News One killed, four injured in Ostrava motorcycle race
Sunday’s motorcycle race in Ostrava ended in tragedy after several drivers were caught up in a dangerous pileup on a closed track. The accident happened shortly after the race had started. One driver was killed and four others were injured, one of them seriously. The cause of the accident is not yet clear.
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The Czech Republic’s candidate for European commissioner, Věra Jourová, is set to stand down from her current post as minister for regional development on Friday. A spokesperson for President Miloš Zeman said he had already accepted her resignation. Ms. Jourová, who represents the ANO party, is set to take the justice, consumers and gender equality portfolio on the European Commission and will face the traditional “grilling” by MEPs on Wednesday. ANO have not yet announced her replacement in cabinet.
The state attorney’s office has filed charges of planning murder against a doctor serving a 12-year jail term for the rape and blackmail of his assistants. The state attorney says Dr. Jaroslav Barták, who is 56, planned three killings while he was in custody in Liberec towards the end of last year. If found guilty of the latest charges, he could face another 15 to 20 years behind bars. The newspaper Právo reported that Dr. Barták was planning to murder former military intelligence chief Andor Šándor, lawyer Oldřich Choděra and Orthodox priest Eugen Freimann.
The heads of hospitals who have been fined hundreds of millions of crowns for alleged improper use of EU funds between 2008 and 20013 have protested against what they call manipulated, selective audits by the Finance Ministry. Many of the hospitals are refusing to pay the fines on the grounds that previous audits failed to uncover any irregularities. The Finance Ministry, which ordered the audits, says they are merely fulfilling EU directives. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček says the collective accusations of hospital heads are serious and has asked Finance Minister Andrej Babiš to look into the matter.
Christian Democratic Party leader Pavel Bělobrádek is to join the ranks of ministers in the country’s National Security Council, the Office of the Government announced on Wednesday. The inclusion of Mr. Bělobrádek comes at the instigation of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on the grounds that the leaders of all three coalition parties should rightly be represented in the council. The National Security Council, which is currently made up of ten government ministers, coordinates steps in the event of a natural disaster or state of emergency. Presently the party is represented in the council by Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka.
The Czech government is seeking to speed up economic growth and create new jobs in 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at Monday’s meeting of the Association of Industry and Transport in Brno. He said the government was in the process of finalizing an action plan to support these goals which involved expanding the infrastructure and constructing new flats and schools. The prime minister likewise emphasized the role of economic diplomacy in boosting the growth of the export-oriented Czech economy. This year’s economic growth is expected to reach 2.6 percent, by far exceeding the most optimistic forecasts.
Czech nominee for EC commissioner moves to dispel concerns regarding a possible conflict of interests
The Czech Republic’s nominee for EU commissioner Věra Jourová who was assigned the portfolio of justice, consumer policy and gender equality has moved to dispel concerns regarding a possible conflict of interests in the post. In response to written questions from MEPs Ms. Jourová stressed her dedication to independent decision-making and said she would not be influenced by any government or individual in working for the best interests of EU citizens. Doubts have been voiced in connection with Ms. Jourová’s current close working relationship with the Czech finance minister and influential Czech businessman Andrej Babiš. Ms. Jourová faces the traditional grilling before the respective EC commission on Wednesday.
Azerbaijani civil society activist Anar Mammadli is the winner of the 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Mammadli, has actively defended the right to free elections and is the founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre in Azerbaijan. He was arrested in December 2013 on charges of tax evasion and illegal business and in the spring of this year was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison. Mammadli’s father, who is to accept the prize in his name, said the honour would give his son and other political prisoners in the country even greater moral strength to pursue their convictions. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.
Czechs consume on average 130 kilograms of paper a year, which is just under the EU average, according to figures released by company Activa. In the past 25 years the amount of paper used in the country has tripled. The biggest consumers are public institutions, where every third document printed out is shredded or recycled within a matter of hours. One reason for this is that reading a text printed on paper is still considered more effective than reading a text from a computer screen, Activa says. The company sells 7,500 tons of paper a year, which amounts to 1.5 trillion sheets.
The Czech health authorities have launched a campaign to spread awareness about heart disease and stroke prevention, the number one killers in the Czech Republic. The awareness campaign held on World Heart Day, September 29, includes massive press coverage and information regarding prevention and tents set up in the big cities where passers-by are invited to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked for free.
The regional court in Zlín is hearing the case of seven suspects implicated in the bootleg methanol scandal that killed close to 40 people in 2012-2013 and left dozens more with severe health problems. Three of the seven suspects of the so-called Ostrava branch of the bootleg mafia could face life sentences. So far ten people have been convicted in the case, with two men who mixed the spirits, containing lethal amounts of methanol, getting life sentences. The others got between ten and twenty years for putting the public health at risk. Many of those who suffered methanol poisoning either went blind or have since developed serious health problems.