The EU Court of Auditors has accused Czech officials of systematically fixing the results of audits on the use of EU funds. Czech auditors allegedly decreased the number of errors in their annual audit reports to the two percent limit or lower, thus masking nearly 40% of mistakes. The Finance Ministry however has rejected the claims, which first appeared in the website Aktualne.cz. Moreover they say that there is no thought of the EU cutting its subsidies on the basis of what is only a preliminary finding.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas held a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on Friday. The visit was meant to mark the start of one year until the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia. Mr Nečas offered the pontiff a rare copy of the illustrated Strahov Evangeliary from the 9th century. The Pope in turn gave the prime minister a pen. Earlier in the day Mr Nečas laid flowers at the tomb of Czech Cardinal Josef Beran, who died in exile in Rome in 1969 and paid homage to Czech patron Saint Wenceslas at his altar in St Peter´s Basilica. Celebrations for Cyril and Methodius include dozens of events culminating in July 2013 at the Velehrad pilgrimage site in South Moravia. Benedict XVI has been invited to attend the celebrations, but his visit has not been confirmed as yet.
The upper house of Parliament has backed two proposals to change legislation regarding MP immunity. Under the first, which was drafted by the opposition Social Democrats, TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats, MPs could be criminally prosecuted even while they are serving as deputies and without being stripped of their immunity or prior approval from the chairman of Parliament. The Civic Democrats have criticized this proposal as “legally faulty”. Under their draft, MP immunity would be restricted significantly, and only apply to acts of speech and voting in Parliament. Deputy leader of the Social Democrats Jiří Dienstbier has labelled this proposal “absurd”.
The military airport in Časlav in eastern Bohemia is open again after an accident on board a Russian plane on Wednesday. Operations had been suspended at the airport until Russian investigators could arrive to study the scene and the plane. When landing the plane apparently suffered damage to its front landing gear. It swerved off the runway and a fire broke out on board. Of the 23 passengers and crew, two Russian soldiers and one Czech remain in hospital with serious burn injuries. The accident prevented Czech fighters from taking off and Czech airspace defence had to be taken over by neighbouring countries.
The government’s human rights commissioner Monika Šimůnková says the fabricated attack on a Moravian boy by Roma was damaging to the Roma community and those who work with stopping social exclusion. She said she hoped the incident would be a permanent reminder to locals of how cautiously people should approach media information and warned against blaming groups of people for the acts of individuals. Residents of Břeclav took to the streets en masse when a fifteen-year-old boy reported he had been beaten by three Roma. He was hospitalised and lost a kidney. On Thursday he admitted to police that he had in fact fallen off one balcony railing on to another and had invented the story for his mother.
Speaking at the Energy Gas Storage Summit 2012 in Prague on Thursday, Czech President Václav Klaus said that government regulation of the energy sector may have a negative impact on electricity prices. He added that nuclear power was an essential and irreplaceable source of energy for the Czech Republic. The president also slammed the EU for its regulation of the energy sector and its propagation of renewable power sources. In his view, the energy mix should be governed by the free market, not by EU leaders. He also criticized Germany’s plan to phase out nuclear power by 2022.
The Supreme Court has cancelled a 100-day prison sentence that a former bus driver was handed for defacing public property. The man will be released from prison effective immediately. However, a decision on the case is still pending. Roman Smetana, a former public transport worker from Olomouc, had added feelers to politicians’ heads on campaign posters and refused to pay a fine for doing so. In early May, Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil filed a complaint in the man’s favour and appealed to the court to cancel its verdict. He said that it is up to the court to decide whether the defacing of political campaign posters, of which Mr Smetana was found guilty, was a criminal offense or merely a misdemeanour.
The Czech weekly Ekonom writes that Central Bohemia, which has the country’s highest debt, may face bankruptcy. According to official figures from the Finance Ministry, the region’s debt amounts to some 3.7 billion Czech crowns. However, the actual debt is more than double that figure, the weekly writes, citing former MP Karel Machovec. Mr Machovec has said that the region is facing bankruptcy. Central Bohemia became the focus of intense media attention when its governor was caught with some 7 million crowns in cash on his person. He has been charged with corruption and mismanagement of EU-funds.
The 14th year of the Prague - Heart of the Nations festival kicks off on Friday on the city’s Old Town Square. The two-day international folk festival highlights various national traditions, minorities and ethnicities. More than 20 ensembles from as many countries will be taking part, showcasing in particular regional dance, music and singing. Parts of the programme will also be held at the Náměstí míru and Jiřího z Poděbrad squares. The organisers include civic associations from across Central Europe and the Balkans.
The annual Prague Food Festival starts Friday in the Ball Game Hall (Míčovna) at Prague Castle for the sixth year. This time around, the three-day gastronomic “holiday” will focus primarily on farm and bio products. Organisers promise samples from the best chefs, sommeliers and food and beverage producers from the GRAND RESTAURANT publication by Pavel Maurer. The open-air festival also includes workshops, tastings, concerts and contests.