News Ambulances will have to drive patients to nearest hospital

17-04-2014 18:17 | Jan Velinger

Emergency ambulances will, in several weeks, be required in all cases in Prague to drive patients to the nearest hospital. The country’s health ministry will issue the order after reaching agreement with emergency services after a woman suffering poisoning last year was transported for over an hour after being refused by seven facilities. All three teaching hospitals in Prague as well as number of other hospitals including Na Bulovce and Motol, fall under the ministry. The ministry is urging other Prague hospitals and facilities in central Bohemia to reach a similar agreement. In several weeks, a new electronic system monitoring available beds will also be launched, also covering emergency or urgent cases.

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Former Prague mayor in EU drug agency bid

26-07-2014 11:07 | Jan Richter

Former Prague mayor Pavel Bém would like to head the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, according to a report by the daily Lidové Noviny. Mr Bém has reportedly passed the first selection round and is now one of five candidates for the job, with another four selection rounds to be held in the coming months. Pavel Bém served as Prague mayor between 2002 and 2010. He was involved in several controversial projects including the overpriced construction of a tunnel complex in the capital and a transit pass system for the city’s public transport. A physician by education, he was one of the Czech Republic’s leading experts on drugs before taking over Prague City Hall. 

Press: Police tapped two journalists’ phones in army corruption case

26-07-2014 09:39 | Jan Richter

The Czech police tapped the phones of two journalists as part of their investigation of the 2009 purchase of the Austrian-made Pandur armoured vehicles for the Czech military, the daily Právo reported on Saturday. The investigators tapped the phones of reporters for the newspapers Právo and Mladá fronta Dnes in 2011 in an effort to determine the origin of leaked documents in the case, the daily said. The police, which acted with the consent of the court, also tapped the phones of several top police officers and prosecutors, according to the report. The Czech army in 2009 bought 107 Pandur APCs for 14.4 billion crowns. Marek Dalík, a former aide to then prime minister Mirek Topolánek, faces criminal charges over allegedly demanding a bribe from the producer of the vehicles. 

Deputy expresses interest in top ministerial post

25-07-2014 16:55 | Jan Velinger

The deputy minister for regional affairs, Klára Dostalová, confirmed on Friday her interest in the post of minister for regional development following the departure of Věra Jourová to the European Commission. Ms Jourová has backed the deputy for the job but Dostálová otherwise had not been contacted. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who reviewed the Ministry for Regional Development on Friday, said it was up to coalition partners in ANO to propose a nominee. 

Finance minister calls steps taken by MPs in lower house "an embarrassment"

25-07-2014 16:09 | Jan Velinger

The head of the ANO movement, Andrej Babiš, vented disgust in the media on Friday over the recent behavior of some in the lower house, saying he would prefer to resign as an MP if he had a capable successor. The finance minister was reacting to the handling of a fuel tax reduction bill for farmers on Wednesday, which was modified by a fellow coalition MP and former minister for industry and trade to be across the board. The bill, which initially passed but was subjected to a new vote on Friday following a complaint, would have thrown a spanner in government plans. The opposition Civic Democrats say they will petition the Constitutional Court over the matter. 

New football season begins with Sparta vs Bohemians

25-07-2014 15:56 | Jan Velinger

This Friday sees tthe start of the new football season, with Sparta facing Bohemians 1905. There will be two matches on Saturday in the top flight. Saturday will see Příbram face off against Plzeň while Jablonec will face Slavia. Last season, Příbram long had to stave off possible relegation before improving to a solid overall 34 points. Plzeň finished second behind season champions Sparta. 

Customs officers detain foreign national for ivory smuggling

25-07-2014 15:47 | Jan Velinger

Customs officers detained a foreign national at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport earlier this week, who had tried to smuggle 24 kilos of ivory on the Prague – Seoul route. The information was released on Friday by the spokeswoman for the Czech Environment Inspection office. The ivory, tusks from the protected African elephant, had been sawed down to size: fifteen pieces which had been wrapped individually and hidden in two pieces of luggage. It is the third time this year that an ivory smuggler at Václav Havel Airport has been caught. 

Political parties with fewer female candidates could lose out

25-07-2014 15:33 | Jan Velinger

Political parties fielding fewer female candidates in communal and regional elections this autumn could receive less money from the state per mandate gained, according to a draft amendment to the election law, the daily Právo reports. According to the newspaper, 30 percent of women candidates could be the minimal requirement to avoid the consequences of the provision initiated by Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier of the Social Democrats. Právo writes that government coalition partners, ANO as well as the centre-right opposition parties and the Communists, are not in favour of the legislation which the Interior Ministry has now sent to ministries and other institutions for feedback. A Czech NGO backing equal representation for women in politics, by contrast, has strongly welcomed the initiative, saying the number of women in politics in the Czech Republic has long been low. 

ČEZ says monopoly office charge unfounded

25-07-2014 15:16 | Jan Velinger

The power utility ČEZ has been asked to issue a stance on an accusation by Bulgaria’s antimonopoly office charging the company abused its dominant position on the local market, the company’s spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová told the Czech News Agency. She stressed that there was no new accusation but that it was related to an inquiry from last March. The spokewoman repeated that ČEZ rejected it as unfounded. Besides ČEZ, Bulgaria's anti-monopoly office on Friday also accused Czech energy company Energo-Pro and Austrian firm EVN of abuse of their dominant position on the market. The companies have been accused of making it difficult for corporate clients to switch electricity supplier or buy electricity on the free market. 

Komárek to step down as head of anti-corruption unit

25-07-2014 14:10 | Jan Velinger

Milan Komárek will step down as the head of the country’s anti-corruption and financial crime unit on July 31st, his superior, Police President Tomáš Tuhý, told reporters Friday. Komárek took over as head of the unit last June and oversaw the founding of team Kobra, targeting tax crimes. Before, he had worked as a regional deputy chief of police in Central Bohemia. Police President Tuhý said he respected Komárek’s contribution and made clear the unit head was stepping down for personal reasons. The job will be filled in the interim by deputy head Jaroslav Vild. A successor should be found by the autumn. 

Fuel tax bill voted down in lower house

25-07-2014 13:57 | Jan Velinger

The Chamber of Deputies on Friday voted anew on a bill aimed at lowering the excise duty on fuel. This time MPs voted down the proposal, which first passed in the lower house on Wednesday - to the surprise of the ruling coalition. One of its members had inserted changes into the bill that lowered the tax on petrol and diesel across the board rather than just for farmers, which would have negatively impacted the state budget. After another coalition MP on Wednesday, however, challenged the result, arguing his vote had been incorrectly recorded by the electronic system, a new vote was scheduled. The centre-right opposition, which had threatened to petition the Constitutional Court if a new vote was held, walked out of the chamber. 

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