The gross margin that the Omnipol arms company gained for mediating the purchase of CASA transport military planes for the Defence Ministry has reached 85 million crowns now, director Michal Hon said Tuesday, dismissing media reports of hundreds of millions in profits. He also dismissed a report by the firm American Appraisal which said the Czech state lost 658 million crowns in the deal. The police want parliament to release MP Vlasta Parkanova for prosecution over the allegedly disadvantageous contract, which was signed by her deputy when she was defence minister in 2009.
The Czech National Bank reports that the banking sector is resilient, according to the results of stress tests. The central bank’s report says that stability should not be jeopardised even in the event of a very unfavourable development, in which case however some institutions would suffer losses that might require billions in capital injections from shareholders. The results of the tests are similar to those made in the past. The bank also tested the insurance and pension funds sectors and found that the latter remains highly vulnerable to large fluctuations in the prices of its securities.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint from imprisoned MP David Rath regarding his prosecution. The former health minister and governor of Central Bohemia, who was arrested in May after receiving seven million crowns, protested against a number of aspects of his case, including his house search and detention. The court found no encroachment into the MP’s constitutional rights and said he was not qualified to complain as he had not exhausted other legal avenues.
Polls indicate that the opposition Social Democratic Party continues to suffer popularity losses due to the scandal around David Rath. One of the party’s most vocal national politicians, Dr Rath resigned his party membership shortly after being arrested last month, but has since indicated that the money he was caught and arrested with may have been part of a party financing scheme. The STEM polling agency suggests that Social Democrat preference has tumbled to less than 22% from 23.3% in May and 37% in late April. The Communist party also lost slightly while TOP 09 improved its chances by nearly two points - all of which entails that the left would not have a constitutional majority in Parliament if elections were held today.
The Vaclav Havel Library has published an extended selection of speeches given by the Czechoslovak and Czech president Havel entitled “Evropa jako úkol” (Europe As Task). The volume was presented at the conference Federalism and Europe held by the library on Tuesday. Library director Martin Palouš said it is was clear that some of Havel’s speeches still apply to today, while the messages of others are limited to the time of writing. Havel supported a gradual and deeper federalisation of Europe, a possibility currently being debated at present as a response to the present crisis.
Czechs are mostly happy with the state of the natural environment in the country, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The survey suggested that three fifths of Czechs are satisfied with the environment nationally, and three out of four give a positive assessment of the environment where they live. Residents of the more industrial regions of Moravia-Silesia, Ústí nad Labem and Prague were more likely to be dissatisfied – in north Moravia usually due to water quality and in Prague due to traffic and noise. The regions rated highest were Olomouc and Vysočina.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the press on Monday that he would be keeping his fingers crossed for the new Prime Minister of Greece, who he said would not have an easy job to do. Responding to the results of repeated early elections in the indebted country, Mr Schwarzenberg told the Czech Press Agency that he should rather offer his condolences. The chairman of the winning conservative party, New Democracy, met with the Greek president on Monday and agreed that a governing coalition must be established as soon as possible.
President Václav Klaus received controversial British MEP Nigel Farage at Prague Castle on Monday. The noted eurosceptic and head of the UK Independence Party was invited to Prague by the conservative association D.O.S.T., which allies itself with President Klaus on many issues. Speaking after their meeting, Mr Farage praised Klaus as the sole European head of state who takes a deeply eurosceptic stance. He said their discussion centred on their concerns that Europe uses every crisis as a pretext to take away another piece of democracy from its members.
Anti-corruption police are working with the Supreme Audit Office to investigate the sale of real estate by Czech Railways, according to the daily Hospodářské noviny. The paper writes that the state-owned rail company sold a palace estate in Prague City Centre to the Nymburk company Apuro for 200 million crowns, whereupon it was resold as separate buildings to Charles University for twice that amount though Apuro reportedly invested nothing in it. Meanwhile, most of the money for the purchase, or 372 million crowns, was donated by the Ministry of Education. Apura declared bankruptcy a year after the transaction. Czech Railways insists it did not sell the buildings for too little, while Charles University says it did not pay too much, both citing property assessments.
The number of Czech citizens in foreign prisons nearly doubled last year, the Foreign Ministry has reported. Releasing their figures at the start of the main tourist season on Monday, the ministry stated that there were more than 1000 citizens either serving sentences or in police custody abroad at the end of 2011, over 400 more than the year before. The real numbers are likely higher, as the ministry´s data is based on information received from Czech diplomatic missions. According to those sources, the cities with the largest number of Czech prisoners were London with 141, Munich with 134 and Madrid with 105.