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14-08-2014 19:38 | Jan Velinger

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Supreme State Prosecutor not convinced by plan aimed at clamping down on reckless drivers and repeat offenders

The country’s supreme state prosecutor, Pavel Zeman, has made clear he does not think that the more broadly applied confiscation of vehicles from drivers caught behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs would offer long-term solutions. On Thursday, he voiced approval instead for stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, including jail sentences and mandatory rehab for substance abuse. The supreme state prosecutor was reacting to a plan floated earlier this week by the interior and justice ministers to try and clamp down on reckless drivers. Both would like see courts order the confiscation of vehicles more often than is currently the case, as punishment as well as a deterrent. Mr Zeman expressed skepticism over the idea, suggesting solutions needed to vary from case-to-case, and would not be effective across the board.

Value of public contracts grows by 43 percent in H1

The value of public contracts in the Czech Republic between January and June 2014 year-on-year increased by 43 percent to 191 billion crowns the Czech News Agency reported Thursday – citing analysis by CEEC Research. According to the news agency, three major contracts by CEPRO – active in the transportation, distribution and storage of oil products – had the largest impact on growth, valued at 88.4 billion alone. The number of public contracts in the January-June period was listed at 5,960. The amount of new public tenders, meanwhile, was 4,330 – a rise of 20 percent. Public contracts have reportedly increased most in the construction sector, which saw growth after five years.

Czech police issued hollow-point ammunition

Czech police officers have been issued hollow-point bullets, the news website idnes.cz reported on Thursday. This type of ammunition was previously used only by an emergency response team but has been issued to all police officers; a spokeswoman for the national police command said that while more devastating for the target, hollow-point ammunition was safer as it is remains inside the target and does not put others at risk. It is also more effective in shooting tires in pursuits of vehicles, according to the police.

PM shrugs off president’s criticism of compromise on civil service bill

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has shrugged off criticism by President Miloš Zeman over a compromise reached with part of the opposition on a civil service bill. The president slammed the government for dropping the idea of a new bureau, including a so-called super bureaucrat to head it, to oversee the state administration, suggesting the bill would not be effective. The prime minister said that while the president had the right to his own opinion, he was not about to scupper a proposal which had backing from some 150 MPs in the Chamber of Deputies. The new civil service law, which should reduce corruption and depoliticize the state administration, is regarded as long overdue.

Czech economy stagnated in Q2

The Czech economy stagnated in the second quarter of this year compared to the previous quarter, according to figures by the Czech Statistics Office released on Thursday. Compared to the same period last year, the economy recorded a 2.6 percent growth. Most analysts expected a 0.3 growth in the second quarter but the statistics office said a drop in tobacco excise tax was behind the stagnation, with people massively stocking up on cigarettes and other tobacco products before the end of last year.

New legislation to speed up infrastructure projects

The president on Wednesday signed a bill aiming to speed up transport, water and energy infrastructure projects under which the state will be able to increase the estimated price of agricultural and forest land for road and motorway construction up to sixteen-fold. The bill should able the state to more quickly reach deals with landowners by being able to compensate them more generously for their property. In the past, the Czech Republic saw the building of new infrastructure halted for years as landowners held out for better deals – a case in point being the halting of the D11 highway to Hradec Králové.

Owners who decide to sell agricultural land stand to receive 535 crowns per square metre as a bonus on top of the price set by specialists. Now they get double the estimated price, between eight and 35 crowns per square metre of agricultural land. The amendment to the law on agriculture, including the law on the State Agricultural Intervention Fund, corresponds with changes to the Common Agricultural Policy and also modifies land use and registration, Mr Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovčáček said.

Conservatives, extremists, plan to hold protest on day of Prague Pride parade

Conservatives but also members of extremist groups are reportedly planning to turn up on Saturday at Prague’s Wenceslas Square to actively demonstrate against the Prague Pride Festival which celebrates GLBT culture. No such demonstration, however, has been given approval by the city, according to the Czech News Agency. Prague Pride wraps up on Saturday with a parade from the centre of the city to Prague’s Letná Park. It is estimated that up to 20,000 people could take part. Several hundred police will monitor the route of the parade to try and prevent any incidents. Conservatives groups have consistently slammed the festival since it began four years ago, alleging it went against ‘family values’ and that participants were‘deviants’.

Civic Democrats take up new headquarters in city centre

The opposition Civic Democrats have rented andbegun moving to a new party headquarters in the Prague city centre, from its previous office at Pankrác plain. The 700 square metre space, complete with a downstairs reception area, and work areas for some 20 head office employees, will cost the party almost 200,000 crowns per month. The lease signed is for a three-year period, but the head of the right-wing party, Petr Fiala, made clear he hoped the site would be home to the Civic Democrats for longer. The party rented its former headquarters at Pankrác for five years. The new office will come into regular use in September.

Pet Shop Boys play Prague

The British duo Pet Shop Boys performed to a crowd of 2,000 at Prague’s multi-purpose Forum Karlin on Wednesday as part of their Electric World Tour as well as this year’s Prague Pride Festival – celebrating LGBT culture. The duo performed well-known hits dating back to the 1980s and 1990s as well as material of off their latest album, titled Electric. The opening band was Cartonnage. The Pet Shop Boys have performed in the Czech capital on numerous occasions; they first played Prague in 1991.

Czech chefs win prestigious culinary competition

Two Czech chefs, Jan Davídek and Antonín Bradáč, have won the international competition known as the Thailand Culinary Challenge. The duo, who went by the team name of Czech Chefs and were the only European representatives to compete, beat other elite teams from countries including China, South Korea, the USA, and Malaysia. The top prize was 10 thousand US dollars. The competition took place over two days, with the chefs preparing national cuisine on the first day, and Thai cuisine on the second.

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