News Negotiator says government could tax monies paid to churches under restitution law

25-03-2014 18:44 | Ian Willoughby

The Social Democrats’ chief negotiator on the issue of church restitution, Alena Gajdůšková, says if a team made up of her party and coalition partners ANO cannot reach agreement with faith groups on changes to the law then taxes could be levied on financial settlements being received by the churches. She made the comments ahead of talks on Tuesday evening with church representatives. The Social Democrats were strongly opposed to a law passed by a previous, right-wing government returning church property and compensation in lieu of assets that cannot be returned. Ms. Gajdůšková also said the state would push for right of refusal on property handed over.

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Czech Railways pays off loan for Pendolino trains

26-11-2014 15:33 | Jan Velinger

Czech Railways has paid off a massive loan for seven high-speed Pendolino trains it ordered back in 1996. The firm sent a final instalment of more than 110 million euros to a consortium of banks headed by ČSOB on Tuesday. The news was confirmed by Czech Railways’ spokesman Petr Stáhlavský. The Pendolino project is broadly-considered one of the least successful investments by Czech Railways: a single seat on the trains cost the company 1.9 million crowns, compared to Railjet, which cost roughly half, the Czech News Agency reported. 

Czech energy regulator: 2015 electricity prices to drop but gas costs to rise slightly

26-11-2014 14:55 | Jan Velinger

Electricity prices in the Czech Republic are set to drop slightly in 2015 while gas prices are expected to rise - the Energy Regulatory Authority has said. The authority announced it had succeeded in being able to cut regulated costs for electricity by an average 2.1% next year for the biggest consumers and predicts that wholesale electricity prices will fall by 5% over 2015. ERU chairwoman Alena Vitaskova said the costs of supporting renewable energy are expected to be cut by two billion crowns. Among the major changes next year are increased support for new capacity for electricity production from burning biomass with other fuels and cogeneration of heat and electricity. 

Dangerous convict escapes from hospital

26-11-2014 12:11 | Jan Velinger

Police are searching for convicted criminal Jan Novak who escaped from a hospital in Krč in Prague on Tuesday. The 44-year-old convict, who was due for release in 2017, was serving a sentence for a robbery. He is considered highly aggressive; although he was unarmed at the time of his escape, the police warn he is likely to obtain a weapon easily. Members of the public should under no circumstances try and apprehend the suspect themselves. Police conducting a search at the site of the hospital employed the use of sniffer dogs for tracking purposes. 

Czech and Tajik presidents discuss trade possibilities, threat of Islamic terrorism

26-11-2014 12:00 | Jan Velinger

Czech President Miloš Zeman has met with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon, discussing trade opportunities, according to the Avesta news agency, as well as international issues including Islamic terrorism. Trade between the Czech Republic and Tajikistan is negligible; the presidents are launching a business seminar with the representation of 70 Czech firms. Cooperation in industry, energy, agriculture and other sectors are on the agenda, say sources. 

Independent: benched Čech had better stats than Courtois so far

26-11-2014 11:43 | Jan Velinger

According to The Independent, star football goalkeeper Petr Čech, who lost top spot with Chelsea this season to Belgian phenom Thibault Courtois, was better last season than the new No.1 has been so far. Analysing numbers compiled, the daily found that Čech edged Courtois in almost every category, including goals conceded per game. Courtois, 22, however, is ten years younger and is considered well part of the club’s future. In recent days there has been speculation that Čech could move to another Premier League team, possibly Arsenal or Liverpool. AC Milan, from Serie A, has also been mentioned. Other sources say that the keeper will stay until the summer, not opting to try for the earliest trade window in January. The player has less than 18 months left on his contract with Chelsea. He did not play in the Champions League on Tuesday – a 5-0 drubbing of Schalke. 

Former close associate Šlouf launches attack on Zeman in new book

26-11-2014 09:18 | Ian Willoughby

A former close associate of President Miloš Zeman has launched an attack on the head of state in a new book. Miroslav Šlouf worked with Mr. Zeman while he was leader of the Social Democrats and is regarded as having masterminded his presidential campaign. In Jak se dobývá Hrad (How to Conquer the Castle), he says that Mr. Zeman’s behaviour is increasingly determined by three negative traits: unpredictable mood swings, dogged obstinacy and practically non-existent social intelligence. The president broke off contact with Mr. Šlouf after his election in January least year. 

Composer and singer Petr Hapka dies at 70

26-11-2014 09:05 | Ian Willoughby

The popular Czech composer and singer Petr Hapka has died at the age of 70. Hapka co-wrote a series of hits with lyricist Michal Horáček and other collaborators for artists such as Hana Hegerová, Karel Gott, Lucie Bilá, Michal Kocáb and Jana Kirschner. His own distinctive voice appeared on solo recordings and duets, while he also composed music for a great number of films, TV series and theatre productions. 

Zaorálek says Czech Republic should not tell Ukraine what direction to take, contradicting Zeman

25-11-2014 18:01 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech Republic should not tell Ukraine what kind of future to choose, the former’s minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday, hours after Czech President Milos Zeman said Ukraine should remain neutral and not join NATO. Speaking after a meeting in Prague with his Lithuanian counterpart, Linas Linkevičius, Mr. Zaorálek said Ukraine should itself decide in a sovereign manner on its future direction. 

Minister: CR failed to draw on CZK 12 billion in EU subsidies last year

25-11-2014 16:17 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech Republic failed to use some CZK 12 billion in available European Union subsidies in 2013, the minister of regional development, Karla Šlechtová, said on Tuesday. The figure is higher than an estimate made in the summer. Minister Šlechtová said her ministry expected the volume of EU funds not accessed this year to be up to CZK 30 billion, adding that a more accurate estimate would not be available until January. 

Ministry wants investigation of alleged defamation against Kiev embassy

25-11-2014 14:23 | Ian Willoughby

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to ask the state attorney’s office to look into alleged defamation against the Czech Embassy in Ukraine’s Kiev. An internal ministry investigation found there was no truth in letters sent to the director of the Foreign Department of the Office of the President stating that employees at the embassy had pressured ethnic Czechs in Ukraine not to speak about their wish to move to the Czech Republic. Věra Doušová, who organised the repatriation of a wave of Volhynia Czechs in the early 1990s, said publicly that a number of ethnic Czechs in Ukraine had made such an accusation and handed a list of their names to President Miloš Zeman; he has expressed support for their wish to move to the Czech Republic. 

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