News Press: Sobotka oversaw undervalued sell-off of mining firm while finance minister
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka oversaw the sell-off of mining firm OKD for a suspiciously low price in 2004 when he was finance minister, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The company was sold for CZK 4.1 billion when it was actually worth more than twice as much, the newspaper said. Mr. Sobotka had the value of OKD verified by a law firm that also represented the buyer, MfD said, quoting a police file. The current prime minister had previously worked at the law firm, which is headed by his friend. When the European Commission questioned the selling price, the Finance Ministry sent a letter to Brussels asserting that it had been in order – despite having received assessments putting the value of OKD at CZK 10.3 billion. Mr. Sobotka says the letter was signed by a deputy.
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Deputy chairwoman of the upper house of parliament, the Senate, Miluše Horská, has said she is optimistic that funds will be found to buy up and close a pig farm at the site of camp where Roma were interned and died from 1942. The comments came during an annual commemorative event near the site of the Lety camp where hundreds of Roma perished due to disease and ill treatment. The closure of the pig farm has been a subject of debate for years. Last year Minister of Culture Daniel Herman promised that the question would be resolved. The director of the Lidice memorial, who also has responsible for the Lety memorial, pointed out Monday that the issue is not just a question of money to buy out the farm, estimated at sever hundred million crowns, but also the demand of the owner for a new site and suitable for the farm to be found nearby.
The state budget surplus in the first seven months of the year climbed to 25.7 billion crowns from 22.6 billion a month earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday. The figure is a record for July since the creation of the Czech Republic in 1993. At the same time last year, the state surplus stood at 4.5 billion. Two main factors contributing to the level of the recent surplus are around 50 billion extra in incoming EU funds and around 12 billion in extra social contributions.
The German Association for Exilees the (BdV) on Monday welcomed Czech and other commemorations in Central Europe of the expulsion of German communities at the end of WWII and recognition of the fact that this was often accompanies by violence. The association made the statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Potsdam Conference at the end of WWII. The association recalled that the Allied powers agreed at the Potsdam Conference in late July and August 1945 to the expulsion of German populations from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland but stressed that it should be done in an orderly and humane fashion. The conference did not legitimize the violence that had started even before the conference began, the association said in a press statement. The statement specifically mentioned massacres of Germans at Ústí nad Labem, the death march from Brno to the Austrian border, and attacks on Germans at Žatec and Lanškroun. A commemorative service was held at Ústí on Friday. Earlier this year the city council at Brno apologised for the death march and expulsion of former German citizens.
The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the VIZE 97 foundation linked to former president Václav Havel have come to an agreement on use of the iconic president-playwright’s name. The agreement on Monday follows controversy after the foundation indirectly sought a payment of around 30,000 crowns from the ministry after the Israeli city of Haifa named a square after Václav Havel. In future, embassies will inform the ministry of such projects abroad and approval will then be sought from the chairwoman of the foundation Dagmar Havlová. Many foreign cities and institutions have sought to honour Havel by naming benches or places after him. The foundation said it was not warned about Haifa’s intentions. The ministry protested that it was just a go between in the affair.
A techno party which attracted around 4,000 people instead of the expected few hundred came to an end at a former camp for immigrants at Červený Újejd around noon on Monday. Those living near the event over the weekend complained of the load noise and disorder. Police did not make any arrests. The local council near Teplice in northern Bohemia is now seeking ways of banning future events. Many of the ravers came from Germany and further afield to the event held on private land.
Around 62 percent of Czechs are happy with their lives with 15 percent discontented according to a survey by the CVVM polling agency. The rest described themselves as neutral. The proportion of contented fell by three percentage points compared with June last year when a similar survey was conducted. The Czech Republic counts as the most contented post-Communist country in Central and Eastern Europe, according to United Nations figures. On the world level it is placed 31st and ahead of Spain and Italy. The proportion of contented Czech dipped during the economic crisis in 2011 and 2012.
The Czech Foreigners Police detained 197 illegal immigrants between Friday and Monday morning, the Ministry of Interior has announced. The daily average has now risen to 42 illegal immigrants, foreigners’ police spokeswoman Kateřina Rendlová told the ČTK news agency. Since checks were increased in mid-June, the total of illegal immigrants detained in the Czech Republic stands at 996. The ministry is discussing the provision of extra capacity for illegal immigrants. The number of those detained is expected to reach 3,500 by the end of this year and could double in 2016.
Industrial confidence in the Czech Republic firmed in July from June according to the latest survey of producers by the Markit financial services company. The monthly index climbed to 57.5 points in July from 56.9 in June. Manufacturing industry is growing at the fastest pace since April 2011, the company said in a commentary. New orders are at their highest level since May 2014, production has hit a peak for the last year but prices of raw materials are under control, the assessment added.
Convicted former judge Ondřej Havlín acquitted politician Karel Březina in exchange for the promise of a diplomatic post or money, the judge who handed Mr. Havlín a jail term, Petr Sedlařík, told the weekly Respekt. Mr. Sedlařík said recordings indicated that Mr. Březina and Mr. Havlín had reached a deal prior to the former’s trial in connection with his activities on the supervisory boards of two companies. Mr. Březina, who became a government minister in his late 20s, had stood to go to jail for two years if found guilty. Last week Mr. Havlín received a six and a half year sentence for influencing cases in favour of perpetrators, most of them drunk drivers.
Last month was the hottest July seen in the Czech Republic for nine years. Temperatures in July were 3 degrees Celsius higher than the long-term average, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute said on its website. Rainfall was at just 40 percent of the average level for the month, making July the fourth month in a row in the Czech Republic with below-average precipitation.