A probe into Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek’s private finances has revealed no irregularities, according to Green Party leader Martin Bursík. Mr. Bursík made the statement on Czech Television on Sunday, amidst growing speculation as to the audit’s outcome. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who commissioned the investigation by the US private detective agency Kroll met with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Green Party leader Martin Bursík late on Saturday to inform them about its outcome. Mr. Bursík said during a televised debate on Sunday that its results provided no reason to demand Mr. Čunek’s dismissal or for the Greens to quit the government. Jiří Čunek was accused of bribery in the spring of 2007 and although his prosecution was later halted for lack of evidence, he never quite managed to clear his name. There were fears that if the audit produced evidence of corruption it could lead to a major government crisis. Mr. Čunek himself has been unavailable for comment.
The Czech Republic is having to tap state oil reserves and bring in crude oil through an alternate pipeline after a sharp drop in deliveries from Russia. The country’s main oil refiner Unipetrol says it has the situation under control and production had so far not been affected. There is speculation that the unexpected cut in deliveries may have been made in response to the signing of a Czech-US treaty last week on the positioning of a US missile defense radar on Czech soil, but Unipetrol said the drop had been caused by “technical and organizational problems” in Russia. Czech officials have demanded an explanation and government and energy officials are due to meet on Monday to discuss the situation. The Czech Republic still depends strongly on Russia for its crude oil but has an alternative link to Ingolstadt in Germany.
The 43rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival closed on Saturday with a gala award-giving ceremony. The festival’s main prize went to the Danish film Terribly Happy directed by Henrik Ruben Genz, that tells the story of a young police officer from Copenhagen who is banished to a small town for professional misconduct. The Best Director award went to Russian Alexei Uchitel for his film Captive while the Special Jury Award went to The Photograph by Indonesian director Nan Triveni Achnas. The Best Actress and Best Actor awards went to Czech actress Martha Issová and actor Jiří Mádl for their roles in the Czech film Night Owls. Czech-born film director Ivan Passer, 75, who chaired the grand jury, was presented with the Crystal Globe Award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.
Bavaria and Austria, which both border on the Czech Republic, have urged the Czech Environment Ministry to fight the growing bark-beetle infestation in its borderland areas. In an open letter to Environment Minister Martin Bursik they say that the situation is growing untenable and remind the Czech authorities of bilateral agreements that bind the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of bark-beetle infestation along a certain stretch of the common border. Both Austria and Bavaria are taking measures to fight the spread of bark-beetle on their territory but say their efforts are undermined by the lack of cooperation from Prague. The mayors of Czech towns in the Sumava region are currently engaged in a heated dispute with the Environment Ministry over whether the bark-beetle should be eliminated in various zones of the protected national park.
The average wage in the Czech banking sector has reached 62,000 Czech crowns (over 4,000 US dollars), which is approximately three times the average wage in the Czech Republic, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Banks and insurance companies traditionally offer the best-paid jobs on the market. The average wage in the Czech Republic is just over 22 thousand crowns.
A festival of French food and music opened on Prague’s Kampa Island on Sunday in honour of the country’s state holiday. The two-day event, organized by the French Institute in Prague, attracted hundreds of people who braved the rain to taste a wide variety of French cheeses, pates and wines. The two-day event will culminate with a concert of French music on Monday night.
Storms battered Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic, late Saturday and through the night hours bringing down electricity lines, trees and causing local flooding in many areas. The storm damaged the Prague-Ostrava railway line in the late afternoon bringing train transport to a halt. Although emergency crews worked around-the-clock transport along the line was only renewed at 8 am on Sunday. Fire-fighters are still out in force helping with clean-up operations.
Six people died in car accidents over the weekend, bringing July’s casualty figures to 28. The police say that speeding and drinking-and-driving are largely to blame. The country has come under fire from the EU for failing to make its roads safer. A strict points system introduced two years ago has failed to produce the desired results.
The police have found the body of an unidentified motorbike rider near the town of Medonos in the Melnik region. The dead man had no ID on him and it is not clear how he died. The police believe they may have found the body of a missing motorbike rider who failed to return from a test ride last week. His family and friends have been searching the country for him, fearing he could have been involved in an accident with a hit-and-run-driver.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek says he has not been informed about the outcome of an investigation into his private finances and is refusing to speculate with regard to its possible impact. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg ordered and paid for the investigation by the private US detective agency Kroll in the wake of a drawn out corruption scandal surrounding Mr. Čunek. The deputy prime minister was accused of taking a one and a half million crown bribe while serving as mayor of Vsetín, but the state attorney concluded there was not enough evidence to press charges. Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg said that if the Kroll investigation did not clear the deputy prime minister then he himself would resign from office. Mr. Schwarzenberg received the results of the investigation a week ago but has not made any public announcement, fuelling speculation as to the audit’s outcome.
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