Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the Czech Republic is looking for a quick decision on who should be the new president of the European Commission. Mr. Sobotka said he would like to see agreement reached at a meeting in Brussels at the end of next week. He added that Prague is ready to back the centre-right candidate for the job, former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker. Junker was the outright favorite to occupy the post following last month’s European Parliament elections. But support for him has been slipping with some European leaders, such as the British prime minister, outspokenly opposed to Junker.
The Czech army is prepared to offer its forces for NATO missions in Afghanistan and Mali and in the Sinai peninsula next year and in 2016, according to the Ministry of Defense. Czech aircraft will also be offered to protect NATO airspace in 2016, probably in the Baltic States and over Iceland. A final proposal on the foreign missions should be prepared with in the next couple of weeks in order for the lower house of parliament to vote on it. The current Czech presence in Afghanistan totals 300 with the likelihood that it could be cut slightly but not increased, according to Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický. Thirty-eight Czechs are serving in Mali and 14 on the international observer mission in the Sinai.
In related news, defense minister Stropnický says that a special anti-corruption team will be created which will be directly answerable to him. The minister said the three-member team was being created because of the many dubious contracts signed in recent years. He added that a series of significant tenders, such as for information technology will probably be staged again because of suspicions about them. The new team should be up and running from the start of July.
Part of the Czech tax law is at odds with European rules according to a decision issued Thursday by the European Court. The court said that Czech law wrongly forced companies employing workers hired through foreign based jobs agencies to pay taxes locally. If, however, the agency had a local branch in the Czech Republic then the agency itself paid the tax. The court said the rules amounted to a discrimination against foreign based agencies whose services were made less attractive to local firms and amounted to a certain limitation on the free movement of services.
Czech Airlines plunged to a loss of just over 920 million crowns last year on turnover of 13.3 billion crowns. That’s the worst full year result for the airline since 2009. Sales of assets had in previous years help to cushion the impact of operating losses from the core airline business. The airline is currently facing a downturn in demand on flights to Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Korean Airlines has a 44 percent stake in Czech Airlines with domestic carrier Travel Service waiting to be cleared to take a 34 percent stake.
The Czech Constitutional Court called on Thursday for an almost 40 year case to be reopened. The case concerns a woman who was mistakenly prescribed drugs in 1975 which sparked a reaction which almost killed her and left her with permanent disabilities. The most serious reaction was Lyells syndrome, a condition which causes skin to detach from the rest of the body. The woman was originally awarded half a million crowns with later court decisions confirming that award on the grounds that the case had been closed with that compensation award. The latest decision paves the way for her to receive a much more significant settlement.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Thursday opened an honorary consulate in the east Ukraine city of Dnepropetrovsk. The move was forced by the closure of the consulate around 200 kilometres to the east in Donetsk because of fighting between government and separatist forces. Minister Zaorálek said the opening was a signal that the Czech government was not quitting the region and that business could return and invest. He said Dnepropetrovsk with its one million inhabitants is the third biggest city in Ukraine and perhaps an even more important industrial centre than Donetsk.
A 54-year-old man convicted of distributing methanol-laced liquor has accepted a 15-year prison term, his attorney told the news agency ČTK on Thursday. The man was found guilty of serving as the main distributor of the deadly mix that killed around 50 people in the Czech Republic over the past two years. He was sentenced along with nine other people in May; another two men, convicted of consciously adding the deadly methanol into bootleg liquor, landed life sentences.
The police are investigating the death of a 32-year-old pregnant woman in Orlová in northern Czech Republic, a police spokesman said. The police assume the woman arrived at a private diabetes ward at the local hospital on Wednesday morning for a routine test; however, she was given a disinfectant instead of glucose. The doctors realized the mistake a few hours later and asked the police for assistance but the woman was found dead in her home. The person responsible for the tragic mistake faces up to six years in prison, the police spokesman said.
In tennis, Petra Kvitová has been forced to withdraw from her quarter final match against British opponent Heather Watson at Eastbourne. The Czech number one women player cited muscle problems. The Eastbourne tournament is a tradition warm up for Wimbledon, which starts next Monday. Former Wimbledon winner Kvitová’s injury will raise doubts whether she will be able to compete in the Grand Slam event.