Stefan Füle, the designated EU commissioner of the Czech Republic, will be appearing in front of the European Parliament as part of a hearing mandatory for all EU commissioners. Mr. Füle’s hearing is scheduled to take place on January 12. Mr. Füle has been criticized by some Czech deputies of the EU Parliament for his communist past. His diplomatic career started before 1989 when he was a member of the Communist Party. The commissioner-designate will be examined in terms of his expertise as well as his personal and political skills and his aptness for the portfolio in question ie. EU enlargement. In related news, Serbia on Tuesday filed its official application for EU membership.
In an exclusive interview that will be published in Wednesday’s edition of the Czech daily newspaper Právo, President Václav Klaus talks about Jan Fischer’s government, the financial crisis and his plans for the holidays. He said that the high approval ratings of Fischer’s government are partly due to the fact that it doesn’t make any unpopular decisions. Mr. Klaus added that the indecisiveness of Czech voters was a new phenomenon. The president did not specify a statement he had made earlier about the fact that he was considering staying in politics in a different role after the end of his presidential mandate in 2013.
Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda demanded on Monday that Pavel Bém, the mayor of Prague, resign from his post after a second audit of the disputed Opencard project confirmed the concerns of its previous auditors. The project, originally meant to facilitate the life of Prague residents by making it possible to pay for parking, public transport fares, municipal library fees and other services with just one card, has cost the city 888 million crowns and generated little to no profit. Five years after its inception, the Opencard is still used by only a few people. Mr. Bém ordered the audit because of the high costs of the project. Auditors consider the city’s dependency on the private sector company Haguess, which secured the Opencard public tender, problematic. On Tuesday, Prague City Hall’s director of information technology Václav Kraus was the first employee to step down in reaction to the audit. Later that day, Mr. Bém told journalists that the Christian Democrats needed to stop voicing pointless accusations.
The Czech energy giant ČEZ’s offshoot Akenerji will be building three water-powered electricity plants in Turkey. The overall investment will total 120 million euros. The company will take out an 84 million Euro loan to finance the deal. The capacity of the power plants will be 64 kilowatts and they are expected to start operating in 2012. In Turkey, the power sector is undergoing privatization and ČEZ wants to be a part of this trend, the director of the company’s international division told journalists.
A group of professional betters on the night from Monday to Tuesday won 500 million Czech crowns using a combination that according to them is unusual but not illegal. The group bet on a goal to fall in an NHL game, the odds of this happening were 2.7:1. The professionals placed low bets of only five Czech crowns but repeated the bet many times on the same ticket, so that the actual amount they bet for was much higher. Should the national gaming association decide that the system of betting the group used is legal, the gamblers could win 500 million Czech crowns.
The Czech anti-monopoly office has fined seven companies that are part of the Gas group RWE a total of half a million Czech crowns. The decision is based on mistakes that the companies made regarding public tenders for the construction of piping and its choice of gas line providers. The companies have the right to appeal the decision.
The famous Prague theater Semafor will launch a new website on the occasion of its 50th birthday. The website will inform visitors about the theater’s program, repertoire, actors, history and much more. Visitors to the website will also be able to buy prints, books and DVDs linked to the theater online.
The Hradec Králové regional court on Tuesday handed six former managers of the investment funds Trend and Mercia prison sentences of two to three years. The executives were charged with embezzling funds of over 1.4 million crowns. The case is considered one of the biggest embezzlement cases in the Czech Republic. This is the second time that the managers had to appear at court, after the Prague High Court cancelled its original verdict from last August. New proceedings started in October. One of the witnesses and original investors in the fund is the Czech Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb
A total of 71 cases of adverse reactions to the swine flu vaccine have been reported to the Czech State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL). According to the institute, the causes of such reactions could be related to the vaccine, but also to other illnesses. Side effects of the swine flu vaccination include fever, fatigue and muscle and joints pains. Last week, two patients had to be hospitalized after getting the shot. Both suffered from chronic disease and their symptoms grew more severe after receiving the shot, but they were released after just a few days. So far, 38 people have died of swine flu in the Czech Republic.
Meteorologists have issued a warning of widespread icy roads across the Czech Republic in the next few days. The warning is effective from Tuesday until Christmas Day. The problem will occur because of precipitation, which is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday, hitting frozen ground. In Moravia, traffic conditions will be worsened by high wind expected to reach speeds of 55 to 90 km/h.