Czech and Israeli entrepreneurs have agreed to cooperate in finding new markets in Africa and Asia, according to the president of the Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce Pavel Smutný. Czech-Israeli business talks took place within President Miloš Zeman’s four-day state visit to Israel. Czech businesses, which export largely to EU member states, are seeking ways to diversify their interests and find new markets in Africa, Asia, China and India. They have criticized the former Czech government for closing down dozens of Czech embassies around the world in order to save money, saying the lack of representation was harming the country’s business interests.
Czech firms released a smaller volume of pollutants into the environment in 2012 than in 2011, but the quantity of mercury released into the air and water went up, the environmental watchdog Arnica reported on Wednesday. The main polluters are traditionally located in the industrialized regions of Moravia-Silesia, Ustí nad Labem and Central Bohemia. Power generating facilities, mainly plants operated by the state-owned power utility ČEZ continue to be the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, Arnica says. On the other hand the chemical plant Spolana Neratovice tops the list of polluters in the amount of potentially carcinogenic substances released. Overall the amount of carcinogenic substances released decreased by about one fifth compared with 2011.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer has accused his predecessor Miroslav Kalousek of tolerating violations of the labour code at the ministry while in office. Minister Fischer said that an internal investigation had revealed serious malpractices in the past including violations in work ethics and attendance where favoured employees had had month-long work absences covered by non-existent business trips. Others had been subjected to mobbing at the workplace which their superiors turned a blind eye on. Mr. Fisher said he believed his predecessor could not have been unaware of what was going on.
A chemical analysis of wastewater in ten regions has detected traces of different drugs that are used in different areas of the country. Plzen showed higher levels of heroin, Prague higher levels of cocaine, Brno the party drug ecstasy and Usti nad Labem and Ostrava crystal methamphetamine. The head of the research team Lubor Hruska said he was surprised by the clear-cut distinctions. It is the first study of its kind in the Czech Republic.
The former head of the Office of the Government Lubomír Poul has refused to testify in the case of the former chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová, who is charged with abuse of office and corruption in a scandal that brought down the former centre-right government. Nagyová´s defence counsel Eduard Bruna said Lubomír Poul was badly shaken by the scandal involving his former colleague and had used his right not to give testimony. The former head of the Office of the Government was detained along with seven other people during a June raid. Unlike the others he was not charged.
The number of working pensioners in the Czech Republic is on the rise despite an increase in the retirement age, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Wednesday. While in 2010 the number of employed pensioners between 65 and 70 years of age was 129 thousand in the first half of this year it had increased to 145 thousand. The number of pensioners who continue to work past their retirement age has now reached over 11 percent.
The ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr has equalled the record for the most NHL regular season games played by a Czech. Jágr’s appearance for New Jersey Devils on Tuesday was his 1,395th NHL regular season match, putting him on equal terms with defender Roman Hamrlík. The two are now 32nd overall in terms of number of games played but are the leaders among active players. Jágr, who is 41, scored for New Jersey in their defeat to Vancouver on Tuesday, as did his compatriot Patrik Eliáš.
Charges have been filed against the Czech Republic’s biggest construction company, Metrostav, in connection with the case of former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, who is standing trial for alleged bribe-taking and manipulation of public tenders. The police have also filed fresh charges against Mr. Rath and two suspected accomplices, ex-MP Petr Kott and former hospital director Kateřina Pancová. The news site Lidovky.cz reported that Metrostav’s CEO and another senior manager were implicated in the matter. A spokesperson for the company denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Rath is a former health minister and senior Social Democrat. He and 10 others are accused of illicitly creaming off EU funds by working in cahoots with a number of companies in Central Bohemia.
Prague councillors have approved a plan to build a new “D” line on the city’s metro system. The first part of the line, from Pankrác station to a depot in Písnice, will be 10 kilometres in length. The project will cost just under CZK 25 billion, which City Hall hopes to obtain from EU funds. It is unlikely to be completed before 2022. Construction work is currently underway to extend the A line from Dejvická station to Motol; the new stretch should open next year.
Transparency International have called on the minister of labour and social affairs, František Koníček, to explain his ties to a company based in a tax haven. Mr. Koníček previously headed the state forestry agency Lesy ČR. The corruption watchdog said that while he was no longer active in the Cyprus-based Equity Brokers, his wife and daughter remained on its supervisory board; Transparency International said it owned several other firms that had won public tenders or drawn on EU funds in the Czech Republic. Mr. Koníček, who is standing for President Zeman’s party in elections later this month, said all the companies he was involved with in this country acted legally. Transparency also said that former MP Petr Benda and ODS regional leader Pavel Dlouhý had ties to offshore firms. The organisation said that such companies had won public tenders worth over CZK 150 billion in the Czech Republic in the last five years.