Prague has ranked as Europe’s ninth most attractive capital for tourists, according to a new study by the consultancy firm Roland Berger released on Wednesday. The top three capitals are Paris, Amsterdam and Rome. The head of Roland Berger’s Czech branch, Constantin Kinský, said Prague lacked a clear tourism promotion strategy, and also needed to improve its infrastructure. Mr Kinský also noted that while Prague was rich in historical heritage, it lacked live culture that makes tourists come back.
The Golden Well restaurant in Prague’s Malá Strana has won the annual Grand Restaurant poll, compiled by the respected food critic Pavel Maurer, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Wednesday. Second and third in the new poll came the Alcron and La Rotonde, respectively, both parts of the Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel in Prague. The only Czech restaurant with a Michelin star, Allegro in Prague’s Four Seasons Hotel, was not included in this year’s Grand Restaurant poll as it is temporarily closed for renovation.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade is considering cancelling a long-running health subsidy for miners, the daily Právo reports. The subsidy entails 1,500 to 1,900 crowns in compensation per month paid by the employer to miners who leave their jobs for health reasons and has been in place since 1993. The cancellation of the subsidy would change nothing in the state’s budget but would mean savings of up to 50 million crowns for large coal mining companies. According to documents that the paper says it possesses, the ministry believes the subsidy reflects a time when miners faced worse conditions in their work environments and a greater risk of illness. The miners’ union, which is protesting the move, says that hardly anything has changed in that time and that the idea is needless provocation.
Police in Prague city centre have discovered two small children whose parents had never taken them outdoors, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports. The children – a boy aged three and an 18-month-old girl – were apparently born at home, had never been taken to a doctor and were in good physical but poor psychological condition. The paper says that the parents were trying to protect the children from an “evil world” and had lost interest in them after they were touched by another person. They are now in the care of their grandparents after being taken to a children’s centre. Police will not say whether the parents will be prosecuted.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says that Moldavia will be one of five priority countries for Czech developmental aid next year. Speaking to the press after a meeting with his Moldavian counterpart, Vlad Filat, Mr Nečas said that the small East European country was a priority for the Visegrad Group as a whole, on account of its reform efforts and pro-European stance. He also noted that Moldavia offers opportunities for Czech investment, particularly in the areas of energy and transportation infrastructure. The Czech Press Agency says that Moldavia is to receive 66.5 million crowns in developmental aid from the Czech Republic next year. Prior to the press conference, Czech and Moldavian officials signed bilateral agreements on the return of illegal aliens, cooperation in health care and social security.
The Prague City Council has scrapped a controversial, ten-year tender for waste management. Critics said the order was overpriced. Its value was estimated at 13.2 billion crowns, but the lowest bid was more than three billion higher. The planned tender was sharply criticised by TOP 09, then in opposition in City Hall. The Czech capital will have a budget of 44 billion crowns and will have an additional eight billion for investment. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has said that the city plans to cut all current expenditures by five percent. As of last Thursday, six members from the TOP 09 party have joined the council, replacing the Social Democrat representation from the grand coalition that was dissolved last week.
A district court has freed Barbora Škrlová, who was sentenced to five years for her part in the “Kuřim” child abuse case. The 36-year-old woman was released two and a half years early after a fierce debate in court between the state prosecutor and her lawyer, who says her psychological condition has not improved in prison. The prosecution maintained that Ms Škrlová behaves like a sullen child but is actually a skilled manipulator. Her case began in 2007, when six individuals linked to a small religious sect were charged with violently abusing two children. Škrlová pretended to be one of the children and was taken into childcare from which she escaped. She was later found in Norway after her true identity was revealed. She will remain on probation for five years.
The website Czech Position reports that controversial American lawyer Edward Fagan is filing a lawsuit against the Czech Republic, its finance minister and several other people regarding unpaid bonds issued by the town of Karlovy Vary in 1924. Mr Fagan says the suit, which is to be filed in the US, is based on his having been denied cooperation in verifying whether the state fulfilled its financial liabilities arising from the bonds. He is reportedly also threatening to prevent the state from issuing further bonds. The Finance Ministry rejected Mr Fagan’s 500-million-dollar claim for the bonds, which were sold in the United States. The Czech Finance Ministry says such claims have been barred for years and that Czechoslovak authorities negotiated a memorandum with the bond holders in 1984.
The junior coalition party, Public Affairs, will lodge a criminal complaint against General Health Insurance Company (VZP) board members who promoted a project for electronic health records called IZIP and were simultaneously its shareholders. The party also asked its representatives on the board of the state-run VZP, the country´s biggest health insurer, to propose the dismissal of VZP board chairman and director Pavel Horak. Party chairman Radek John said he will not yet specify who the complaint has been lodged against. Controversies that have accompanied IZIP project for the last decade have intensified in recent weeks, since VZP procured 51% of the company’s shares. The remaining 49% is in the possession of an unknown Swiss company to which the project´s founders transferred their shares earlier this year.
Internet access in households has increased by 77% over the last five years, the Czech Statistical Office reports. The office records 2.5 million connected households in the country (3 out of 5), and 2.7 million households with computers. The large increase may be due to the popularity of wireless connections. More than a fourth of the population over the age of 16, or 2.5 million people, use teh internets for shopping. The most common online activities were reported to be searching for information on goods and services, reading messages and internet calling. About a quarter of the adult population said they actively use social networks.