A nerve agent such as Novichok was neither produced nor stored in the Czech Republic, according to conclusions reached by the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
The conclusions were communicated by defense minister Karla Šlechtová after attending the committee session on Thursday. It was also attended by the head of the civil intelligence service and by the head of the authority for nuclear security, which is also responsible for oversight of chemical weapons.
Confusion about whether the Czech Republic has produced the type of nerve agent used in the attack on a British-based Russian double agent was sparked by Czech president Miloš Zeman. He said last week that a report by military intelligence suggested a small amount of the nerve agent had been produced for testing before being destroyed.
The prime minister and defence and foreign ministers have disagreed with Zeman’s interpretation of the report. Some of the arguments have centred on semantic interpretations of what ‘produced’ actually meant.
ČEZ says it sees no obstacle in the Temelín nuclear power plant operating for 60 years. The state-controlled power company said a technical and economic investigation found no fundamental safety or technical reason why the first reactor could not operate until 2060 and the second unit until 2062. The plant in South Bohemia, around 45 kilometres from the Austrian border, is the biggest single electricity producer in the Czech Republic.
The head of the Czech nuclear regulator, Dana Drábová, warned earlier this year that while there might not be technical problems with a 60-year operating life span for Temelín, stricter EU rules pushed by non-nuclear member states might make this impossible.
Czech electricity giant ČEZ saw its first quarter net profit drop to 7.3 billion crowns. Earnings before interest, depreciation, and taxes dropped by 1.5 billion crowns to 17.5 billion crowns compared with the same period in 2017. CEZ kept its full year net profit target unchanged at between 12 billion and 14 billion crowns.
The utility, which is around 70 percent state owned, said that its earnings were hit by lower production from its coal-fired power plants and previous fixed prices for electricity.
Czech unemployment fell to 3.2 percent in April from March’s 3.5 percent, according to figures released from the national labour office. It said that seasonal work was now in full swing and the jobless total could increase in coming months.
The office added it had almost 243,000 job seekers on its books. That’s the lowest figure since August 1997. In April 2017, the jobless rate was 4.4 percent.
The number of vacancies, at just over 267,000. once again exceeded the jobless total in the country. Most job offers are in Prague, central Bohemia, the Plzeň and Pardubice regions.
The Czech Statistical Office said a more than 4.0 percent hike in the prices of alcoholic drinks was one of the main factors fuelling faster price rises. Tobacco prices also rose by 3.5 percent.
Across the board increases in April for a series of utility services, such as water, wastewater, and electricity also contributed significantly. Higher rental charges, up 2.6 percent, for property were also a factor. In the opposite direction, there were lower charges for telecoms and for clothing and footwear.
The Czech tourism sector has witnessed a buoyant first quarter with guest figures up 11.4 percent compared with the same period in 2017.
Overnight stays by Czech residents rose by 9.5 percent with those by foreign visitors increasing by 9.0 percent. The total number of overnight stays totalled 10.8 million. The average length of stays has increased to 3.7 days.
The biggest boost in tourist stays was in the Plzeň region with a 22 percent annual increase and for the Central Bohemia region, where the figure was 17.2 percent.
Cardinal Dominik Duka is set to continue as head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church at the request of Pope Francis. In keeping with church rules, the prelate formally resigned two weeks ago when he reached the age of 75. However, on Wednesday the Prague Archbishopric published a letter from the Apostolic Nunciature in response to his resignation asking him to stay on.
Supporters including President Miloš Zeman had called for Cardinal Duka to be allowed to continue in the post but some Czech Catholics had been in favour of him being replaced.
Negotiators from ANO and the Social Democrats have agreed on the policy programme of their planned coalition government, an ANO representative said on Wednesday evening. Both groupings will put the document to their own party organisations on Friday.
ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltýnek said there would be no changes to a previously agreed division of portfolios between the two parties, who are set to form a minority cabinet supported by the Communists in important lower house votes.
Social Democrats leader Jan Hamáček called on journalists and the public to have patience until Friday, when the final coalition deal and policy programme would be published.
Friday is expected to be cloudy with sunny intervals. Rain is forecast in the east of the country. Top daytime temperatures will range between 19 and 24 degrees Celsius.
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