Russian and Georgian representatives met in Prague on Friday for talks aimed at normalizing bilateral ties in areas of trade, transport and culture, but avoiding the sensitive issue of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is the second meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and the Georgian Prime Minister’s special envoy on Russian issues, Zurab Abashidze, since Tbilisi announced last November it was ready to renew talks with Moscow. Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after the two nations fought a brief war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008.
The winner of the eighths annual poll for the most absurd Czech bank fee has been announced. According to the anti-fee watchdog website bankovnipoplatky.com, which conducted the poll, the most absurd fee is the fee for using an ATM machine to find out one’s balance which received 36 percent of votes. In some cases this fee was actually higher than that for taking out money from an ATM machine of one’s own bank. Second place went to the fee banks charge for managing a mortgage account, which received 22 percent of votes and third place went to the fee banks charge for sending you an electronic bank statement.
The state budget surplus in February dropped to 5.6 billion crowns from January’s 42.4 billion, the Finance Ministry said on Friday. Even so it is the best result since 2000. In February 2012 the budget showed a 16.6 billion crown deficit. This year’s state budget was approved with a projected 100 billion crown deficit.
The police have proposed pressing corruption charges against MP David Rath and ten of his alleged accomplices. The evidence collected pertains to six manipulated public tenders. If convicted of the charges the former governor of central Bohemia could face up to 12 years in prison. Mr. Rath was arrested in May of last year with 7 million crowns in cash in his possession. He has been in detention since for fear he might influence witnesses.
Doctors report a severe shortage of tetanus vaccines. Vaccination of healthy patients has stopped altogether and doctors are keeping the small amount they have left for urgent cases. The Health Ministry said on Friday it was working to resolve the problem and expects new batches of the vaccine to be delivered within a week’s time.
The Prague State Attorney’s Office has asked the police to investigate accusations of corruption against Prime Minister Petr Necas stemming from a criminal complaint filed by defence lawyer Václav Láska. Láska’s complaint alleges that the prime minister promised three Civic Democrat deputies lucrative posts in state-owned companies if they gave up their seats in the lower house to allow the government’s controversial tax package to win approval. A criminal complaint has also been filed against the three now former deputies, Marek Šnajdr, Petr Tluchoř and Ivan Fuksa. Marek Šnajdr later got a seat on the supervisory board of the company Čepro, while Ivan Fuksa was named managing director of Czech Aeroholding. According to media reports Petr Tluchoř is allegedly being considered for a post in the power giant ČEZ.
Outgoing President Václav Klaus is to award his Slovak counterpart President Ivan Gašparovič the highest Czech state distinction, the Order of the White Lion, in appreciation of his contribution to the two countries exceptionally good relations. It is not clear if President Klaus will be awarded Slovakia’s highest state decoration before leaving office on March 7.
A police chase on the D1 highway resulted in a mass collision involving at least 8 vehicles on Friday. Police were chasing a driver who had refused to stop. The Audi eventually crashed into a road block set up by the police and burst into flames. The 17-year-old driver died on the spot. At least seven other cars got involved in the accident. At least two people were injured, one of them seriously. The incident is being investigated.
IKEA stores in the Czech Republic have halted the sale of all minced meat products after inspectors found horsemeat in their meatballs and traces of horsemeat in sausages used for hot-dogs. A company spokesman said IKEA planned to test all its meat products both from local and international suppliers before resuming sales.
Doctors around the Czech Republic held a symbolic protest on Friday against what they perceive as a threat to funding for clinics and hospitals this year. For the most part patients were not affected by the protest; they received flyers outlining the medics’ concerns and were asked to sign a petition entitled Let’s Save our Health System. The Ministry of Health says the protest was uncalled for and insists the healthcare system will receive more money this year than in 2012.
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