The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka has praised Pope Benedict’s leadership of the Catholic Church saying his decision to resign was an act of courage. Cardinal Duka recalled the Pope’s state visit to the Czech Republic in 2009 and its role in raising awareness and understanding of the role of the church in modern society. He called on believers to pray for the Pope’s health. The Archbishop of Olomouc Jan Graubner said the Pope’s resignation was a sign of respect for the office he held and showed great spiritual strength and humility.
Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman has appealed a court decision to stop the prosecution of several managers of the fraudulent construction firm H-System which stripped clients of nearly one billion crowns. The founder of the bankrupt construction company H-system Petr Smetka was sentenced to 12 years in prison back in 2004 but the case against three of the firm’s managers has dragged on. A Prague court recently stopped their prosecution on the grounds that the case falls under the presidential amnesty declared on January 1st. State attorneys have protested that the amnesty, which saw the release of some 6,000 prisoners, may halt several major corruption and embezzlement cases. The justice minister has pledged to do his utmost to prevent that.
Bulgarian Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev has ordered checks on energy bills issued by the Czech power distributor ČEZ and Austria’s EVN in the wake of street protests over excessive prices at the weekend. Bulgarians took to the streets in ten cities to protest over their January electricity bills which were significantly higher than in the previous month. ČEZ says the higher bills reflect increased consumption over the Christmas holidays and a harsher-than-usual winter. ČEZ recently pulled out of Albania after having its license to operate Albania’s national grid revoked. The move followed months of controversy over unpaid bills.
Trade and Industry Minister Martin Kuba has said he wants the government to look into the burgeoning solar energy scandal as soon as possible. The head of the Energy Regulatory Office Alena Vitásková last week accused her predecessors of having illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar plants incurring damages to the tune of tens of billions of crowns. Meanwhile, the head of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association says that the audit on which Ms Vitáskova based her accusations was doctored and was intended to cover up the organization’s present failings. The government is expected to discuss the matter later this week.
MP Roman Pekárek is to report to prison within five days, to begin serving a five-year sentence for corruption and abuse of office. Mr. Pekárek on Monday confirmed receiving a court order and said he would not try to evade his responsibility. The lower house deputy was found guilty of accepting a one million crown bribe for selling municipal land to a businessman under price. He has resigned his membership in the Civic Democratic Party but has refused to give up his seat in the lower house. Under Czech law there is no way of forcing him to do so.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has slammed his predecessor, the late Václav Havel, in an interview for a Polish weekly, the Czech newspaper Lidové noviny reported on Monday. Mr. Klaus told Do Rzeczy he regarded Mr. Havel as an extreme leftist who had wanted to create an elitist post-democracy rather than a democracy, adding that his “Havelism” was a revived form of Jacobinism. The Czech president said that while he had believed in the state, his predecessor had been a cosmopolitan with a foreign policy of “interventionism (and humanitarian bombing)” rather than respect for any world states. This last point was an evident reference to Mr. Havel’s support for the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999. With marked ideological differences, Mr. Klaus and Mr. Havel had frequent run-ins in the two decades prior to the former dissident’s death in 2011.
The number of Czech companies whose owners are registered in tax havens grew by almost 4 percent last year and has now crossed 12,500 according to an analysis conducted by the Czech Capital Information Agency. According to the data collected 3.4 percent of the total 366,500 companies registered in the Czech Republic are controlled from tax havens. Among the most popular tax havens for Czechs are European destinations such as the Netherlands, Cyprus and Luxembourg.
A Serbian national was detained at Prague airport last week after customs officers found two kilos of heroin in his luggage, the ctk news agency reports. The incident happened on Thursday but the information was not released until Monday, in view of an ongoing investigation. The man was allegedly travelling to Prague from Uganda, via Amsterdam. The street value of the drug has been estimated at several million crowns.
Prague’s Troya Zoo has announced the birth of an elephant calf, the first in the zoo’s 80-year-old history. The calf was born on Monday to a female elephant who came to Prague Zoo in the spring of this year from Rotterdam. Her keepers from Rotterdam Zoo were present at the birth. According to a zoo spokesman the newborn calf will be shown to the public on March 30th.
Meteorologists have issued a snow alert for the coming 48 hours. Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to bring up to 15 centimetres of snow in the lower altitudes and approximately 30 centimetres of fresh snow in the mountain regions. Drivers have been warned to expect traffic complications and not to set out for the mountains without winter gear. The eastern part of the country is already battling with heavy snow with traffic complications and delays in public transport.
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