Prime Minister Petr Nečas has met with President Václav Klaus to hand over the resignation of Trade and Industry Minister Martin Kocourek. Mr. Kocourek resigned last week amidst allegations of corruption and financial irregularities. The prime minister is expected to propose a successor to the post from his own Civic Democratic Party within a week's time. Among the possible candidates for the position are Zbyněk Stanjura, head of the party’s deputies’ group in the lower house and one of the party’s leading economic experts Michal Doktor.
The Finance Ministry has denied responsibility for the Czech Republic’s failure to meet a deadline confirming participation in judicial proceedings in Switzerland concerning suspected fraud and money-laundering in one of the Czech Republic’s biggest energy firms – the Mostecká Uhelná coalmining company. Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake told Czech Television on Sunday the Czech Republic may lose over 11 billion crowns in assets frozen by the Swiss government earlier this year in connection with the case. Switzerland began a probe into the case in 2005 on suspicion that the company’s directors were embezzling huge sums of money some of which were allegedly being transferred to Swiss accounts within an extensive money-laundering scheme. Seven people have been charged in connection with the case.
A number of regions around the country report smog problems with dust concentration levels far exceeding the permitted norm. The eastern city of Ostrava remains on high smog alert and conditions are bad also in Prague, in North and East Bohemia and in South Moravia. Smog regulation measures are in place in North Moravia restricting traffic and production in the big industrial plants in the area. People with chronic health problems, children and the elderly have been advised to stay indoors as much as possible. The Czech Hydrometerological Institute says the situation is not likely to improve in the coming days.
President Václav Klaus has said that Europe including the Czech Republic is likely to experience “a lost decade” as a result of its deep financial and economic crisis. In an article for the weekly Týden, Mr Klaus blamed the situation on the “organization of the European Union” where “the dictate of politics prevails over economy”. Unless Europe undergoes a deep transformation, Mr Klaus says, it will experience economic marginalization. Mr Klaus likened the “lost decade” he envisages to the 1990s in Japan – a “decade without economic growth, with permanent cuts, austerity measures and social unrest”. Mr Klaus’s views are often labelled as Eurosceptic but he himself prefers the term Eurorealist.
The Czech Foreign Ministry is prepared to send a special envoy to Zambia to attend to the case of three Czechs detained in the country on charges of alleged espionage, should the matter get more complicated, a spokesman for the ministry said on Monday. According to him Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has been attempting to get in touch with his Zambian counterpart for several days without success. The three Czechs were arrested in the Zambian capital Lusaka in mid-October and charged with espionage after taking photos the local police found suspicious. The Czech tourists deny the charges. If sentenced they face up to 25 years in prison.
The Czech Film Commission, a body promoting the Czech Republic as a filming location abroad, has said that by the end of 2011 foreign film productions will have spent over a billion crowns on services related to film projects in the Czech Republic. The same amount is expected to be spent in indirect and derived investment in the supply sectors. The Commission’s Ludmila Claussová said the amount might have been even larger if the film incentive budget had not been limited. She added that last year that the state investment yielded a return of 18 percent. Since last autumn the Czech Film Commission has reported a rising interest among foreign filmmakers in coming to the Czech Republic. Ms Claussová said foreign productions are choosing this country because of its diverse filming locations, skilled film professionals and the state incentive programme that has boosted the local film industry’s competitiveness.
A recent poll by the STEM agency suggests four political parties would pass the five-percent threshold to get into the lower house if elections were held tomorrow. According to the poll, the opposition Social Democrats would receive 25.7 percent of the vote, followed by the Civic Democrats with 14.7 percent. The Communist Party and the junior coalition TOP 09 would both receive 11 percent of the vote. The Christian Democrats would get 2.9 percent while only 2.2 percent of the electorate would vote for the smallest coalition party, Public Affairs.
The Czech Health Ministry has said that suicide is the third most common cause of death among children in the Czech Republic. According to the ministry the incidence of child suicide in the country is higher than the EU average. While the number of fatal injuries – the most frequent cause of death in children – has been decreasing, the number of suicides has not, Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Monday, calling the situation “alarming”. Every year, five to ten children under fifteen commit suicide in the Czech Republic. In the age bracket of 15 to 19 the number is about 40.
The American singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz will be playing a concert at Prague’s O2 Arena on Tuesday night, introducing his latest album “Black and White America”, one of the best-selling records in the Czech Republic since its release earlier this year, organizers have announced. Besides his new repertoire, the award-winning multi-instrumentalist is going to play his biggest hits including the songs “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, “It Ain't Over 'til It's Over” and “American Woman”.
The young male gorilla born at Prague Zoo last week has been transported to Stuttgart after repeated attempts to reunite the newborn with its mother failed on Friday, the zoo’s director Miroslav Bobek has said. The mother, named Bikira, showed no interest in the baby, which has had to be kept in an incubator. The baby gorilla, named Tano, which means “The Fifth” in Swahili, will be raised among a group of gorillas in the German city.
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