The European Commission has refused to pay around one billion euros into four Czech operational programmes over errors in their administration, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Thursday. The subsidies have been cut for the Transport, Environment, Enterprise and Innovation programmes as well as for the Regional Operational Program South-West. The programmes will have to be subsidized from the state budget and the budget of two regional authorities. Government officials have refused to comment on the matter. The website reported that funding might also be cut for other Czech operational programmes.
Six MPs of the ruling Civic Democrat party, who last week torpedoed the government’s plan to raise the VAT rates, said the rates should be kept on the current level next year. After a meeting with the head of the Civic Democrat deputies’ group, the MPs said the only alternative was to unify the VAT rates into a single rate. Their support will be crucial in a repeat vote on the government’s tax legislation which has been linked to a vote of confidence. Party leaders said they still hoped to find a compromise solution.
The Czech government has appointed Milan Kovanda the new head of military intelligence, the news website respect.cz reported on Thursday. His predecessor, Ondřej Páleník, said he had decided to step down after five years in the post. The new director of the service, Milan Kovanda, joined the army in 1992 and has served in Afghanistan and Kosovo. In 2001, Mr Kovanda became the commander of a special forces unit of the Czech army that was involved in direct military combat in Afghanistan.
The market prices of apartments continued to drop in the second quarter of 2012, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Thursday. The prices of older flats decreased by 5.7 percent while the prices of new apartments in Prague fell by 3.4 percent. Analysts say the continuing decrease in apartment prices is related to the construction of new housing projects.
The 20th season of the Czech hockey extraliga begins on Thursday with a match between last year’s runners-up Kometa Brno and newcomers Chomutov. Commentators see no apparent favourites of the season but expect Sparta Prague, Pardubice and Třinec to play for the title. The top hockey division has slightly changed the relegation system for the new season; two best teams from the second top league, instead of one, will this year play two worst extraliga teams for spots in the top division.
Radek Štepánek will open against Juan Del Potro in the semifinal of the Davis Cup between the Czech Republic and Argetina in Buenos Aires on Friday. In Friday's second singles, Czech number one Tomáš Berdych will play Juan Monaco while on Saturday, the Czech Republic Ivo Minář and Lukáš Rosol will face Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank.
The death toll from methyl alcohol poisoning related to bootleg production has reached sixteen, the Czech news agency and other sources reported. Others remain in hospital in serious condition. Earlier on Wednesday the government set up an emergency task force to respond to the alarming number of cases of methyl alcohol poisoning. The task force, which includes representatives from a number of ministries including health, interior and industry and trade, as well as the police president and customs officials, has already met over the worsening situation, recommending that the sale of spirits be banned at market stalls and food stands.
Police president Martin Červíček has put together a special police team which will investigate methanol poisoning cases which rose dramatically in the Czech Republic over the past days. The wave of methyl alcohol poisoning has already claimed 16 lives and more at least 14 others remain in serious condition. Most of the fatalities have occurred in Silesia and Moravia. The spokeswoman for the police presidium Štěpánka Zatloukalová said the aim was to better coordinate police efforts and results of expert findings, as well as the investigation to find who was responsible for the production and distribution of the bootleg alcohol.
In related news, emergency inspections of 410 restaurants and drinking establishments in nine of the country’s 14 regions throughout Monday and Tuesday, uncovered flaws in 75 cases – the majority related to missing acquisition records. Establishments will have to provide the missing documentation within three days, Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Wednesday. Two cases are being investigated by the police, six cases are being handled by customs officials. In several cases, establishment owners were ordered, in the presence of a hygiene officer, to destroy liquor on site.