expanding to nine more European countries including Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Portugal. Its first store in the Czech Republic should open at the Černy Most shopping centre in Prague.

28-07-2016