The Supreme Court has cancelled a 100-day prison sentence that a former
bus driver was handed for defacing public property. The man will be
released from prison effective immediately. However, a decision on the case
is still pending.
Roman Smetana, a former public transport worker from Olomouc, had added feelers to politicians’ heads on campaign posters and refused to pay a fine for doing so. In early May, Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil filed a complaint in the man’s favor and appealed to the court to cancel its verdict. He said that it is up to the court to decide whether the defacing of political campaign posters, of which Mr Smetana was found guilty, was a criminal offense or merely a misdemeanor.
The Czech weekly Ekonom writes that Central Bohemia, which has the country’s highest debt, may face bankruptcy. According to official figures from the Finance Ministry, the region’s debt amounts to some 3.7 billion Czech crowns. However, the actual debt is more than double that figure, the weekly writes, citing former MP Karel Machovec. Mr Machovec has said that the region is facing bankruptcy. Central Bohemia became the focus of intense media attention when its governor was caught with some 7 million crowns in cash on his person. He has been charged with corruption and mismanagement of EU-funds.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Thursday met with the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to discuss the country’s problems in securing EU funds. Speaking after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the Czech PM said that problems with securing EU funds could have serious consequences for the country’s public finances and further increase the state budget deficit. In the past, auditors from Brussels slammed the Czech Republic for irregularities in EU-funded projects and threatened to suspend funds.
Prague City Hall officials on Thursday evicted all persons on the premises of a strip club near Prague’s Wenceslas Square and closed the venue down. In recent weeks, the club had become the focus of media attention because it introduced display windows with semi-nude dancers. Town hall officials have said that it is not clear whether the owner has permission to use the building as a strip club. The owner had been asked to present such documentation in mid-May.
The percentage of Czechs who are proud of their nationality has decreased sharply in recent months, a fresh survey by the STEM agency suggests. Last year in March, some 76 percent said that they felt proud of being Czech, while only some 60 percent responded they felt this way in this year’s poll. The result marks the lowest level of national pride in the country since the late 1990s. According to the STEM agency, those who are proud of their nationality are also satisfied with the political status quo. Among those dissatisfied with corruption and the political situation in general, feelings of national pride are on the decline.
According to a fresh survey by the consulting company Deloitte, Prague is the most expensive city in Central Europe when it comes to prices of newly built real estate. Currently, the average square meter rate for new apartments is at some 2500 Euro, which is comparable prices in Berlin. Prague is one of the few cities where new real estate costs more than twice as much as new properties in the rest of the country. Among the twelve European cities compared in the survey, Paris was the most expensive, with some 8000 Euro per square meter. The cheapest properties were found in Budapest, where buyers are looking at 940 Euro per square meter.
A 19-year-old girl who fell into the Vltava river and was severely injured by an engine propeller on Wednesday died in hospital on Thursday. Police are investigating the case and have been interviewing witnesses. A psychologist was called to the scene to help those who witnessed the gruesome accident. The girl fell into the water near the Barrandov bridge on Wednesday and was brought to Prague’s Motol Hospital for treatment.
A Russian military airplane crashed while making a landing at the Čáslav air force base close to midday on Wednesday. The plane swerved off the landing strip and a fire broke out on board. Of the 23 passengers and crew, 7 are reported to have suffered serious burns and injuries. No deaths have been reported. The plane was carrying 14 Russians and 9 Czechs. There have been reports of landing gear failure.
The government on Wednesday approved a series of austerity measures for 2013 including a one percent hike in VAT to 15 and 21 percent respectively, fewer tax reliefs for entrepreneurs and no tax refunds on bio-fuel for farmers. The measures, which have yet to be approved by Parliament and signed into law by the president, should help bring the gap in public finances to below 3 percent of GDP.
The government’s decision to remove tax rebates on fuel and to introduce a consumption tax on wine was behind a nation-wide farmers’ protest held on Wednesday. Farmers brought out around 2,000 heavy farm vehicles such as tractors and harvesters on 185 roads across the country to deliberately slow traffic. The Association of Czech Farmers, which argues that the move will strip Czech farmers of their competitiveness within the EU, has warned that more protests will take place in the coming weeks and months.