President Miloš Zeman has urged the OKD mining company to keep the unprofitable Paskov mine in operation until 2016. Following talks with company representatives, who earlier ruled out the possibility of keeping the mine operational without state support, Mr. Zeman said the company’s owners should use their financial reserves to reduce the social impact of the closure. He suggested that the sale of the 44,000 flats which business tycoon Zdenek Bakala acquired when he gained control of OKD in 2004 could be used to finance the mine’s operation until 2016. Mr. Bakala has come under widespread criticism for holding onto the flats and failing to deliver on his promise to sell them to their residents. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok who took part in the talks, said the government was working hard to attract a big investor to the Ostrava region in the hope of creating more jobs when the mine’s closure would expand the ranks of the unemployed.
The Czech Republic has started operating an emergency help line for missing children. The helpline, which is already in operation in 22 EU member states, offers advice and emotional support to the parents of a missing child as well as to children themselves. Helpline staff will also cooperate with the police in order to assist investigations. Last year the police searched for over 5,500 missing children and were successful in 98 percent of cases. The launch of the helpline coincides with a two-day international conference on missing children in Solenice, central Bohemia.
Chechen national Ali Acajev will not be extradited to Russia where he is wanted on suspicion of contract murder. The Czech Constitutional Court on Tuesday overturned a 2009 ruling by the Supreme Court which opened the way for his extradition. Acajev’s lawyer argues that his client would not get a fair trial in Russia in view of the fact that between 1994 and 1996 he fought for Chechnya’s independence in the war against Russia.
The Ombudsman’s Office has said it is unacceptable for kindergartens to force children to take an afternoon nap. The office dealt with the issue on the grounds of a complaint from a parent who protested against the lack of flexibility on the part of kindergarten teachers in meeting children’s individual needs. Afternoon naps are a daily ritual in most pre-school facilities. The office said parents who had a problem with this could turn to the School Inspectorate.
The chief-of-staff to former PM Petr Nečas Jana Nagyová on Tuesday refused a police interrogation on health grounds. Mrs Nagyová is charged with abuse of office for having secretly commissioned the country’s military intelligence service to shadow the former PM’s wife and soliciting bribes to three Civic Democrat MPs. The scandal brought down the centre right government in June, triggering early elections, and badly damaged the credibility of the Civic Democratic Party. The former prime minister resigned from all posts and last weekend married his one-time chief-of-staff. The case is expected to come to court in the autumn.
Customs officials at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport recently seized almost 200,000 fake erectile dysfunction pills, Customs Administration spokeswoman Sarka Miskovska told the CTK news agency. A total of 194,300 counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills were seized with an estimated street value of 87 million crowns. They reportedly arrived in two shipments from an unspecified country in southern Asia. It is not clear whether the pills were meant for the Czech Republic or another country.
Unemployment among university graduates is a growing problem. According to labour office statistics 32,000 university graduates are unemployed, some having failed to find work for several years. The results of a survey among university students conducted by Student Media suggest that fear of unemployment is high, with only 12 percent of students confident of their ability to find work. Forty percent of respondents said they were seriously considering applying for work abroad on graduation.
The controversial political “lobbyist” Miroslav Šlouf who co-founded the Citizens’ Rights Party–Zemanites’ has announced he is leaving the party and will not support it in the upcoming general elections. Mr. Šlouf told the daily Pravo he feels hard done by over the way he was scratched off the party’s Prague ballot and by the attitude of several leading party members. One-time chief political advisor to President Miloš Zeman, Miroslav Šlouf is a highly controversial figure – a former communist believed to have enormous influence and connections to the underworld who has been linked to many political scandals and shady deals. Although he is credited with Mr. Zeman’s election victory, the president has publicly distanced himself from his former advisor and the party he co-founded now sees him as a liability.
Confidence in the Czech economy has risen in September, for the second month in a row. The overall confidence index grew in September by 3.2 points compared to the previous month, and reached plus 1.2 points, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Tuesday. Compared to the same month last year, the index grew by 5 points. Business confidence is up in all sectors of the economy; consumer confidence, meanwhile, has grown by 15.5 points but remains in the red at minus 14.3 points.
Life expectancy for both men and women differs significantly in different regions of the Czech Republic, the Czech statistics Office reports. In Prague the life expectancy for women is 82 years and 77 for men, while in the Usti region, in north Bohemia, the figures are 79 years for women and 73 for men. Life expectancy is highest in Prague and lowest in the Usti, Karlovy Vary and Moravia-Silesia regions. The national average life expectancy is 75 years for men and 81 for women.