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26-03-2014 18:02 | Jan Richter

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to visit Prague next week

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon will visit Prague next week, the news agency ČTK reported. The UN leader will meet President Miloš Zeman and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek during his brief trip scheduled for April 4. Ban Ki-Moon will also visit the lower house of the Czech Parliament and Prague’s Charles University.

ANO party gains momentum, suggests new poll

The ANO party came first in a new survey of voters’ preferences by the STEM agency. ANO would now receive 28.9 percent of the vote and win 72 seats in the 200-member lower house, the highest support ANO achieved in any poll. In October’s general election, the party came second with 18.7 percent. Second in the poll came the strongest party in the house, the Social Democrats, which would win 20.5 percent, the same result it had in last year’s election. The Communists would get 13.3 percent, followed by the TOP 09, Civic Democrat, Christian Democrat and Dawn parties.

MPs back proposal to establish private babysitting groups

The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday backed a proposal to establish non-profit babysitting groups as a way of addressing an acute lack of places in kindergartens. The bill was approved in a first reading, and sent to house committees for further debate. The minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová Tominová told MPs these groups, with a maximum of 24 children, would not be generating profit, and could only charge parents fees to cover their expenses. The ministry believes around 1,100 such groups could be set up by 2015, allowing tens of thousands of parents to work. That would mean between 380 and 570 billion crowns in taxes and other revenues for the state budget.

Amazon still hopeful about planned Brno location

The US online retailer Amazon still believes it will be able to build a large distribution centre in a location outside Brno, the developer CTP Invest, which works with the firm, said in a press release on Wednesday. The company remains hopeful despite the fact that the plans have been rejected by Brno City Hall over zoning issues. The developer said it hoped Brno municipal assembly would next month vote to change the zoning limits, allowing for the plan to go ahead. The firm also said it was not considering an alternative location, offered by the South Moravian Region. Amazon is planning to invest some 2.7 billion crowns in Brno, creating around 1,500 jobs. Another Amazon distribution centre is to be built in Dobrovíz outside Prague.

MPs elect members of Czech TV council

The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday elected six new members of Czech TV council, a supervisory body of the public service broadcaster Czech TV. Among those elected are former Communist MP Ivana Levá, former rector of Prague’s University of Economics Richard Hindls, philosopher Michal Hauser, and others; they replace six former council members who mandates have expired. MPs also elected two new members of the council of Czech Radio; another member will be elected later on Wednesday, the head of the lower house’s election committee Martin Kolovratník said.

South Bohemian governor Zimola to quit as MP

The governor of the South Bohemia region, Social Democrat Jiří Zimola, said he would quit as member of the lower house by the end of the month. Mr Zimola told a news conference on Wednesday that as governor, he could do more for his region. Jiří Zimola is one of four Social Democrat officials who are both MPs and regional governors, and are also opponents of party leader, PM Bohuslav Sobotka. After their failed attempt to oust Mr Sobotka last year, they were given until the end of April to decide whether they quit as MPs or governors. It’s not clear what the remaining three officials will choose.

Church-government commission on changes to restitution legislation dissolved

An expert commission to discuss possible changes to a church restitution law made up of representatives of coalition parties the Social Democrats and ANO and faith groups has ceased to exist. Church representatives suggested the dissolution of the commission after three months, the Social Democrats’ chief negotiator on church restitution, Alena Gajdůšková, said after its final meeting on Tuesday night. She said the churches were unwilling to accept a reduction in financial settlements or alterations linked to inflation. The faith groups have called on the government to hold discussions on a new model of cooperation between both sides. The Social Democrats are pushing to roll back elements of legislation passed by a previous, right-wing government returning and paying compensation for church property seized by the Communists.

Apartments’ buying prices slightly up after four-year decline

The buying prices of apartments rose by 0.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of last year, for the first time in four years, the Czech Statistics Office said on Wednesday. The increase was driven by apartment sales in Prague where their purchasing prices rose by 3 percent while prices in other Czech regions stagnated, the statistics office’s chief analyst, Drahomíra Dubská, told a news conference. Apartments’ asking prices also increased in the second half of last year, according to Ms Dubská.

Prague’s Václav Havel Airport to offer direct flights to 119 destinations

Prague’s Václav Havel airport will in the summer season offer direct flights to 119 destinations, eight more than last year, the airport said in a press release on Wednesday. Montreal, Toronto, Belgrade and are among the new destinations; meanwhile, direct flights to Abu Dhabi, Stuttgart and Odessa will no longer be available. In the first two months of this year, the number of passengers at Václav Havel Airport increased by over 4 percent; management expects a slight increase in passenger numbers in the rest of the year as well.

Figure skater Verner fourth after short program at world championships in Japan

Czech figure skater Tomáš Verner ranks fourth after the men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Japan. The 27-year-old made no errors in his performance and received 89.08 points, his new personal best. Verner, who was planning to retire after the Sochi Olympics where he finished 11th, said he was happy to postpone his retirement until after the championships. Another Czech skater at the world championships, Michal Březina, is ranked 23rd. The free-skate event is scheduled for Friday.

Berdych into last eight at Miami Masters

Tomáš Berdych has reached the quarter-finals of tennis’s Miami Masters. The Czech men’s number one and world number seven beat John Isner of the US 6-3 7-5 in 90 minutes on Tuesday without once having his serve broken. The win sets up a meeting with Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine for a place in the last four. The leading Czech women’s player, Petra Kvitová, is out of the competition after a fourth-round defeat to Maria Sharapova of Russia.

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