The anti-corruption police have filed charges against former health minister Tomáš Julínek, according to press reports on Friday. The former Civic Democrat minister has been charged with abuse of office and breach of trust for allowing two private companies to take over the operation of air ambulances in 2008. The move has so far cost the state around 800 million crowns, which is the difference between the private operators’ expenses and those of the ministries of interior and defence, which previously provided the service. Mr Julínek, who could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty, will not be taken into custody for the duration of the investigation.
The Education Ministry has prepared a draft amendment that significantly alters the system of school financing in a way that would better support currently disadvantaged schools and students. According to the amendment, that is yet to be debated by both houses of parliament, all regions should receive the same amount of money per student, depending on the given type of school. The proposal also envisages simplifying the procedures for disadvantaged children receiving government support. The ministry hopes to improve job security for school principals and teachers and wants to introduce the possibility of homeschooling in the upper level of primary schools.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas is on a one-day working visit to Finland. He is scheduled to meet with his Finnish counterpart Jyrki Katainen and will be received by President Sauli Niinisto. On Friday morning the Czech prime minister addressed the Czech-Finnish Business Forum at a meeting of the European Democratic Union, an alliance of European conservative parties. Finland is an important trading partner for the export-dependent Czech economy, with a stable interest in Czech engineering products and Škoda cars. The Czech side is hoping to raise its traditional export commodities and is seeking new business opportunities in the fields of infrastructure and power production.
President Miloš Zeman met with former finance minister Jiří Rusnok on Friday to discuss the setting up of a special fund, where the president is planning to deposit 30% of his monthly salary as a symbolic contribution towards repaying the Czech national debt, which last year amounted to almost 1,700 billion crowns. In addition to donating a portion of his own monthly salary, which totals over 300,000 crowns, President Zeman is planning to encourage other potential donors to follow his example.
The police closed down part of the busy Národní street in the center of Prague on Friday morning, because of a suspicious black suitcase, which was discovered during a regular patrol of the area. While explosives experts were retrieving the object, a part of the street was cordoned off and police were re-routing traffic. The police bomb disposal unit transported the suitcase to a safe location for investigation, after which the street was reopened.
The mayor of the town Hostivice near Prague has filed criminal charges against an unknown perpetrator at the Prague regional court who disclosed personal details of the defendants in the case against the former Central Bohemia governor David Rath. The mayor of the town where Mr Rath has permanent residency claims that the regional court violated the privacy law by releasing to the public information about all of the 11 people accused in the ongoing case.
A Prague municipal court ruled for the plaintiff on Thursday in the first of thousands of ongoing court cases against banks and lending institutions. Michal Novák will receive 4,200 crowns from Hypoteční banka as compensation for being charged a maintenance fee for his loan account. Around 130 thousand clients have filed similar charges against major financial institutions from which they had taken out loans or mortgages and this decision may serve as a precedent for upcoming trials.
The number of seniors in the Czech Republic using mobile phones and the internet has increased dramatically in the past decade, according to a recent study by the Czech Statistical Office. Ten years ago one-fifth of all Czechs aged 65 and older used mobile phones, today they are used by 84% of that age group and around 17% percent use the internet. The biggest jump in cell phone use is among 75-year-olds and older. Whereas in 2007, less than 30% of that group were using mobile phones, today it is around 70%.
Prague’s fairgrounds are hosting a festival of healthy living called Festival Evolution from Friday to Sunday. This is an umbrella event for four related exhibits focused on organic food, sustainable energy use, personal development and alternative lifestyles. The event is open to the public and offers hundreds of stands, workshops and lectures.
President Zeman met with Cardinal Dominik Duka on Friday to draft an invitation addressed to Pope Francis for the celebration of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Cyril and Methodius in the Great Moravian Empire, which will take place in July in Velehrad in eastern Moravia. Czech church officials had invited Pope Benedict XVI for the celebration before he stepped down, and now want to urge the newly elected pope to attend the event. The Pope’s secretary has said that so far the head of the Catholic Church has the dates of the celebration free, but did not confirm if the Pope is planning to attend.