The Czech Republic’s longest recession on record has come to an end. According to preliminary figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Wednesday, the economy grew by 0.7 percent in the second quarter of the year – the first growth recorded after six straight quarters of contraction. The upturn has largely been driven by exports, which increased by 1.4 percent in the April to June period.
Former defence minister Vlasta Parkanová has published transcriptions of the police’s interrogations of all of the witnesses and accused persons in a case in which she faces charges of authorising an overpriced contract to purchase military planes. The former minister refused to comment on the materials, which she posted on her own website. Among the witnesses questioned are one-time chief of staff and current minister of defence, Vlastimil Picek, and former prime minister Petr Nečas, who was labour minister at the time the purchase was signed off on in 2009, under the government of Mirek Topolánek. Police say the contract for CASA planes was overpriced by over CZK 650 million and last year charged Mrs. Parkanová with abuse of office and breach of trust.
The chancellor to President Miloš Zeman, Vratislav Mynář, has said he will help raise funds for the next election campaign of the Citizens’ Rights Party–Zemanites, Czech Radio reported. Representatives of some other parties say it would be unethical for the official, who is a state employee, to act as a fundraiser for the grouping. Mr. Mynář is planning to run as a candidate for the Zemanites, who currently have no seats in the lower house, and says he will only quit his post if he wins election. One newspaper has reported that the president himself will be the face of the party’s campaign.
Martin Pecina, who is interim interior minister in a caretaker cabinet installed by President Zeman, has said he would accept an offer to stand for the Zemanites in the next elections, the Czech News Agency reported. Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman and Regional Development Minister František Lukl said they would consider such an offer. Other members of cabinet, such as Finance Minister Jan Fischer and Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, ruled out standing for the party. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok, who formally handed in his resignation on Tuesday, has said he will not remain in politics when he actually steps down.
Czechs who worked in Slovakia or for Slovak firms prior to the split of Czechoslovakia look set to see their old-age pensions brought up to the level of those received in the Czech Republic. The Senate’s Constitutional and Legal Committee on Wednesday approved the change, which will see such retirees receive a supplement to their Czech pensions. A European Union court had ruled that such top-ups contravened EU practice; however, the Czech Constitutional Court said the EU had made no provision for pension disparities in the case of the breakup of a shared state.
Parents of severely handicapped children who are old enough to qualify for independent state support are still obliged to contribute to their maintenance, according to a ruling made by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday. It was hearing a complaint from a woman seeking financial support from her estranged husband for their 30-year-old daughter, who she looks after. The case will now be heard again by the Prague Regional Court, which previously ruled in favour of the father.
Police have charged journalist Jiří X. Doležal with promoting drug use over an article he wrote in the weekly Reflex, a spokesperson for the magazine said on Wednesday. The police said the piece by Mr. Doležal was accompanied by an out of focus photograph that would enhance the experience of smoking marijuana and came in an issue – which reported on this year’s marijuana crop – that also contained rolling papers and filters. Reflex’s deputy editor Jaroslav Plesl was also arraigned. The police said they had sought an expert opinion before filing the charges.
Zuzana Hejnová easily advanced to the final of the women’s 400m hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow on Tuesday. Hejnová, who has not been defeated this season, is the Czech Republic’s biggest medal hopeful in Moscow. She will take part in the final later today. Runner Pavel Maslák came fifth in the men’s 400m final on Tuesday in a time of 44.91 seconds, breaking his own Czech record.
Czech national team striker Matěj Vydra has joined the English Premiership club West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan from Italy’s Udinese. The 21-year-old, who has only ever made two appearances for his parent club, was voted Player of the Year in England’s Championship after scoring 20 goals in 41 matches for Watford last term.
The Czech Republic’s footballers take on Hungary on Wednesday night, in what will be their last warm-up game before key World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Italy next month. Coach Michal Bílek is without stars Petr Čech and Tomáš Rosický for the game in Budapest. With six of 10 games played, the Czechs lie third in their qualification group for the World Cup in Brazil, one point behind second-placed Bulgaria.