Daily news summary Daily news summary
Britain declassifies KGB files relevant to Prague Spring events
The British authorities have declassified part of a large collection of KGB files smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin, the AP news agency reported on Monday. The so-called “Mitrokhin archive” is considered to be the biggest and most significant collection of documents relating to the work of the KGB and its agents. Among others, the files list undercover agents sent to Czechoslovakia to infiltrate the dissidents behind the 1968 Prague Spring pro-democracy movement. The declassified files can be viewed at Cambridge University.
Energy Regulatory Office slams draft amendment to energy law
The head of the Energy Regulatory Office Alena Vitásková has criticized the government-proposed amendment to the energy law. At a press briefing in Prague on Monday Ms. Vitásková said that the law should guarantee fair and equal rights to all players on the energy scene, noting that in its present form the draft law would create a privileged space for monopoly producers and distributers and disadvantage consumers. The Industry and Trade Ministry which drafted the amendment has not so far responded to the criticism.
Czech-Vietnamese cooperation in cracking down on drug related crime
A group of Vietnamese police officers and lawyers are due to arrive in the Czech Republic later this month to help the Czech authorities deal with the Vietnamese community’s growing involvement in drug-related crime. The officers will serve as undercover agents and try to infiltrate Vietnamese drug gangs which are involved in growing marihuana and trafficking the home-made drug crystal methamphetamine not only in the Czech Republic but to neighbouring Germany. Following Czech-German talks on cracking down on cross border crime last month, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec on Monday met with his Vietnamese counterpart in Prague to consider effective means of addressing the problem.
Government expresses serious interest in acquiring OKD coal mining company
If the mining company New World Resources were to put the Ostrava black coal mining company OKD on sale the government would seriously consider acquiring it, Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mládek told Czech public television on Monday. He said the government would like to see OKD, which employs around 14,000 people, kept in operation for another 10 years. New World Resources said last week it was preparing for the possible sale of its unprofitable daughter companies, including OKD. OKD runs four mines in the Czech Republic, including the Paskov mine in North Moravia, which it plans to close in three years’ time.
Jiří Dienstbier seeks to ease European concerns over civil service law
Minister for human rights, equal rights and legislation Jiří Dienstbier is due in Brussels Monday to try and win European Commission support for Czech proposals on a new civil service law. The Commission has said that billions of crowns in EU funding depends on whether the Czech Republic implements an acceptable framework for an independent and professional civil service. It is the last country in the EU to have put such a framework in place. The government has put its proposal to parliament with most of the provisions set to take effect from 2016. However, the Commission is said to be concerned that some of the measures will not be in force until a year later in 2017. Amongst others, Dienstbier is due to meet Social Affairs Laslo Andor with an overall agreement on how to use social and investment funds up till 2020 one of the issues.
Constitutional Court to deliberate vaccination controversy
The Constitutional Court is to review two laws which ban children who have not been vaccinated against serious vaccine-preventable diseases from attending pre-school facilities. The law on public health stipulates that in order to protect others these institutions can only enrol children who have the shots recommended by the national immunization schedule. The court is to deliberate the matter on the grounds of a complaint from parents who feel that this is discriminatory. An increasing number of parents are refusing to get their children vaccinated on the basis of studies which suggest this could put them at risk.
Film production turnover surges in 2014, advertising shoots down
Film production turnover in the Czech Republic rose last year by more than 20 percent from just over 4 billion crowns to over 5 billion, according to the Audiovisual Producers’ Association. The association highlighted an 82 percent jump to just over 2.8 billion in the production companies turnover related to foreign film shoots. One of the reasons for the surge in business was the increase in 2013 in the budget for incentives for foreign film productions from 300 million to 500 million crowns. The government has decided to boost the budget for next year to 800 million crowns. The association also pointed out the shrinking budget spent by advertisers with one of the problems higher fees on the main Czech commercial television channels.
Money being squandered in public procurement
The Supreme Audit Office has found huge discrepancies in operation costs at various public institutions, the ctk news agency reports. For instance the differences in cost in procuring office equipment or vehicle maintenance were huge and some institutions paid ten times more than others for employee education programmes. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has repeatedly criticized what he calls squandering of public funds at ministries and public institutions and the government is planning to introduce central purchasing as a way of saving money and bringing greater transparency to the process of public procurement.
Slovak president to visit Czech Republic
Slovak President Andrej Kiska is due to arrive in Prague on Tuesday for a two-day visit. He is to be received with military honours at Prague Castle by President Miloš Zeman and later meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Senate chairman Milan Stěch. The Czech Republic and Slovakia spent 73 years in a common state and the two countries enjoy above-standard bilateral relations.
Police searching for hoax caller targeting central bank
Police are searching for a hoax caller whose threats have closed the central bank’s Ostrava headquarters three times in as many weeks. The latest incident happened place on Monday morning when the building was evacuated in the wake of an anonymous bomb threat. The police are investigating the case as scaremongering under which the culprit could get up to five years in prison.