News UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to visit Prague next week

26-03-2014 14:43 | Jan Richter

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon will visit Prague next week, the news agency ČTK reported. The UN leader will meet President Miloš Zeman and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek during his brief trip scheduled for April 4. Ban Ki-Moon will also visit the lower house of the Czech Parliament and Prague’s Charles University.

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President signs state budget for next year into law

18-12-2014 14:21 | Ruth Fraňková

President Miloš Zeman on Thursday signed next year’s state budget into law. The budget projects a deficit of 100 billion crowns, or around three percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Compared to this year’s budget, the revenues are set to increase by 20 billion while expenditures should rise by 8 billion. The budget was backed by 105 MPs of the governing coalition and one opposition MP from the Dawn party. The opposition has criticized the budget over lower funds allocated for investment; these are set to reach 75 billion crowns next year, some 25 billion less than in 2014. 

Czech firm wins tender to grow medical cannabis

18-12-2014 12:40 | Ruth Fraňková

A Czech company has won a public tender for growing medical cannabis, the State Institute for Drug Control, announced on Thursday. Sixteen Czech firms have placed their bids for a license to grow and sell cannabis to pharmacies. The name of the winner has not been disclosed yet to due to administrative procedures. The law on medical marihuana opening way for patients suffering from cancer and neurological diseases to use the drug under medical supervision came into force in February last year. Czech pharmacies started to sell the drug, which is now legally imported from the Netherlands, in mid-November. 

Czechs mark third anniversary of Václav Havel’s death

18-12-2014 12:39 | Ruth Fraňková

Czechs are marking the third anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, the country’s first post-communist president. Cardinal Dominik Duka will celebrate a mass in his memory at Prague Crossroads centre on Thursday afternoon and the Václav Havel library will be hosting a staging of Havel’s play Protest. People around the country are also joining the “short trousers for Václav Havel” initiative, rolling their pants up to remember Václav Havel’s first inauguration to the presidency, when he wore visibly short trousers. 

Czech woman sues Norway’s social services for having taken her sons

18-12-2014 08:49 | Jan Richter

A Czech woman has filed a lawsuit with a court in Norway appealing a decision of the country’s social services to take away her two sons and place them in foster care, the paper Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The lawsuit is a prerequisite for Czech diplomats to put pressure on Norwegian authorities in the case, the daily said. Norway’s social services took the sons away from their Czech parents in 2011 over alleged sexual abuse. The police later dropped the case but the authorities placed the children in foster care. The case has recently come into the spotlight in the Czech Republic where a number of officials including President Miloš Zeman vowed to help get the children back to their mother. 

Man who set himself on fire in central Prague dies of his wounds

18-12-2014 08:40 updated | Ian Willoughby

A man who set himself on fire in central Prague on Tuesday night has died of his injuries, a spokesman for the Vinohrady hospital in the capital said. The man, who was 56, doused himself in a flammable liquid and set himself alight at the top of Wenceslas Square shortly before midnight. Passers-by attempted to put out the flames with jackets before a fire extinguisher was found. He was taken to hospital with severe burns where he died on Wednesday night. A spokesperson for the police said the man had been on day-release from a Prague 8 mental hospital but had not returned in the evening. 

Prague court delivers stricter verdict in Opencard case

17-12-2014 16:45 | Jan Richter

A court of appeals in Prague on Wednesday sentenced the former head of Prague City Hall’s IT department, Ivan Seyček, to 3.5 years in prison over his role in the controversial Opencard project. Mr Seyček, had been found guilty of manipulating the selections procedure for a smart card in favour of the firm Haguess, despite the fact the company failed the meet the city hall’s requirements. In February, a lower court handed Mr Seyček a conditional sentence. The court of appeals confirmed a conditional sentence for another former city hall official. Some 1.2 million people in Prague use Opencard as a public transport pass; the massively overpriced project has cost the city around 1.35 billion crowns. 

Czech public debt to decrease this year, finance minister says

17-12-2014 15:53 | Jan Richter

The Czech Republic’s public debt should this year reach 1.663 trillion crowns, some 20 billion less than in the previous year, Finance Minister Andre Babiš said. If Mr Babiš’s estimate proves correct, the public debt would decrease for the first time since 1995. Mr Babiš spoke to reporters after meeting President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday. Mr Zeman had established a personal fund to decrease the public debt; the two officials destroyed a four-million state bond as the fund’s latest contribution towards the debt. 

Press: EU warns Czech government over civil service act

17-12-2014 15:31 | Jan Richter

The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen has warned the Czech government that if it fails to address shortcoming related to the country’s recently approved civil service act, EU funding for Czech operational programme in the period 2014 – 2020 will be put on hold, the news website lidovky.cz reported on Wednesday. In a letter to the Czech ministers of interior, regional development and labour and social affairs, the commissioner said that the areas of public officials’ salaries and the transparency of their selection procedures still needed to be adjusted. The civil service act was approved in October; however, President Miloš Zeman filed a complaint over the legislation with the Constitutional Court. 

Central bank keeps rates unchanged, continues exchange rate interventions

17-12-2014 14:22 | Jan Richter

The Czech National Bank on Wednesday announced it would keep its interest rates unchanged at 0.05 percent, and would continue intervening against the Czech crown to keep the exchange rate at around 27 crowns per euro. Last month, the bank said it would continue intervening at foreign exchange markets until 2016, primarily to curb the risk of deflation. The bank’s key two-week repo rate has been kept at the historic low since November 2012. An analyst for the Home Credit loans provider quoted by the news agency ČTK said he was not surprised by the move, and suggested that foreign exchange interventions could possibly end in a year’s time. 

Czech Republic to provide communist-era secret police documents to Slovakia

17-12-2014 13:56 | Jan Richter

The Czech Republic will provide communist-era secret police documents related to Slovak citizens to Slovakia, according to an agreement between the Czech Republic’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Security Forces Archive and Slovakia’s Nation’s Memory Institute, signed in the Slovak capital on Wednesday. The digitalized documents will initially only be available for researchers of the Slovak institute, its chair, Ondrej Krajňák, told reporters. The volume of documents to be transferred has not been determined, according to Czech officials who said it would depend on requests from their Slovak colleagues. 

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