A court in Prague on Monday began hearing the case of the overpriced Opencard smart card system. Five former Prague City Hall officials are charged with infringement of competition regulations and breach of trust in the case; they stand accused of having caused tens of millions of crowns in damages by awarding disadvantageous contracts to the anonymously owned firm Haguess. The city has asked for 70 million crowns in damages. One of the accused is the former head of the IT department, Ivan Seyček, who is facing up to eight years in jail. The police are investigating dozens of other city hall officials in connection with the Opencard scandal which took place under the then mayor Pavel Bém.
The Czech Television and Film Academy on Monday chose the drama Burning Bush as its candidate for nominations for the US Academy Awards for best foreign film. The movie, produced by HBO and directed by Agnieszka Holland, focuses on the story of Jan Palach, a student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The last Czech movie which won the Oscar was Kolya in 1997.
Every third Czech doctor suffers from burnout syndrome, the news website idnes.cz reported on Monday quoting a new survey by the Czech Medical Chamber and Charles University. Some 15,000 physicians took part in the study which revealed that many of them felt tired and frustrated and were cynical about their patients. The authors of the survey, the first of its kind to be conducted in the Czech Republic, said doctors with burnout syndrome were less efficient and incurred higher costs to health insurers. The Czech authorities have so far failed to address the issue.
The first team of the Czech top division club Slavia Prague was attacked by its fans on Saturday upon their return from an away game on Sunday. Slavia lost 2:1 in Jablonec, the latest in a string of poor results and the first game under a new manager. The masked attackers were waiting for the team bus in Prague; they hurled rocks and bottles at players emerging from the team bus. The police arrested five people after the incident.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her victory in the general elections. Ms Merkel’s party, the CDU/CSU bloc, won over 40 percent of the vote. The Czech prime minister said the result was extraordinary, adding that he expected no change to the good relations between the Czech Republic and Germany. For his part, the eurosceptic former Czech president Václav Klaus said the elections showed that Germany, as well as the EU and the Czech Republic, had no alternative.
Prague 10 municipal council approved a plan to buy a villa in the Vinohrady district of the capital which once belonged to the writer Karel Čapek. The municipality earmarked nearly 44 million crowns for the purchase. The villa, built in the 1920s, houses part of the writer’s archive, his library and some of his personal belongings. The owner, a distant relative of Karel Čapek’s wife, had been offered a higher price by other interested buyers but said he wanted to sell the property to Prague 10. The villa should eventually be open to the public as a museum dedicated to the writer.
In an interview for the daily Financial Times, President Miloš Zeman said that he would not support a government coalition which would comprise of parties from different sides of the political spectrum. Mr. Zeman himself was the chairman of a minority left-wing government between 1998 and 2002, which was supported by the right-of-center Civic Democratic party based on a so-called opposition agreement. In the FT interview published on Sunday, the Czech president underscored his support for EU integration but criticized the bloc’s attempts to micromanage issues such as smoking and energy-saving light bulbs.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok on Monday awarded the author Pavel Kohout an honorary plaque in recognition of his contribution to Czech literature. Pavel Kohout, who turned 85 in July, started his career in the 1950s when he was one of the most vocal supporters of the communist regime. He became a dissident after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and was one of the authors of the Charter 77 manifesto. In 1979 the communist authorities prevented him from returning to Czechoslovakia from a stay in Vienna. Pavel Kohout’s play Poor Murderer – premiered on Broadway in 1976.
Most Czechs – some 80 percent – believe the introduction of a direct vote for the president was a good move, according to a new survey by the STEM agency released on Monday. Among those who support the change are mostly left-leaning voters. Another 90 percent of people who took part in the survey said the president should be strictly non-partisan. After years of debates, direct presidential vote was introduced last year; in January, Miloš Zeman became the historically first directly elected Czech president.
The French firm Areva has filed a lawsuit against its exclusion from a multi-billion dollar tender to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant, a spokeswoman for a court in Brno said. The company’s bid was rejected by the plant’s operator, ČEZ, over alleged failures to meet the tender’s conditions. In July, the Czech anti-monopoly office rejected Areva’s appeal against that decision but the French firm says its exclusion was unjustified. Two other bidders – the US-Japanese firm Westinghouse and a Russian-led consortium Mir 1200 – remain in the tender whose winner should be announced next year.
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