On the first day of the Biathlon World Championship the hosting Czechs took the bronze in the mixed relay competition. Veronika Vítková, Gabriela Soukalová, Jaroslav Soukup and Ondřej Moravec made it into the top three on Thursday evening, behind Norway and France. Soukup had to replace Michal Šlesingr in the line-up at the last minute, since Šlesingr is down with the flu. It is still uncertain if he will take part in the 10 km sprint on Saturday in the Moravian town of Nové Město.
President-elect Miloš Zeman is concluding a series of meetings he had this week with leaders of the parties in government and the opposition. On Friday evening he will meet with the chairman of the right-of-centre TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, his rival in last month’s presidential election. Earlier Mr Zeman met with the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, the prime minister and chairman of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, and the heads of the Communist Party, the Social Democrats and Public Affairs. The president-elect has so far refused to meet with members of LIDEM, a splinter group that broke away from Public Affairs, on the grounds it lacked legitimacy.
Stormy debate in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday preceded a vote in favour of naming January 16 a memorial day to Jan Palach, the student who immolated himself on the day in 1969 in protest of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Palach died from his burns three days later, on January 19. On Friday, several members of the Communist Party voiced reservations about Mr Palach’s sacrifice as a symbolic act against totalitarian rule; members of the ruling coalition walked out in protest. Jana Černochová, a deputy for the Civic Democratic Party, called the commemorative day “a sign of respect for [Palach’s] heroic act against the totalitarian regime”. The vote passed with only one MP, Communist hardliner Marta Semelová, voting against, although 11 MPs, including five Communists, abstained. A total of 152 deputies were present. The legislation is now to be debated by the Chamber of Deputies cultural committee.
Police in Zlín have charged eight people suspected of tax evasion amounting to at least 186 million crowns. Six of the eight, who were involved in the sale of perfume and beet root oil, were remanded in custody. The investigation took several months; on Thursday, officers searched 20 homes. If found guilty, the suspects could face between to five to ten years in prison.
The country’s Chief Hygiene Officer, Vladimír Valenta, has said that the flu epidemic that has hit the country in recent weeks is showing signs of abating. This week saw the first drop in the number of overall cases; the number of those suffering acute respiratory illness dropped by 3.4 percent and flu by 4.3 percent, he confirmed. The chief hygiene officer said on that the number of those ill in the epidemic dropped in all regions of the Czech Republic this week, among all age groups. At the same time serious cases remain: 68 out of 350 people died from complications related to the flu or respiratory illness.
After a marathon of all-night talks, EU leaders reached an agreement on the budget for 2014-2020. European Council president Herman van Rompuy announced the result on Twitter, the Czech news agency confirmed. The Czech Republic had threatened to veto the original proposal unless cuts were made. The EU’s cohesion fund policy was also crucial for Czech support, ČTK said: all regions in the country, with the exception of the capital, come in for funding. A total of 960 billion euros is to be divided among the member states – billions less than the original proposal by the EC. The budget must still be approved by the European Parliament; MEPs warned earlier that they were prepared to block an "austerity" budget.
Star football goalie Petr Čech will take to the field with his Chelsea teammates against Wigan on Saturday the team’s coach, Rafael Benitez, confirmed. Originally, the goalkeeper had expressed worries he might be out for several weeks after breaking his little finger last weekend. Čech broke his ‘pinky’ against Newcastle and missed the Czech national squad’s 2:0 win against Turkey this week.
The Culture Ministry has confirmed it will provide additional funds for grant programmes. Its representatives met first with officials from the Finance Ministry to agree on details. The news was revealed by the Culture Ministry’s Jan Vondryska. The ministry took the step to try and increase grants after a scaling down was originally announced but came under fire from cultural organisations and publications.
According to older methodology, unemployment figures reached their highest in January in the history of the independent Czech Republic. Older tabulation methods reveal more than 10 percent of people remained out of work in the first month of 2013. That translates as more than 580,000 people without jobs. Historically, former Czechoslovakia had a higher jobless rate during the 1930s, when some 740,000 people were out of work. Under the new methodology, the rate of unemployment in the Czech Republic rose to eight percent, up by 0.6 percentage points from the previous month. According to analysts, the worsening situation on the job market was expected due to the economic recession and decrease in hiring. At the end of last month there were approximately 33,800 open positions around the country.
The Czech power utility ČEZ is launching international arbitration proceedings against Albania for failing to protect its investment in the country’s energy sector. The company is filing for damages to the tune of 5 billion crowns. ČEZ’s license to operate Albania’s national grid was revoked in January over a long-running dispute with the Albanian energy regulator over tariffs and unpaid bills. Company officials say that decisions made by the Albanian authorities are incompatible with European business standards as well as being in violation of Albanian law.
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