Due to bad weather, this year’s potato harvest in the Czech Republic will be lowest in decades, an association of potato growers said on Friday. Farmers expect to harvest around 550,000 tonnes of potatoes this year which is 20 percent less than in 2012. Poor harvest predictions have already doubled the prices of potatoes compared to last year.
Two of the five Czechs who were sentenced on Thursday in a Swiss court were released from custody after being held for a number of hours. All five are former managers of the Mostecká Uhelna coal mining company and received substantial prison sentences for asset stripping, fraud, money-laundering and breach of trust during the privatization of the company in the 1990s. Of the defendants, only Petr Kraus and Antonín Koláček were present at the sentencing and the two were temporarily detained. The Czech authorities have said that they have no plans to extradite the remaining three defendants based on international agreements.
The Czech Social Democrats, who are predicted to win the general election in two weeks’ time, have rejected the possibility of post-election cooperation with either the Citizens’ Rights Party–Zemanites or the ANO grouping. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters the two parties were “commercial” and could be a risk to the future government’s stability. ANO, which polls suggest could receive around 13 percent of the vote, was founded by food magnate Andrej Babiš. The Zemanites formed several years ago around now president Miloš Zeman and are projected to win around 5 percent of the vote.
The Czech national football team faces Malta away in a World Cup qualifier on Friday. The Czech team will miss captain Tomáš Rosický who is not fully fit and will not appear in the remaining qualifying games. Following recent defeats by Armenia and Italy, the Czechs only have a slim theoretical chance of advancing to the final tournament.
The Czech food inspection authority has seized a shipment of Polish mushrooms which contained four times the allowed levels of pesticides. The authorities have notified the EU’s rapid alert system of the find. Long-term consumption of the mushrooms could harm consumers’ health, according to the authorities. The contaminated mushrooms were discovered in a shop in Trutnov, east Bohemia, and their importer now faces fines.
President Miloš Zeman is set to visit a Czech-based plant of the cigarette producer Philip Morris next week, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Friday. Mr Zeman was originally visit the TPCA car maker in Kolín during his visit to the Central Bohemian region, and asked for an opportunity to address its employees. However, the firm refused to halt production because of the visit. The president will instead visit the cigarette factory in nearby Kutná Hora. Mr Zeman is a chain-smoker and criticized the EU’s anti-tobacco measures during a visit to Brussels last month.
Remarks by President Miloš Zeman have hurt the Czech Republic’s relations with Arab countries, the Palestinian ambassador in Prague Djamal Muhammad Djamal said on Friday. Ahead of his trip to Israel this week, Mr Zeman suggested the Czech embassy should move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Speaking after a meeting with the Czech president, the freshly appointed Palestinian ambassador said he had asked the president to make steps to mitigate the impact of his words. For his part, Mr Zeman said that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would only occur after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
A fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas will have to pay a fine of 118,000 US dollars for major breaches of security measures which caused a massive explosion in April. Fifteen people died and hundreds of others were injured as a result of the blast in a town where the vast majority of inhabitants claim to have Czech heritage. Some 350 buildings were also destroyed and a 27-meter wide crater has formed. The Czech government gave approximately 200,000 dollars to the people of West, most of the money was meant to rebuild the local Sokol building.
Prague City Hall will demand an apology from the National Geographic Channel over a report which officials say harmed the city’s reputation. The TV channel ran a story about Prague last November as part of its Scam City series. It showed the Czech capital as a haven of crime, drugs and prostitution. However, the Czech police probed some of the allegations shown in the report, and found the documentary was fake and manipulated. Prague councillor Lukáš Manhart told the news website idnes.cz on Friday the City Hall would ask the TV channel to provide an explanation and an apology in the form of a new report. He said the city would consider taking legal measures if the station refuses to deal with the issue.
The heads of nine major European power companies including the Czech firm ČEZ have warned that the EU’s energy policies are putting the bloc’s power supplies at risk. The companies’ representatives said in Brussels on Friday that the EU’s energy sector was no longer competitive, due to failed policies such as subsiding renewable sources of energy. The firms also called on EU leaders to take steps to guarantee the continent’s energy security. These include the creation of single energy market with centralized supervision.
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