The Czech and Slovak foreign ministers Karel Schwarzenberg and Miroslav Lajcak, met for talks in Prague on Thursday on the side-lines of a conference marking “Twenty Years of Independent Czech and Slovak Diplomacy“. Twenty years after the break-up of Czechoslovakia the ministers described bilateral relations as “above-standard and problem-free”. The two neighbour states cooperate closely in many areas such as coordinated infrastructure projects. Both are also strong advocates of nuclear power. Every year they hold joint government-sessions focussing on bilateral relations, trade and common goals.
The Czech Senate is holding a public hearing on the controversial amnesty declared by President Vaclav Klaus at the start of this year. The hearing is attended by the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and the debate centers on whether the amnesty, which concerns several cases of high-profile economic crime, may not be in violation of the constitution. There have also been proposals that the constitution should be amended to curb the president’s powers in this respect. President Klaus, who continues to defend the amnesty, refused to attend the hearing.
Three armed robbers held up a security van transporting a large amount of cash in Přemyslovice west of Olomouc, early on Thursday. They blocked its way in an isolated spot near a forest and after threatening the guards with machine guns, they made off with 30 million crowns. Police have closed off a large part of the area and intensified checks of vehicles around the country. No one was reported hurt in the hold-up.
A court in Nový Jičín has declared bankruptcy proceedings against the heavily indebted Tatra truck company. According to the CTK news agency the company is to be sold at a bankruptcy auction in mid-March. Its price has reportedly been set at 300 million crowns. Tatra was established in 1850 for the production of carriages. In 1897 the company produced its first car named the President.
Government officials have rejected the criticism. Trade and Industry Minister Martin Kuba said that it was primarily up to ČEZ to prove to the Bulgarian authorities that it had not violated any public procurement rules or any other norms. The Czech government, he said, would only make sure that the administrative proceedings against ČEZ were not politicized. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said he had discussed the matter both with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov and EU officials in Brussels. Diplomacy is conducted behind-the-scenes, he noted.
In a historic address to the Bavarian Parliament on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas expressed regret over the post-war expulsion of millions of Sudeten Germans. He said the principle of collective guilt applied at the end of the war was an injustice that hurt thousands of innocent people, people who had significantly contributed to the economic and cultural development of the border region, but he made it clear that there could be no question of abolishing the Beneš decrees or making property claims relating to the expulsions. Very few wrongs of the past are ever corrected, the Czech prime minister noted. Mr. Nečas who is the first Czech prime minister ever to address the Bavarian Parliament, highlighted the common cultural heritage of Bavarians and Czechs expressing the hope that their common roots would help the two sides overcome the sensitive issues of the past and focus on their future in Europe.
Czech food inspectors, who on Wednesday confirmed the presence of horsemeat in frozen lasagne by the firm Nowaco, have warned customers about a second suspect product on the market. The Czech Food Inspection authority received warning from Germany via the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed regarding lasagne made by Eisemann in Luxembourg which has also been found to contain horsemeat. Although horsemeat is legally sold in the Czech Republic, in the form of salami, its presence must clearly be stated on the label. Violation of the law can result in a fine of up to 3 million crowns.
The Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association has filed a criminal complaint against the Energy Regulatory Office for allegedly having deliberately produced false data to influence a verdict on solar power passed by the Constitutional Court in 2012. The court ruled that the government was within its rights to put a retroactive tax on solar power plant investors in order to curb a solar boom. It was the Czech Photovoltaic Industry which challenged the government’s decision in court and its head Zuzana Musilová now claims the Energy Regulatory Office doctored two crucial reports on the grounds of which the court made its decision.
President-elect Miloš Zeman has slammed the Czech government for not doing enough to defend the position of the Czech power utility ČEZ in Bulgaria. Mr. Zeman said it was the duty of any government to defend its companies abroad and urged the Nečas administration to use all the means at its disposal – such as EU contacts, international arbitration mechanisms and negotiations with the outgoing Bulgarian government – to defend Czech national interests. The state-owned power utility may lose its license in Bulgaria following mass protests over electricity prices. President Václav Klaus has also criticized the Czech government for taking what he called “a passive stand” in the dispute, saying that ČEZ has been made a scapegoat for the growing social unrest in Bulgaria.
Frenštát pod Radhoštěm is holding three days of mourning for the victims of this week’s tragic explosion that killed at least five people in an apartment block in the north Moravian town. The tragedy has sparked a wave of unprecedented solidarity with people sending six million crowns to a help- fund for the survivors in the course of just three days. Offers of help have been pouring in from around the country and people are offering to provide accommodation for the families who have now been left homeless. What has profoundly shocked the nation is that the explosion was a deliberate act of violence by one of the block’s inhabitants.
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