The hotly-anticipated trial of MP and former governor of Central Bohemia David Rath has begun at Prague’s Regional Court. Mr. Rath, who has been in custody for more than a year, faces charges of bribe-taking and manipulating public tenders. Outside the court, the one-time prominent Social Democrat handed out copies of a written statement saying he was innocent and would fight to the last. Mr. Rath and 10 other defendants, one of whom is a former MP, could face up to 12 years in jail if found guilty of the alleged corruption.
In one of its major decisions since assuming office in July, the Czech government has decided to end support for most renewable sources of energy. The draft legislation, triggered by relatively high electricity prices, would scrap state support for new solar and biogas plants as of 2014. It would also cap the subsidies paid by consumers in support of renewable energy sources.
The Regional Development Ministry is planning to seek damages of 56 million crowns n the highly anticipated corruption trial of former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, which begins on Wednesday. The amount is equivalent to the funds paid out by ministry for projects in the Central Bohemia region, which were covered by grants from the European Union, Czech Radio reported on Tuesday. After last year’s arrest of Mr. Rath and a number of his associates who were accused of manipulating EU-funded projects, the European Commission refused to reimburse the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic will buy 100,000 tonnes of oil for its emergency reserves by mid-2014 the internet news site ihned.cz reported on Tuesday. The Administration of State Material Reserves will declare an open tender for deliveries worth around 1.6 billion crowns. Only reliable suppliers with at least a three-year history in the business and three or more similar orders implemented in the past will be considered. Price will be the main criterion.
In its annual report on the Czech Republic Social Watch criticizes what it calls the excessive austerity measures introduced by the former centre-right cabinet which it says led to job uncertainty and a deteriorating standard of living for the majority of Czechs. Social Watch says that people’s growing frustration with the situation has led to political apathy and has fuelled anti-Roma sentiments. The report also criticizes the lack of women in politics and rampant corruption.
The International Monetary Fund on Friday cut its forecast for the performance of the Czech economy in 2013 to an 0.4 percent contraction, from a previous estimate of 0.3 percent growth. The IMF said despite its healthy fundaments, the Czech economy was in the middle of a long recession caused by the Eurozone crisis and weakened domestic demand. The worsened outlook corresponds to the latest estimate by the Czech central bank which predicts a 1.5 percent contraction this year. For 2014, the IMF forecasts a growth of 1.5 percent.
The interim government on Wednesday rejected draft legislation which would have allowed clients to withdraw from the recently-established “second pillar” of pension reforms (that is savings in private pension funds) at a later date if they so wished. The prime minister made clear for the government that such changes were anti-systemic. The draft amendment was proposed by former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek, who spearheaded the second pillar under the previous government. A final decision on the matter will be up to the Chamber of Deputies. Far fewer clients signed up for the second pillar before a key deadline earlier this year than previously expected; it is thought that the raising of restrictions could make the package more attractive to potential clients.
The Education Ministry has shortlisted 22 scientific projects, primarily in biotechnologies, mechanical engineering and sustainable development, among which it will divide 600 million crowns from EU funds, the ministry said in a press release published on Monday. Among the successful applicants are Charles University in Prague, the Technical University in Ostrava, Masaryk University in Brno and Palacky University in Olomouc. A total of 36 research institutions applied for subsidies requesting 1.3 billion crowns in total.
The state-run forest management company Lesy ČR saw its gross profit fall to 2.9 billion crowns in the first half of this year, from 3.2 billion a year ago, a company spokesman told the ČTK news agency on Monday. The drop is being attributed to church restitutions, the stagnation of timber prices on the market and the lowering of the company’s financial assets due to a payment of 6 billion crowns to the state budget. Lesy ČR administers 1.3 million hectares of forests, which is one sixth of the total area of the Czech Republic and about one half of all forests in the country.
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