Czech Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok will head a working group overseeing the drawing of EU funds. The group will also include two government ministers and representatives of the regions, the prime minister told reporters on Friday. The Czech Republic has had serious problems with securing EU funds, and has been criticized by the European Commission over insufficient control of EU-funded projects.
In this week’s Business News: The minimum wage will rise in August; Food prices in 2012 grew by a larger margin than in any other EU country; Czech Airlines has withdrawn from its contract with the unions; Fuel prices around the Czech Republic have gone up again; Škoda has signed an almost 1 billion crown contract to deliver trams to Bratislava.
Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman on Wednesday denied reports of a massive debt incurred by his family firm, Agrotrade. The weekly Respekt reported that the firm got hundreds of millions of crowns in credit from banks, and later transferred its assets to another company, leaving Agrotrade some 600 million crowns in the red. However, Mr Toman said he was stationed abroad at that time, and never served on the company’s board. The firm said it would sue the magazine for an apology and damages.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer, whose election campaign debts were recently covered by sponsors, has asked them to clarify the source of the money donated. Mr. Fischer said that if this was not done he would return the finances. The finance minister, who incurred a 3.5 million crown debt in the course of his presidential election campaign earlier this year, has come under fire for producing the necessary funds from sponsors, among them large donations in cash, soon after it became known he would get a lucrative position in the new caretaker government.
The army’s CASA transport planes have successfully passed all flight tests and may now be deployed in foreign missions, Czech Defense Minister Vlastimil Picek told journalists in Prague on Monday. The 3.5 billion crowns purchase of four Spanish CASA transport planes in 2009 has been dogged by problems. The planes’ passive protection system against missiles was found to be defective, failing 7 out of 17 tests and an independent auditor later concluded the purchase had been overpriced. After two years of repairs, fresh tests have now shown that the planes’ protection system is fully operational and the planes’ Spanish supplier is paying the defense ministry 20 million crowns in compensation for the problems.
Social Democrats’ chairman Bohuslav Sobotka says Jan Fischer should step down as finance minister in the interim Czech government over alleged opaque financing of his presidential campaign. In interviews with a number of Saturday’s newspapers, Mr. Sobotka said Mr. Fischer’s remaining in office could be an insurmountable hurdle for the Social Democrats in a vote of confidence in Jiří Rusnok’s caretaker cabinet. Jan Fischer received over CZK 5 million in donations from sponsors, much of it in cash, in the week prior to his appointment, allowing him to clear debts arising from an unsuccessful presidential campaign earlier this year.
The new environment minister, Tomáš Podivínský, has backed plans to
expand the Temelín nuclear power station. Speaking to reporters after a
visit to the plant on Friday, Mr Podivísnký said the planned
of two new blocks was important for the country’s energy stability.
critics say it would be highly unprofitable to go ahead with the plan
current electricity prices, the minister said the energy market was
distorted by subsidies for renewable sources of energy.
The state-owned energy firm ČEZ is planning to pick the winning bid for the multi-billion project this autumn; however, it’s not clear whether the caretaker government will award the contract, or whether the process will be concluded after the next general election.
In this week’s business news: Unemployment falls; Czech Banking Association releases bleaker economic outlook for 2013; more Czech companies are moving to tax havens; Moravia Steel receives large fine for collusion in Germany; Kofola is considering expanding into Balkans; and government debt decreases in Q2.
The EU’s Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that the Czech Republic had failed to meet its obligations arising from an EU railway directive. The court criticized the maximum fees set by the Czech Finance Ministry for using railway infrastructure, as well as a lack of incentives for the infrastructure’s operator to cut costs. Under EU law, the Czech authorities are obliged to implement the findings as soon as possible or face penalization.
The Czech Banking Association on Thursday cut its economic forecast for 2013. It now predicts an 0.8 percent contraction of the country’s GDP, down from the 0.2 percent the association predicted in April. The report cites an unexpected drop in GDP in the first quarter of this year as the main reason for the revision; however, the authors said the economy should start recovering moderately towards the end of the year when quarter-on-quarter growth is expected.
Archaeologists find unique grave of Roman era warlord in Uherský Brod
Czech Ambassador to Ethiopia Pavel Mikeš: ‘If you wait long enough, an egg will walk on two legs’
New debate erupts over use of -ová suffix in Czech female surnames
Divided by Freedom – Large-scale Czech Radio survey finds six social classes in Czech society
Josef Becher – the man behind Czech Republic’s iconic liqueur