Standard & Poor’s on Friday affirmed the AA- sovereign rating assigned to the Czech Republic. The agency said the country’s financial, monetary, and economic institutions remained robust and stable, enabling the economy to adjust quickly to adverse shocks. It warned however that the country’s favourable credit rating could come under downward pressure should the state of public finances worsen or should the country reverse the fiscal policies pursued by the current government.
Seventy-five political parties and movements will compete in the autumn regional elections, the CTK news agency reports. The Civic Democrats, TOP09, the Social Democrats and Communists have fielded candidates in all 13 regions as have a number of smaller parties not represented in Parliament such as Milos Zeman’s Party of Civic Rights, the Green Party and the Pirates’ Party. Voters will thus have a broader choice of candidates than they did in the last elections when they could chose from 60 political groupings.
Two hundred and thirty-three candidates are running for office in the Senate elections in which 27 seats will be contested in October. The elections will decide whether the opposition Social Democrats will regain their majority in the upper chamber. Only the Civic Democrats, Social Democrats and Communists have fielded candidates in all 27 constituencies. The first round of Senate elections will be held on October 17th and 18th together with regional elections. The second round will take place two weeks later. Elections to a third of the Senate are held once in two years.
Two Czechs, a father and son, were killed on an Austrian highway shortly after midnight after getting out to change a flat tire and getting hit by a truck. According to the APA news agency the accident happened on the highway to Salzburg. Apparently the car was parked correctly and the men put out warning triangles behind their vehicle before getting to work on the tire. One truck reportedly gave them a wide berth but another following in its wake failed to see them and hit them at full speed. Both were killed on the spot. Two other people in the car were unhurt but had to be treated for shock.
Eight hundred and eighty one people were ordered out of their homes in connection with domestic violence in the first seven months of the year, according to the White Circle of Safety, an NGO assisting victims of domestic violence. Restraining orders were issued on average for a ten day period to give victims time to re-think their situation and take measures to protect themselves and their children. According to the NGO 12 percent of the perpetrators are repeat offenders. Domestic violence has been perceived as a crime in the Czech Republic since 2004 and the law enabling perpetrators to be ordered out of their homes was passed in 2007.
The Social Democratic Party has suggested lowering the value-added tax on fuels after the cost of petrol and diesel fuel reached record highs this week. A survey showed the popular Natural 95 being sold for over 40 crowns per litre at stations around the country. The party’s shadow industry minister Milan Urban said soaring fuel prices would reduce the competitiveness of Czech firms and severely burden family budgets. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has rejected the proposal, saying it is nonsensical to artificially reduce fuel prices. He moreover pointed out that EU member states were bound by a 2005 agreement not to take such measures.
Ronald Adams, the chief executive officer of the Tatra truck company, who was recently arrested on suspicion of bribery has filed a complaint against the charges brought against him. Mr. Adams, who was later released on a court order is charged with offering a bribe to win army contracts. The main witness against him is reportedly Martin Barták, a former defense minister who himself is accused of corruption in a case in which Mr. Adams is a witness. Lawyers representing the Tatra truck company boss say the charges against him are an attempt to discredit him and claim that his detention was in violation of the law.
Lawyers representing the former central Bohemian governor David Rath have filed a complaint against the 14 million crown bail set by a district court. They argue that the amount is excessive in view of the charges against him and effectively prevents his release. Mr. Rath’s family and supporters have failed to raise the sum. The bail has also been challenged by the state attorney on the grounds that there are legally valid reasons to keep him in custody pending trial.
The corruption charges against former defence minister Vlasta Parkanova remain in place after the Supreme State Attorney’s Office rejected her complaint against the proceedings. Mrs. Parkanova has been charged with mismanagement of state funds and abuse of office in connection to the purchase of CASA military planes for the Czech army, a contract that independent auditors deemed severely overpriced. Mrs Parkanová herself says her conscience is clear. If convicted she could face up to ten years’ imprisonment.
The Czech Industry and Trade Ministry has merged the foreign branches of the state run agencies CzechInvest and CzechTrade into a single network of trade missions. The merger is part of a new export strategy that defines 12 priority countries for Czech exports and so-called areas of interest covering 25 countries. The country is seeking to boost exports to Brazil, China, India, Iraq and the United States, among others. By the end of 2013 the Czech Republic should have 70 offices in 56 countries the world over.
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