The Education Ministry may see its EU finding suspended over irregularities in public procurement. Auditors from Brussels have advised suspending all further payments from the Education for Competitiveness Operational Programme until the irregularities are investigated and explained. The ministry can draw up to 53 billion crowns from this source. Ministry officials are reportedly working to resolve the problem in the hope of preventing a freeze on funding. The present administration says it is not to blame for the shortcomings which date back to 2008 and 2009 and has promised to heighten control mechanisms without delay.
Letiště Praha, the company running Prague’s international airport, has registered “Vaclav Havel Prague International Airport” as a protected trademark in a move that could pave the way for a possible renaming of the airport after the late Vaclav Havel. A petition calling for the airport to be renamed after the hero of the Velvet Revolution and the country’s first post-communist president is quickly gaining support among the public. It has been signed by over 60,000 people including Mr. Havel’s widow Dagmar and Mr. Havel’s brother Ivan.
The government has put to Parliament a draft law acknowledging Vaclav Havel’s contribution to freedom and democracy. The simply worded statement is expected to receive support both form the coalition parties and the opposition Social Democrats and should be approved in its first reading. A similar law was issued by the Czechoslovak parliament in 1930, recognising the contribution of President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk to the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia. A commemorative plaque acknowledging Masaryk's contribution can be seen next to the entrance to the Chamber of Deputies.
Investigators have proposed filing charges against two men and one woman for massive tax evasion to the tune of 2.6 billion crowns. The scam involved imported fuels from Slovakia, which was sold on false customs papers. The criminal activities date back to the years 1996-2002 when the Bena company imported more than 200,000 tonnes of diesel oil and petrol from Slovakia to the Czech Republic. The police say the prosecuted persons have stripped the state of 1.9 billion crowns in excise tax and another 750 million crowns in VAT. If charged and convicted the suspects could face up to ten years in jail.
The Czech Republic should not entirely abandon the idea of adopting the euro, although caution is highly advisable, according to the country’s leading economists. Those addressed by the CTK news agency agreed that the euro might benefit the country but only on condition that the euro zone undergoes fundamental fiscal reform and the drive to impose fiscal discipline proves successful. Although experts are divided on the outlooks for the euro zone, there is general agreement that until the situation clears up, it is better for the Czech Republic to keep its own currency. The Czech government has taken a cautious stand with regard to a possible loan to the IMF and has not set a target date for euro adoption.
A Czech skier was seriously injured in the Austrian Alps on Wednesday the APA news agency reports. The forty-five year old man was airlifted to hospital in the town of Innsbruck. He is reported to be in a stable, but serious condition. A twenty-six year-old Czech skier was killed in the Swiss Alps on the same day after straying from the marked trails and falling down a ravine. Czechs have repeatedly come under fire for taking excessive risks on holiday both at home and abroad.
Prague’s garbage disposal services are having problems dealing with overflowing garbage containers around the city. Responding to complaints from citizens a press spokeswoman for Prague’s waste disposal services said the city’s garbage vans were making several rounds a day, but were unable to cope in view of the several-fold increase of garbage over Christmas. The service is bracing for more problems in the wake of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but has promised that things will be back to normal within two to three days.
Over 200 000 Czechs are spending the Christmas holidays in mountain resorts at home and abroad. Tourist agencies report that despite the mild weather and poor skiing conditions most Czech mountain resorts are fully booked for the holiday season. German and Russian tourists make up 30 percent of the holiday makers.
Viktoria Plzeň defender Michal Bystroň reportedly tested positive for doping after his team’s game against Bate Borisov in the Champions League in November. The news agency ČTK reported on Thursday that representatives of the governing body of European football, UEFA, had informed the Czech club of the find, saying that prohibited synthetic stimulants had been found in Bystroň’s sample. Viktoria Plzeň asked for the analysis of the B sample; at the same time, the club complained about the allegedly unusual circumstances of the anti-doping control procedure after the game in Minsk which Plzeň won 1:0. If doping is confirmed, David Bystroň might be out of the game for the rest of the season; however, Viktoria Plzeň would most likely face no repercussions and would be allowed to continue in UEFA’s Europa League in the spring.