The Finance Ministry, in a new macroeconomic forecast, has revised the country’s economic outlook downward, expecting stagnation in 2013 and 1.2 percent growth in 2014. By comparison, in January the ministry predicted 0.1 percent expansion for this year and rise of 1.4 percent for the next. The outlook may further worsen, said the ministry´s spokesman Ondřej Jakob. Factors include developments in the euro zone as a majority of Czech products are exported to euro zone countries. The Finance Ministry expects the euro zone economy to contract by 0.3 percent this year. The moderate worsening of the estimated economic development this year reflects unfavourable data from the first quarter, analysts confirmed.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and ex-president Václav Klaus will attend the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher next week, according to government spokesman Jan Hrubeš. The funeral service is to be held on Wednesday, April 17 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London which can accommodate up to 2,300 guests. Former president Klaus has long cited Mrs Thatcher as an inspiration in politics; he met with her personally on many occasions. Among other former world leaders, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan’s widow, Nancy Reagan, both declined invitations for health reasons, ČTK said.
Czech Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Petr Pavel awarded military honours on Friday to Czech as well as Slovak soldiers who together trained policemen and pilots in Afghanistan over the past several months. At the ceremony, the defence minister expressed appreciation for their work and happiness that all had returned home safely. General Petr Pavel noted that the security situation in the Afghan province of Wardak where they operated had been complicated. The Czech mission in Afghanistan has seen changes, such as the number of soldiers deployed decreasing. The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), for instance, ended its mission in the Logar province in Afghanistan in January after five years.
The Czech Republic can expect a growing number of lawsuits following Thursday’s decision by the country’s top court in favour of gambling regulation, Czech Radio’s Radiožurnal reports. The court struck down legislation allowing sites to continue the operation of video lottery terminals until 2014. Ivo Valenta, the head of Synot Holding – one of the largest distributors of lottery terminals in the country – told Czech Radio the firm had had a 10-year license and would take steps to recoup its investment, filing in the Czech Republic and Brussels if need be. Under Thursday’s ruling individual towns can decide whether or not to completely ban gambling. SPELOS, the Czech association of lottery system operators, has warned that complete bans would lead to hundreds of millions of crowns in damages.
State attorney Jan Petrásek filed a proposal on Friday with the Brno Regional Court for Ronald Adams, the CEO of Moravian lorry maker Tatra Truck, to be charged with corruption. Mr Adams, an American national, is suspected of having offered a 20 million crown bribe to try and secure a military contract with the Czech Army. He was accused by former defence minister Martin Barták, himself a suspect in the case. Mr Adams allegedly discussed the bribe at the IDET trade fair in Brno in 2009. In the past, Mr Adams refused to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation; later he described details of backstage negotiations between Tatra and representatives of the Czech state in an interview for Lidové noviny. He admitted to the daily that a bribe was mentioned but said he had only tried to suss out the situation.
With warmer spring temperatures, this weekend is expected to be the last of the season for ski hills still open. Many have already shut down for the spring and summer but several across the country still boast good conditions, including sites in the Krkonoše Mountains such as Harrachov, Špindlerův Mlýn and Medvědín. Even areas no longer running lifts, for example in the Jeseníky Mountains, still have 94 centimetres of snow – ideal for cross-country skiing, meteorologists have noted.
U.S. President Obama has awarded Czech-born Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun the Medal of Honour posthumously for his extraordinary heroism while serving with the 3d Battalion of the US army during combat operations in the Korean War. The Medal of Honour is the highest US military award. Speaking at Thursday’s ceremony President Obama said Chaplain Kapaun had walked bravely through enemy fire to provide comfort and medical aid to injured and dying soldiers. He died in a POW camp in 1953. Members of Chaplain Kapoun’s family and a number of Korean War veterans looked on as President Obama handed the Medal of Honour to the chaplain’s nephew.
Police this week arrested a six-member gang operating in the area of Domažlice, suspected of producing and selling the illegal drug pervetin (methamphetamine). The detained are two women and four men ranging between 20 and 37 years of age. Police suspect the gang began operation in the area last April. So far, there is evidence of the production and sale of 70 grams of the drug but the amount produced was much higher, the head of the Domažlice police Lubomír Martinec said. Members of the gang allegedly travelled to Poland as well as Germany to buy over-the-counter medicine used in the drug’s production.
A specialized police unit, nicknamed ‘the headhunters’ in the press, successfully apprehended Uwe Giesemann – a German national wanted on an international arrest warrant for illegal gun possession and other charges. Germany’s criminal police last year uncovered more than 200 firearms in his home, one of them a bazooka. The 69-year-old suspect was caught in Karlovy Vary on Wednesday, the spokeswoman for the Police Presidium confirmed. A search of his apartment in the west Bohemian town uncovered a stash of weapons and other items including jewels, gold coins, and 290,000 euros in cash – together estimated as being worth more than one million euros. Police suspect the loot was gained through criminal activity. The suspect will be transferred to the German authorities.
The first public elementary school in the Czech Republic to introduce school uniforms has said, eight months on, the project has been a success. The principal of Zš Františky Plamínkové in Prague 7, Josef Koudela, expressed the conviction that the uniforms (worn by the first-years) had helped the children better identify with their school. A recent poll by SANEP suggests that 40 percent of Czech parents support the idea of school uniforms; some psychologists are opposed, however, questioning their usefulness. The Education Ministry has stayed on the sidelines on the issue, leaving the decision up to individual schools.
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