The Justice Ministry has drafted a bill that will oblige some subcontractors hired by successful bidders in public tenders to provide information regarding ownership, the financial daily Hospodářské noviny reports. According to the paper, senior government officials have not been overly in favour of extending transparency requirements to the level of subcontractors, but in some cases the information is likely to be mandatory. Deputy Justice Minister Filip Melzer was quoted by the paper as saying that firms with a certain share of given tenders would be obliged to provide more specific details. The government has not yet decided on the cut-off or level for eligibility. Firms with anonymous share-holders, meanwhile, would reportedly have several months for owners to be registered. The lower house is likely to begin debating the bill in February.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas praised members of the military’s special forces on Friday who returned from the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2011. During their six-month mission the troops took part in 150 combat operations in the Afghan Nangarhar province, the Czech government disclosed on its website. The Czech government decided to deploy a special forces unit within the ISAF mission in October 2010. The parliament then agreed to two six-month rotations of up to 100 soldiers. Apart from combat operations, Czech troops set up a special unit of the Afghan national police, helped provide security for locals and create the conditions for handing responsibility for the security situation over to the Afghan authorities, the prime minister said. Some 600 Czech soldiers participate in the ISAF mission. A Provincial Reconstruction Team operates in the Logar province and Czech troops train Afghan forces in the Vardak province. Further soldiers are deployed at Kabul airport.
A total of 707 people died in traffic accidents in the Czech Republic in 2011, which was the lowest death toll on Czech roads since 1990. The overall number of road accidents last year - and of people injured in them – was the second lowest, police representatives said. In 2010, 46 more people were died in traffic accidents. Two-car collisions made up the majority – 38 percent – of accidents, followed by crashes into fixed obstacles (24 percent). Collisions between vehicles made up 40 percent of fatalities, while crashes into fixed obstacles resulted in 25 percent of all road deaths. The most tragic day on Czech roads last year was February 9 when nine people died on them. The highest number of road accidents (466) occurred on December 21. Overall in 2011 the police investigated a little over 75,000 traffic accidents in which 3,092 people suffered serious injuries. The total damage in monetary worth was estimated at over 4.6 billion crowns.
Renaming Prague’s Ruzyně airport after the late ex-president Václav Havel would cost between 10 and 15 million crowns, the Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said. In an interview for Hospodářské noviny the finance minister stressed that if the majority of state representatives as well as the public agreed with the renaming of the airport, he the government, as the airport’s majority stakeholder, would back the move. Film producer Fero Fenič is the author of the initiative to rename the capital’s international airport after Mr Havel. Some 80,000 people have signed the petition. The government has postponed a decision on the matter until spring and has announced that the move is pending consent by Mr Havel’s family.
A crash between a bus and five automobiles on the D1 highway near Prague ground traffic to a halt – leading to a seven kilometre traffic jam that only began to ease up in the late afternoon. The crash took place around three-thirty pm and left one person seriously injured and two with lighter injuries. All were in cars – none of the 61 people on the bus were hurt. Police are investigating the cause of the accident, so far attributing it to worsening weather conditions including snowfall. A replacement bus arrived at the scene to take passengers on to Prague.
In related news, a new cold front has complicated the situation on Czech roads and railways, with new snowfall, strong winds and ice in places. Transport trucks faced difficulties in snowdrifts in the Krušné Mountains on Friday while the regions of Plzeň and Vysočina registered worsening conditions – namely icy patches – on roads. A small landslide blocked part of a train route near Turnov and during Thursday evening lightening reportedly knocked out power on a chairlift at Ještěd.
Hockey forward Milan Michálek will be the lone Czech player to take part in the NHL’s upcoming All-Star Game: he was nominated to the first six All-Star roster by fans; no other Czechs, not even Jaromír Jágr, made the cut. Michalek plays for the Ottawa Senators; the prestigious match-up is to take place in the Canadian capital on January 28.
Opening matches have been drawn for the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, the Australian Open. Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová, the world’s no.2 player, will face Vera Dusevinova of Russia in the first round, while her recent partner at the Hopman Cup, Tomáš Berdych, the world no. 7 in the men’s rankings, will face Spaniard Albert Ramos. Other Czechs playing at the Australian Open include Lucie Šafařová, who will face American Christina McHale and Radek Štepánek who will face Nicolas Mahut of France.
The Czech Foreign Minister, and head of the coalition TOP 09 party, has threatened that ministers for his party will leave the government if it does not join the EU’s planned fiscal union. Mr Schwarzenberg told the daily Lidové noviny on Thursday he would not be part of a cabinet that leads the Czech Republic outside the main stream of European integration. The country cannot afford to be isolated, Mr Schwarzenberg added. For his part, President Václav Klaus wrote a letter to PM Petr Nečas making it clear he would not under any condition sign such a fiscal treaty into law.
In related news, the Foreign Ministry on Thursday distanced itself from the report printed in the daily Lidové noviny. In a statement, the ministry writes that Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is not in favor of an unconditional Czech entry into the planned EU fiscal pact. According to the ministry, Mr. Schwarzenberg does not support a fiscal union that would strip the Czech Republic of a sovereign state budget policy. However, the draft currently being debated in Brussels is much more advantageous for the Czech Republic than a previous one. Whether the Czechs will join the union depends on the final draft, he said.