The black market for alcohol sales has been squeezed sharply since government measures following the methanol scandal, according to the Czech Association of Spirits Producers and Importers. It estimates that back market sales represented around 12 percent of total turnover, down from around a third before 2012 and the eruption of the methanol spirits scandal. At least 48 people died after drinking bootleg spirits tainted with methanol. The government tightened its rules for the sales of spirits as a result. The association says further moves, such as making black market sales a criminal offense and not just subject to a fine, could still be taken.
The Czech competition watchdog, the Office for the Protection of Economic Competition, has said it has started investigating the Ministry of Transport’s decision to prolong the existing motorway toll collection contract with the Austrian company Kapsch and without holding a competitive tender. Political party Stan recently called for the office to act arguing that the ministry should have followed the original target of inviting new offers to provide the service. It added that Czechs were paying for the ministry’s past inaction. A new interim multi-billion crown contact with Kapsch was signed by the ministry in August. Opposition parties have warned that the government has laid itself open to arbitration procedures from rival companies offering toll services and technology.
Czech president Miloš Zeman held talks with Austrian presidential candidate and leader of the Freedom Party Norbert Hofer in Prague on Monday. Hofer is standing in the re-run presidential elections for the right-wing party. His visit has roused interest due to reported remarks that the post WWII Czechoslovak Beneš decrees were illegal because they were based on collective guilt. The decrees paved the way for around 3.0 million Sudeten Germans to be expelled from Czechoslovakia. Hofer has been an outspoken critic of the recent wave of immigration to the EU. The original second round presidential. Subjects discussed were the Beneš decrees, Temelín nuclear plant, and moves to boost the importance of Central Europe within the EU.
A contingent of 40 Czech police left Monday to help Macedonian authorities safeguard their border with Greece. The latest group is the fifth contingent of Czech police sent to the Balkans country since the start of the immigration crisis. Czech police will conduct joint patrols with their Macedonian counterparts. Czech police have also been to help during the crisis in Greece, Slovenia, and Hungary. Although the crisis in Macedonia has eased since its peak, hundreds of immigrants are still seeking to pass through the country.
The number of inhabitants in the Czech Republic rose by around 11,000 in the first half of the year to now stand just short of 10.565 million according to the Czech Statistical Office. One of the main factors in the increase has been immigration, but the numbers of births has also exceeded the number of deaths. Immigration counted for around 10,000 of the increase in population. Around 20,000 people came to the Czech Republic with around half that number leaving.
Czech historians and doctors have concluded that the first caesarian birth in Europe in which both mother and child survived was carried out in Prague at the court of Jan of Luxembourg in the 14th century. They have examined accounts relating to the birth of a son to Jan’s second wife, Beastrix of Bourbon, and concluded that Václav was born as a result of such an operation in 1337. The evidence has been printed in the magazine Czech gynecology. Successful caesarians were rare even as late as in the 18th century with death likely in around 90 percent of cases.
Czech sporting personalities as well as the prime minister and ministers paid tribute to seven times Czech Olympic gold medal gymnast Věra Cášlavská on Monday. A special peal of bells from Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral rang out just before 10 am. An hour long tribute to the gymnast, who died at the age of 74 on August 30, followed at Prague’s National Theatre. The event was attended by many current sports personalities as well as those from the past. Exceptional was one of the words that cropped up most often. Cášlavská dominated gymnastics for almost a decade winning her haul of gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and those at Mexico in 1968. She is revered in her country for her support of the reforms that were crushed in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. In spite of severe pressure and persecution from Communist authorities, she refused to retract her support for one of the main manifestos of the reform movement.
Vladimír Špidla, the former Social Democrat prime minister EU commissioner and advisor to current prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, has said that Czech influence within the EU would be boosted if the country adopted the single currency euro. In an interview with the business daily, Hospodářské Noviný, Špidla said the Britain’s decision to quit the EU meant a clear increase in influence of those countries using the euro. For the Czech Republic it was vital that upcoming changes, which could happen quickly, should take place within the framework of the whole of the EU and not just Eurozone countries. He added that adopting the euro would boost Prague’s influence and the country’s prosperity. He said it was clear that Eurozone member Slovakia is being pulled away from the Czech Republic.
Karolína Plíšková has moved up to her higher position ever in the WTA rankings after her appearance in the US Open singles final. She is now ranked sixth, an improvement of one place on her previous best seventh place achieved last year in August. Before the US Open, where she was beaten in the final by new number one Angelique Kerber, Plíšková was ranked 11th. Fellow Czech player, Petra Kvitová, has dropped to 16th in the rankings.
The Czech-American pairing of Lucie Šafářová and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the women’s doubles title at the US Open on Sunday. The established partnership turned round the match after losing the first set 2:6. They won the tie-break in the second 7:6 and took the third set 6:4 against Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic of France. It’s the third Grand Slam victory for the pairing after the Australian and French Opens in 2015.