The police have accused 27 people, including 25 former and current mayors of municipalities in the northern Ústí region, for having taken out government grants to repair damages that never occurred, a spokesman for the anti-corruption unit of the police said on Friday. The mayors applied for grants to the Ministry of Regional Development in 2009 and 2010 to reconstruct public property damaged by torrential rain and other natural causes. The police however discovered that no such damaged occurred. The former and current mayors are accused of embezzling some 125 million crowns, and face up to 12 years in prison.
A new, 2013 motorway toll sticker comes into use on Friday. The sticker can be purchased at post offices and gas stations. The price of the annual coupon remains 1,500 crowns, or some 80 US dollars. Coupons are also available for the period of ten days and one month. Drivers without a valid sticker can be fined up to 5,000 crowns.
The authorities on Friday raised the level of flood alert on the Labe River in the northern town Děčín after several roads and a square near the river were flooded. Meteorologists expect that water levels on the Labe in Děčín will continue to rise on Friday night. A flood alert has also been declared for most parts of Bohemia following a spell of warm weather which melted snow and swelled rivers in recent days.
The unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2012 reached 7.2 percent, which was 0.7 percent more than in the same period in the previous year, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Friday. The authorities registered some 380,000 jobless people in the last three months of 2012, which was 44,000 more year-on-year. The number of those unemployed for over a year rose as well, and they now account to over 42 percent of the total number of jobless people. Analysts say the fresh data confirm a negative trend of rising unemployment. Although companies are not laying off workers en masse, those who are made redundant are having trouble finding work.
The Venus of Věstonice, a ceramic figurine believed to be 29,000 years old and considered one of the oldest artefacts of its kind in the world, will be featured at an exhibition at the British Museum in London. The Moravian Museum in Brno has lent the Venus of Věstonice, along with 24 other artefacts, to the British Museum for the exhibit entitled Ice Age Art: Arrival of Modern Mind which starts on February 7 and will last until the end of May, a spokeswoman for the Moravian Museum said. The figurine, discovered in Dolní Věstonice in 1925, is rarely exhibited abroad.
The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Afghan province of Logar is leaving the country after five years. Of the 300-strong reconstruction team, around 100 workers will stay behind for another six months to supervise the transfer of equipment from the base in Logar to the Czech Republic. In place of the reconstruction mission, the Czech Republic will send military consultants to assist the Afghan army with the training of troops. During its mission in Afghanistan, the Czech reconstruction team has completed over 140 projects including the construction of schools, hospitals, and waterways.
The Czech Supreme Administrative Court has received nine complaints over the recent direct presidential election, the news agency ČTK reported on Friday. The agency said one of the petitions came from an activist who complains about the decision by the Interior Ministry to disqualify two aspirants – Vladimír Dlouhý and Tomio Okamura – from the race; another complaint is reportedly related to the choice of members of election committees overseeing the voting. A Czech anti-corruption group said they would also file a complaint because of an alleged breach of the voting law which they believe took place when a supporter of Miloš Zeman ran a full-page advertisement against the other candidate in the running, Karel Schwarzenberg, on the first day of voting in the second round. People can file complaints against the election until February 5; the court will than have 15 days to review them.
Defending Davis Cup champions the Czech Republic are tied 1:1 against Switzerland after Friday's singles matches of the competition’s first round in Geneva. Tomáš Rosol lost 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to Stanislas Wawrinka in the first singles match; Czech number one Tomáš Berdych then defeated Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. On Saturday, the Czech pair Ivo Minář, Jiří Veselý are set to face the Swiss Marco Chiudinelli, Stanislas Wawrinka.
The Interior Ministry has allocated a security detail to protect the family of president-elect Miloš Zeman, a spokesman for the ministry said on Friday. Mr Zeman asked for the protection of his family after he was elected Czech president on Saturday. His 18-year-old daughter, Kateřina, participated in his campaign; Mr Zeman even suggested she play the role of the “first miss” as his wife wished to stay out of the public arena. The security detail will be reinforced after Mr Zeman’s inauguration on March 8.
The Czech state budget in January ended in a surplus of 42.4 billion crowns, the highest surplus since 2000, the Finance Ministry said on Friday. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the figure did not take into account a hike in the VAT rates which came into effect on January 1, raising the dual VAT rates by one percent. The target deficit for the entire 2013 was set at 100 billion crowns; last year, the deficit reached 101 billion, or around 3 percent of the GDP.
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