Air pollution is reported to have worsened severely in parts of Moravia and Silesia overnight with the concentration of dust particles in the air far exceeding permitted norms at 13 of 15 monitoring stations. According to data from the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute the concentration of harmful substances in the air is more than double the permitted norm in Ostrava and Karvina where the authorities have advised elderly people and children to stay indoors as much as possible. The situation is being closely monitored by city hall which has the right to call a smog alert and ask industrial plants to scale-down production.
France’s Areva has appealed against ČEZ’s decision to exclude it from a 10 billion dollar tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The state-owned French company addressed all the reasons given for its exclusion and said its offer was the most competitive. ČEZ has 10 days to review Areva’s appeal and publish its decision. In the event of a rejection, Areva would be entitled to file a complaint to the Czech anti-monopoly office, which would have 60 days to review the case. Areva was rejected from the tender for allegedly failing to meet legislative and commercial requirements. Westinghouse Electric Corp. and a Russian-Czech group led by Rosatom Corp.’s unit ZAO Atomstroyexport are still competing for the deal to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelin. ČEZ should choose the winner in mid- 2013 and sign a final contract with the respective company by the year’s end.
An article in Friday’s edition of the daily Právo which claimed that 60 percent of the Roman minority are unemployed by choice and are not looking for work has elicited a stormy debate and given rise to fresh anti-Roma sentiment. The paper published the figure citing the government’s agency for social inclusion as its source. The agency in turn cited the World Bank as its source and noted that the figure only reflected the situation in the worst affected areas around the country where Romanies live in utter social exclusion and have often given up on finding work. Despite the revision, the article has aroused deep public discontent with close to 800 readers taking part in an online debate that was in part vulgar and racist. One reader said he was considering taking the paper to court for inciting anti-Roma sentiment.
The daily Mlada Fronta Dnes has accused Labour and Social Minister Jaromir Drabek of lying to the public when he promised that the newly introduced electronic system for paying out welfare benefits would also be used for pensions. The paper says that an agreement on the so called S-cards between the ministry and the Česká Spořitelna bank clearly states that the cards will serve to pay out pensions as well. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. In the wake of last week’s election defeat the prime minister said the system would have to be revised, but Mlada Fronta Dnes points out this will not be at all easy since it would not only require a change of legislation but moreover the bank would almost certainly take the matter to court.
Skoda’s latest model –a mid-sized sedan Rapid –went on sale in the Czech Republic on Saturday. The roomy, elegant sedan billed as “an affordable car for the whole family” attracted crowds of people to Skoda’s sales outlets for a closer look and a trial run. A Skoda spokesman said several hundred sales orders had been placed. Skoda Auto is expecting to produce 50,000 Rapid models next year.
Voting has begun in the second round of Senate elections. Polling stations are open from 2pm until 10 pm on Friday and from 8 to 2 pm on Saturday. Seats are being contested to a third of the senate, with voting taking place in 27 districts around the country, The Social Democrats are contesting seats in 23 constituencies, the Communists in 12, the Civic Democrats will be contesting 19 seats and the remaining 9 will be contested by smaller parties and independent candidates. No matter how the vote turns out, it is clear that the left-wing parties will defend their majority in the upper house.
The opposition Social Democrats are set to propose a two-year postponement of the country’s pension reform. Chairman of the Social Democrat deputies, Jeroným Tejc, said that the introduction of the controversial second pillar of the pension reform should be decided on after the next parliamentary elections. Although the lower house has already passed the pension reform package, it is yet to vote on overriding the president’ veto of an essential bill, which would allow for the reforms to come into effect as of next year. The Social Democrats have already submitted a similar proposal in the past, but were not successful.
At a meeting of the Confederation of political prisoners on Thursday President Václav Klaus said that those responsible for the growing popularity of the Communist Party should accept the blame. Referring inexplicitly to the parties currently in the ruling coalition, President Klaus said that those who took a beating in last weekend’s regional elections have to learn from their defeat and take corrective measures. The president had commented on the election results previously on Sunday, simply saying that they were “clear, unequivocal and comprehensible“ and that people should draw their own conclusions from them.
Another man that was admitted for methanol poisoning in early October to a hospital in Brno has died on Friday afternoon. The man is the 30th victim of contaminated bootleg liquor since the start of the methanol crisis in early September. The cause of death will be confirmed by an autopsy. A 60-year-old man also died on Friday in a hospital in Opava.
A district court in Zlín ruled on Friday that the head of the liquor
producer Likérka Drak, Pavel Čaniga, will not be remanded in custody
while under investigation. Mr Čaniga has been charged with endangering
public health by distributing harmful products. He was arrested on
Wednesday after 7,600 bottles of Tuzemák rum were found in the warehouse
of Drak’s distributor, containing a lethal 50% methanol content.
Authorities banned the sale of Tuzemák produced by Likérka Drak on
Thursday. The head of the company’s distributor, who is suspected in the
same case as Mr Čaniga, is still at large.
Meanwhile analysis revealed on Friday, that bottles of another Likérka Drak liquor, Original vodka, that were discovered in the Verdana warehouse have 50% methanol content as well.