A court in Hodonín on Friday acquitted MP Otto Chaloupka, of the opposition Public Affairs party, of corruption charges. Mr Chaloupka faced accusations that he made his assistant pay 60,000 crowns as contribution to the party’s campaign ahead of the 2010 general election. The court also acquitted the assistant who was accused of bribery; the judge argued there was no proof that any corruption occurred. The prosecutor said he would decide whether he would appeal the verdict at a higher court.
Army general Vlastimil Picek is set to become the country’s new defense minister, according to government sources cited by the CTK news agency. The former army chief of staff, who currently serves as deputy defence minister, is a widely respected expert in the field though his appointment to the post is vehemently opposed by the smallest party in government LIDEM which wanted a civilian to lead the Czech Defence Ministry. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has strongly advocated the general’s appointment and has reportedly won over the TOP 09 party for the idea. The coalition had come under fire both from the military and from opposition benches for procrastinating in filling the crucial government post which has been vacant for some three months.
The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has unveiled a new plan to combat rising levels of unemployment. Minister Ludmila Müllerová who presented the plan at a news conference in Prague on Friday, said the ministry would spend around seven billion crowns on the programme which includes subsidies for companies which give jobs to unemployed people under 30, support for part-time jobs for mothers and long-term job-seekers, as well as subsidies for the jobless who will become self-employed. The ministry also plans to enhance assistance and support for municipalities, NGOs as well as job seekers.
The troubled Czech truck maker Tatra was sold at an auction on Friday, three weeks after the firm was declared bankrupt. The company was acquired for 176 million crowns, or around 9 million US dollars, by a newly-established firm, Truck Development, which is financed by the investment group J&T. Tatra’s assets have been established at 1.76 billion crowns while its commitments reached 1.5 billion crowns. Tatra CEO, Ronald Adams, welcomed the news and said the change in ownership would solve the firm’s financial difficulties.
MP David Rath, who has been in police custody since last May on corruption charges, remains in detention after the prosecutors filed an appeal against a Prague court ruling to release him on a two-million-crown bail. The appeal will be heard by an appellate court in the coming weeks. David Rath, a former influential Social Democrat and governor of Central Bohemia, was arrested in May 2012 with seven million crowns of what the police believe was a bribe. He is facing 11 years in jail for bribery and abuse of power.
The Czech carrier ČSA on Friday cancelled one of its Prague- Düsseldorf flights due to a strike by security personnel at several German airports. The strike could also affect other flights between Prague, Düsseldorf and Cologne, operated by ČSA and the German airline Lufthansa, a spokeswoman for Prague’s Václav Havel Airport said.
The Czech police on Friday closed down border crossings between the Czech Republic and Slovakia for heavy trucks heading to Hungary and Slovenia due to poor weather conditions in those countries. Heavy snow and strong winds are complicating traffic on Slovenian and Hungarian roads. A police spokeswoman said it was not clear when the border crossings would re-open.
Viktoria Plzeň have been knocked out of the Europa League, the continent’s second-tier club competition, in the last 16 stage. The Czech club went into Thursday night’s game against Fenerbahce trailing 1:0 from the home leg in West Bohemia last week. After the Turkish side took the lead in the first half in Istanbul, Plzeň managed to get one back through a Vladimír Darida strike on 61 minutes to give themselves some hope of advancing. However, they were unable to find the net again and the second leg ended 1:1, giving Fenerbahce a 2:1 win on aggregate.
Army general Vlastimil Picek is to be the country’s new defense minister, according to government sources cited by the CTK news agency. The former army chief of staff, who currently serves as deputy defense minister, is a widely respected expert in the field though his appointment to the post is vehemently opposed by the smallest party in government LIDEM which wanted a civilian to lead the Czech Defense Ministry. Prime Minister Petr Nečas who has in vain sought a suitable civilian candidate for the post since it was vacated last Christmas, has strongly advocated the general’s appointment and has reportedly won over the TOP 09 party for the idea. TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said earlier this week a decision needed to be made fast since the present situation was unsustainable. The coalition had come under fire both from the military and from opposition benches for procrastinating in filling a crucial government post.
Politicians and church dignitaries have welcomed the election of Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope. President Miloš Zeman sent the Pontiff a letter of congratulations and extended an official invitation for him to attend the 2013 celebrations marking the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of the Christian missionaries SS Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he had received the news of Pope Francis’ election with genuine pleasure and wished him sound health and strength in facing the challenges ahead.