This year’s deficit of Czech public finances should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Friday. Mr Kalousek’s remarks came in a reaction to an estimate by the European Commission which predicted the deficit would reach 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Keeping the gap below 3 percent would bring an end to the excessive deficit procedure launched against the Czech Republic by the European Commission in 2009, Mr Kalousek said. The finance minister however warned the target could only be met provided that European economy does not experience any dramatic downturn.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday signed agreements with 16 churches and religious societies on financial compensation amounting to 59 billion crowns for property confiscated by the communist regime. The agreement is part of a broad property restitution deal, approved by Parliament earlier this year. The churches are set to receive the funds over a period of 30 years. After that time, they will receive no public funding. The agreement has come under criticism from the opposition which on Thursday lodged a last-minute complaint against it with the Constitutional Court. The court’s secretary said on Friday it would be proper for the Czech government to postpone signing the contracts until the Constitutional Court delivers a verdict on the issue.
In cooperation with their German colleagues, the Czech police and customs have arrested four men suspected of smuggling illicit drugs from the Czech Republic to Germany, a spokesman for the Czech customs said on Friday. The officers also confiscated marihuana and crystal meth worth around seven million crowns, and hundreds of thousands of crowns in cash. The police believe the men were in charge of an extensive drug smuggling network with links to Vietnam. If convicted, the men could face up to 18 years in prison.
Representatives of the Czech, US, Croatian and Slovak defence ministries signed on Friday a letter of intent on the establishment of an international military aviation training centre, known as MATC. The document was adopted on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels. The centre will provide training to helicopter pilots from air forces of NATO countries; it is expected that it will operate at several Czech air force bases as well as at those in other NATO member states.
Several members of the judiciary are under investigation by the organized crime unit of the Czech police, according to a report by Czech TV. The broadcaster said that among those investigated was Prague district judge, Ondřej Havlín. The police reportedly interrogated some people on Thursday, and are now searching “public offices” for evidence. Prague’s supreme attorney Lenka Bradáčová said more details of the case would be released over the weekend.
Prague City Council plans to establish low-emissions zones by the year 2015, council member Radek Lohynský told the ČTK news agency on Friday. The zones should reduce air pollution in the centre of the capital by restricting the movement of older vehicles in the area. The planned zones would cover most of downtown Prague including Old Town, Hradčany, New Town, Holešovice, Smíchov and Nusle. Prague City Council has commissioned a feasibility study on the project which should be completed within two months, Mr Lohynský said,
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.
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