The Czech Trade and Industry Ministry has dismissed fears of a shortage of crude oil following reports that the Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft only has sufficient volume in the Druzhba pipeline to supply the Czech Republic for three more days. According to the Reuters news agency Russian oil companies failed to submit new requests for deliveries to Czech customers. A Transneft spokesman said the company was not limiting supplies to anyone, but that requests for oil had not been processed. Vaclav Bartuska, a special government envoy for energy security told Reuters the Czech side had not been informed about any supply reductions, but noted that the country could replace the missing volumes through the IKL pipeline bringing oil from the Mediterranean. Moreover he said the Czech Republic has reserves of oil and oil products for more than 90 days.
Astronomers from the Kleť Observatory in South Bohemia have named an asteroid they discovered after one of Václav Havel’s theatrical characters, Ferdinand Vaněk. The roughly two-kilometre long object was discovered in 2004 in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The team originally wanted to name it after the former president, however the International Astronomical Union does not allow bodies to be named after politicians until 100 years after their death. The popular character from Havel’s play “The Audience” was therefore chosen. Ferdinand Vaněk also made a notable public appearance in the 1980s when a birthday message was sneaked onto a page of the Communist newspaper Rudé Právo alongside a picture of dissident Václav Havel.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic fell 0.3% to 8.9% in March from the preceding month. Analysists contacted by the Czech Press Agency put the drop down to early seasonal work allowed by the good weather, but said the situation on the labour market overall remains poor and agreed that no significant improvement on the labour market could be expected at the time being due to the uncertain outlook for further development. The number of vacancies reportedly rose to 39,000, which is still roughly three quarters lower than in March 2008.
A school headmaster in Libouchec in Northern Bohemia has been given a two year suspended sentence for having sex with a 14-year-old former student. He was also prohibited from working with children for four years. The headmaster had reportedly known the girl since her early childhood, when she attended a dance class taught by himself and his wife, who filed the suit. The teacher testified that the acts were consensual and that he and the girl were in love.
The leaders of the three ruling parties will meet on Tuesday for talks on the future of the centre-right government, after a crisis precipitated by the junior Public Affairs party brought it to the brink of collapse. The smallest party in government has demanded far-reaching concessions from its coalition partners, including a revision of the government’s policy programme and a reduction of the number of ministries as an alternate cost-cutting measure. The prime minister’s Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have indicated that while they are prepared to make some concessions the government’s main fiscal policy goal – a gradual reduction of the deficit in public finances – is not negotiable. A break-down of the talks on Tuesday would open the way for early elections. Czech TV reported over the weekend that both the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have been preparing for such a possibility.
A flash poll conducted by the internet daily lidovky.cz indicates that the vast majority of Czechs want early elections. Over 70 percent of respondents opted in favour of early elections, just over 20 percent said they wanted the three ruling parties to patch up their differences and less than 8 percent said they would prefer a minority government of the two senior parties –the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. An opinion poll conducted by Factum Invenio late last week shows that left wing parties have been gathering strength in recent months. If elections were held today, the opposition Social Democrats would win 26.9 percent of the votes, and the Communists would get 14.9 percent. If the main opposition party chose to enter into a coalition with the Communists they would have a comfortable 111 vote majority in the lower house.
The Ombudsman has criticized what he calls “fast-track” extraditions of foreigners at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport. Pavel Varvarovsky says that his office has looked into several complaints and found that in many cases foreigners do not get a proper interpreter and are not fully informed about their rights before being extradited from the country. The Ombudsman says that some are not given a chance to contact their lawyer and NGOs advising foreigners do not have access to the offices where these cases are dealt with. He has urged the authorities to put matters right, saying that extraditions where foreigners’ rights are violated are illegal.
The Office of the Senate has said the proposed slash of funds for the operation and maintenance of the upper chamber in 2013 is excessive and wants to try to negotiate what it calls a more realistic figure. Senate Chancellor Jiri Uklein told the CTK news agency on Monday that under the finance ministry’s proposal for next year the Senate would be short of approximately half the money annually needed for maintenance and operational costs. This year the Senate received just over 525 million crowns from state coffers, the plan for next year is that it should get just over 447 million. The chancellor says the institution needs another 64 million to meet its basic needs.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the man arrested at the airport of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Friday night for drug possession is a Czech citizen. The man’s nationality was unclear after the Himalayan Times described him as a Czechoslovak citizen. He was reportedly smuggling some 3.5 kilos of marijuana hidden in a secret compartment in his luggage to Prague. According to The Himalayan Times, police are investigating the source of the drug and searching for possible ties to international drug cartels.
A frosty Easter Monday broke temperature records in many parts of the country. Monitoring stations recorded a record night low of minus 22 degrees Celsius in Jizerka in the north of the country, with temperatures in the Sumava mountains in southern Bohemia and in the Moravian Highlands also dropping to minus 20 degrees. A monitoring station in the town of Opava recorded minus 8,2 degrees Celsius, the lowest measured on that day since 1888. Decades-old records were broken in many parts of the country, with snow reported in the lower altitudes.