Czech Radio held an Open Doors Day at its main headquarters in Prague on Saturday, allowing visitors to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at production studios and other facilities used by the radio’s flagship Radiožurnál (Radiojournal) as well as other stations including Radio Prague - the international service of Czech Radio. This Sunday, May 18th, marks an important milestone for the public broadcaster: it was 85 years ago that, following the UK, Czechoslovakia became the second country in Europe to offer regular broadcasts. Its first broadcast went out at 8:15 pm from a military tent in Prague-Kbely. It featured musical performances as well as the spoken-word.
Some 600 customs officers launched a major operation at one of the largest markets in western Bohemia on Saturday, checking mainly for the sale of illegal tobacco products. Officers searched 450 stands at the market, known as Svatý Kříž, and also ran searches on cars and nearby containers. Recent operations uncovered a secret factory capable of producing 2,500 fake-brand cigarettes per minute, representing unpaid taxes of 134 million crowns (the equivalent of around 8 million US dollars).
It has been reported that the costs for the Czech Republic to take part in Expo 2010 in China could be higher than half a billion crowns, a sharp increase from the 300 million it cost to take part at Expo 2005 in Japan. According to the Czech news agency ČTK, the foreign ministry will propose a budget of 520 million next Wednesday. The government is to discuss the proposal and concept for the Czech pavilion. The one in China is expected to be twice as large as the one in Japan, covering 2,000 square metres. The Czech exhibition at the previous Expo was seen by some 1.7 million visitors.
Czech judge Pavel Nagy, who forged a report on court proceedings, has resigned. The news was released by Justice Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Kuncová on Friday. In early March, a disciplinary panel of the Supreme Court allowed the judge to continue, suffering only a 25 percent cut to his salary for six months. But Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil had called on Mr Nagy to resign and leave the judiciary. Mr Nagy had missed court proceedings and fabricated and registered a final defence speech in the protocol and issued a verdict as if the proceedings had taken place. He later argued that he suffered from stress and a sleep disorder. In March, the justice minister filed a criminal complaint against Mr Nagy for forgery and abuse of power.
Canoeist Martin Doktor and fellow team-mate Jiří Heller have missed their opportunity to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, coming last in the men’s double canoe event in Milan on Saturday. Doktor, a gold-medal holder from the Games in Atlanta in 1996, is now expected to announce his retirement from the sport.
Czech president Václav Klaus has vetoed an anti-discrimination bill passed in Parliament calling the legislation “poor, counter-productive and unnecessary”. The decision was revealed by the president’s office on Friday. The European Union has called on the Czech Republic to pass legislation ensuring equal access to education, work, and health care, but the president countered the legislation proposed was already covered sufficiently under Czech law. In a letter sent to the speaker of the lower house the president contends that EU directives are “only binding with regards to results”, but that the methods of achieving goals “depended on individual member states”. The aim of the anti-discrimination law, backed by the EU, is to ensure the same opportunities for all irrespective of age, race, nationality, sex, or religious belief. The bill will now return to the lower house.
The spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry has revealed that Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has enlisted help from an outside firm to look into the finances of fellow cabinet member Jiří Čunek. According to the official, the private investigation and security firm Kroll has been brought in to look into the Mr Čunek’s dealings as part of an agreement that saw the controversial Christian Democrat leader return to the cabinet after an absence of five months. Mr Čunek was forced to step down last November over accusations of abuse and corruption. The audit into his finances is expected to take six weeks.
Czech teachers' unions have called a one-day strike for June 9 in pursuit of higher wages for teachers as well as to protest the government's current pay offer. A representative said that teachers’ wages had fallen in real terms by 5.2 percent in 2008. According to the unions, more than half of the country's 200,000 teachers are in favour of striking, and are ready to close down nursery, primary and secondary schools. The government has offered teachers an extra 500 million crowns this year (around 31 million US dollars) and 4 billion the next. But the unions have demanded 3 billion this year with pay raises for support staff as well as teachers.
The Czech news agency ČTK has reported that funding cuts in the agriculture sector planned by the European Commission have undergone substantial revision and will not be nearly as strict as originally proposed. Under the original plan, large farms receiving more than 300,000 euros a year stood to lose 45 percent of funding. Citing the latest proposal, ČTK has said the cuts will be far lower: nine percent. The Czech agriculture sector had complained it would be unfairly hit under the previous numbers: for historic reasons, including forced collectivisation in the 1950s, farms in the Czech Republic are often larger enterprises which, Czech officials had argued would suffer a serious disadvantage. The Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič said on Friday that changes in the EC’s stance were the result of “months of efforts” by Czech officials heading a coalition of representatives from like-minded countries.
The finance ministry has opened a tender aimed at finding an advisor for the privatisation of the Czech national carrier, Czech Airlines. The process will run until August 7. The Czech government would like to sell the carrier, in which it holds a 91 percent stake, by the end of the year or early 2009. A spokesman for the finance ministry said that important criteria determining the choice of the winning advisory firm would include not only overall costs but also the privatisation plans themselves. Czech Airlines has been estimated as worth 5 billion crowns (the equivalent of more than 300 million US dollars). Potential interest in the carrier has been expressed in the past by both Aeroflot and Air France.