There is mounting speculation regarding the possible dismissal of Culture Minister Alena Hanáková who has come under fire for incompetence. The ruling TOP 09 party which appointed her to the post on Thursday met to discuss the situation. The party has come under pressure from its coalition partners who clearly consider Ms. Hanáková a weak link in the cabinet. The culture minister says no one has approached her on the matter but according to well-informed sources cited by Czech Television her party has already approached the head of the Prague Music Academy Ivo Mathe with an offer for him to take over the ministry of culture.
Czech artists are staging a protest outside the culture ministry over dwindling subsidies for live art. The ministry slashed this year’s budget for live art by 100 million crowns to 280 million, sparking protests both from artists and the art committees which hand out grants. Critics say that the ministry’s policy is devastating this field of culture. Subsidies for it have dropped by 57 percent since 2007. Culture Minister Alena Hanáková has promised to try to find additional funds, but points out that the ministry is restricted by a significantly lower budget due to the government’s fiscal consolidation drive.
The Czech and German interior ministers met in Prague on Thursday to discuss means of curbing drug-smuggling across the common border. Bavaria and Saxony report a steep rise in drug trafficking from the neighbouring Czech Republic. The authorities say the problem concerns mainly the home-made drug pervitin, known in Germany as Crystal, and cheap marihuana, smuggled across the border both by Czechs and German tourists. There have even been cases of German dealers paying Czechs to come and make the drug pervitin in Germany. The two sides have agreed to intensify cooperation between customs officials, police and the judiciary.
The Czech economy contracted by 1.1 percent year-on-year in 2012 and gross domestic product in the fourth quarter dropped by 1.7 percent in annual terms and by 0.2 percent compared to the previous quarter, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Thursday. Higher taxes on consumer goods contributed negatively to the GDP drop, their annual decrease at almost 2 percent, the office said. The GDP figure is in line with analysts´ expectations. The Czech economy has been in recession since the end of 2011.
The Prague 1 state attorneys’ office says it will not deal with criminal complaints regarding the presidential amnesty. A spokesman for the office said on Thursday that according to the constitution the president had acted fully within his powers in declaring the amnesty and neither state attorneys nor the police were in a position to challenge the decision. The broad amnesty declared by President Vaclav Klaus on January 1st, has resulted in the release of over 6,400 prisoners and may pertain to a number of high-profile corruption and embezzlement cases.
The maker of the famous herbal liquor Becherovka reports losses to the tune of 100 million crowns as a result of the enforced prohibition last year. The Jan Becher-Karlovarska Becherovka company said sales were down by 12 percent year-on-year. The losses were caused not only on the government enforced ban on spirits, which lasted for two weeks, but by lower exports due to the methanol scare. Close to 40 people died of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic last year after consuming dangerous bootleg alcohol. Liquor sales dropped by an average 10 percent as a result and have not yet fully returned to their previous levels. According to the head of the Union of Spirits Producers Petr Pavlík, 2012 was the worst year for Czech spirits producers since 1990.
Two Danish students were detained after assaulting police officers in a brawl in the centre of Prague on Wednesday night. A group of 15 Danish nationals, who had been out drinking got into a fight in the city centre and the police was called to restore order. It is the third case of violence involving Danish tourists this week. A Danish national was stabbed in a hotel where his compatriots demolished several hotel rooms in a wild party on Tuesday and later that night a Danish student smashed a shop window with a garbage can. The Danish Embassy has expressed regret over the incidents.
Police investigating the brutal murder of a four-year-old girl in the town of Ceska Lipa have charged her mother. The child, who was alone in the house with her mother at the time of the incident, died of stab wounds to her throat and the mother was found in critical condition with slit wrists. According to media reports she may have been on drugs at the time of the tragedy. If convicted of murder she could face a jail sentence of 15 to 20 years.
The Lanzhot border crossing on the Czech-Slovak border was closed to trucks on Thursday morning due to heavy snow in Slovakia and Hungary. Police said the decision was made in coordination with the Slovak authorities who reported severe traffic problems along the D2 highway. Trucks are reported to be blocking many roads and parking lots are bursting at the seams due to severe transport problems in Hungary. By the time the border crossing re-opened at 1pm there was a 4 km long line of trucks waiting to cross the border.
The Hydro-meteorological Institute has called a smog alert in Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic where air pollution is a chronic problem in the winter months. Dust particles in the air on Thursday exceeded permitted levels at all monitoring stations in the region. The air pollution is reported to be worst in Trinec, Frydek-Mistek and Karvina. The local authorities have asked drivers to restrict their movement in cities to a minimum and use public transport wherever possible. The fact that many people in the region use coal heating is further complicating the situation. Children and elderly people as well as chronically ill patients have been advised to stay indoors.