The organizers of the prestigious German Quadriga Prize cancelled on Saturday this year’s award ceremony following an outcry by a number of international figures including former Czech president Václav Havel who protested against Russia’s Prime Minister Vladmir Putin receiving the award. Mr Havel, who received the prize in 2009, had threatened to return his award if the Russian official is given the prize, the German news website Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday. Mr Havel has reportedly asked the Quadriga jury to reconsider their decision which had surprised and disappointed him. The Czech daily Lidové noviny reported on Saturday that another Czech recipient of the prize, the head of the humanitarian NGO People in Need Šimon Pánek, was considering the same move.
The Czech government might increase the VAT rate to 19 percent, while at the same time retaining a lower VAT rate for medicines, books and other printed materials including newspapers, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Saturday. The government is considering the move to make up for lower tax revenues that have been collected so far this year. The prime minister said the hike could be temporary until a balanced state budget is reached by 2016. While supported by Mr Nečas’ party, the Civic Democrats, as well as the coalition TOP 09 party, the junior coalition partner Public Affairs oppose the idea. The centre-right Czech government originally planned to introduce a single VAT rate of 17.5 percent to pay for an overhaul of the pension system.
All Czech MPs and government ministers have filed their income declarations for last year with the lower house of Parliament, as required by law, the news agency ČTK reported on Saturday. Some politicians reportedly had to correct their declarations, the agency said. The declarations will now be reviewed by the lower house’ immunity and mandate committee; its chair, Social Democrat Jeroným Tejc said he did not expect any penalties would have to be handed out. The most indebted Czech MP is Public Affairs member Michal Babák who is also reportedly under police investigation for money laundering,
Environmental activists continue on Saturday their campaign of physically blocking certain areas of the Šumava National Park to prevent the logging of bark beetle infested trees. The Czech branch of the Friends of the Earth, which organizes the protest, says the park management has failed to obtain an exemption required to cut in the most protected parts of the park but it had some 3,000 trees marked in the area for logging. The campaign began on Friday; however, no loggers reportedly showed up to fell trees in the areas in question.
The Czech Republic’s anti-monopoly watchdog has cancelled a 400-million crown tender to repair bridges in the Liberec region in the north of the country, the daily Mladá fronta dnes reported on Saturday. The winning bidder would land a deal to repair more than 50 bridges on lower class roads across the region. However, the tender’s criteria were discriminatory, the anti-monopoly authority said. The head of the Office for the Protection of Competition, Petr Rafaj, said that according to the criteria, the successful bidder would have to prove a turnover of up to 80 percent of the deal’s value, which was against the law. Regional authorities have accepted the verdict and opened a new tender.
Two people died in a railway accident that occurred near Rudná, just west of Prague, on Friday night. A 47-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl were killed when their car was crossing the railway tracks and was hit by a train. Police said the man ignored a stop sign and drove straight into the coming train. Traffic on the railway line has been suspended, and won’t resume until 11 PM on Saturday.
Czech motorbike racer Karel Abrahám finished 13th in Saturday’s qualification in Moto2 class for the German Grand Prix in Sachsenring on Saturday, after two falls during his practice session. The Czech member of the Cardion AB Motoracing said both falls could have been avoided but also complained about problems with his bike’s front wheel. Another Czech in the circuit, 120 ccm rider Jakob Kornfeil, only finished six measured laps during his practice and will be 30th on the grid.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has arrived in Prague for meetings with Czech political leaders. With Poland now holding the rotating EU presidency, top of the agenda will be European politics. Much of the Polish cabinet has also accompanied the prime minister for wide-ranging consultations with their Czech counterparts as part of a string of visits to neighbouring countries. Poland is primarily seeking Czech support for the top-priority plans of its presidency, namely regarding the EU budget for 2013 to 2020 and the strengthening of the solidarity policy that funds the poorest parts of the union. Mr Tusk is meeting with his Czech counterpart Petr Nečas in the morning and will later be received by President Klaus at Prague Castle.
The prime ministers Donald Tusk and Petr Necas told reporters on Friday that that they want to promote the view that energy security in Europe cannot be based only on renewable resources and that they support the use of nuclear energy. The two leaders said they want to be a counterbalance to countries like Germany, which plans to stop using nuclear energy, and Austria which has already rejected such plants, and form a "common-sense front". They also discussed bilateral relations and possible cooperation in energy, including nuclear power plants.
The European Commission has begun investigating Czech power giant ČEZ on suspicion of restricting competition on the domestic energy market. The commission is examining whether ČEZ built up capacities in its network in order to prevent the entry of competitive companies on the market. Brussels has suspected CEŽ of restricting competition at least since 2009, when commission inspectors raided the company’s headquarters. If found guilty, the company could face a fine of tens of billions of crowns and the sale of part of its property.