The Czech economy grew faster in the last quarter of 2013 than originally predicted with a GDP growth of 1.9 percent against the previous quarter. This constituted a 1.3 percent expansion year on year. In the whole of last year, the GDP contracted by 0.9 percent which was also a better figure than the original estimate. The country came out a drawn-out recession only last year and the boost in growth at the end of 2013 came after the central bank intervened massively to weaken the crown as a means of fighting deflation risks. The forex interventions encouraged consumer spending with shoppers trying to get ahead of expected price rises this year due to costlier imports.
The Czech Republic is in favour of a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists ahead of Thursday’s emergency meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. EU leaders are to consider “targeted measures” against Russia in response to its military invasion of the Crimean peninsula, but with the alliance divided over economic sanctions, the EU is expected to opt for diplomatic measures such as curtailing talks on visa free travel with Russia and freezing the assets of selected Russian officials. While some EU leaders are pushing for tough punitive measures as a clear signal to Moscow that violation of international law will not be tolerated, others are against tough measures for fear they might further aggravate the situation. Most EU member states are also heavily dependent on crude oil and gas from Russia.
Czech manager Pavel Vrba saw his team draw 2:2 in a friendly with Norway at Prague’s Eden stadium on Wednesday night. The game was Vrba’s first in charge of the national team. The Czech team started brightly with goals by Tomáš Rosický and Matěj Vydra sending them in at the break with a 2:1 lead. Half time changes, including Rosický’s substitution, appeared to break up Czech coherence and the visitors equalized in the closing minutes. Vrba complained of lost possession in the second half.
Czech football manager Pavel Vrba faces his first match in charge of the national team in a friendly against Norway on Wednesday night. According to pre-match reports, Vrba has chosen to play West Bromich Albion striker Matěj Vydra up front and FC Nuremberg’s Adam Hloušek in midfield. Hloušek has not played for the national team for three years. Vrba is expected to adopt the same formation he successfully used at manager of Viktoria Plzeň.
The man believed to be behind one of the communist era secret police’s most infamous actions, Evžen Abrahamovič, has died at the age of 92, Czech public television announced. Abrahamovič is believed to have masterminded the creation of false frontier posts to trick those escaping into US occupied Germany after 1948 into thinking they had already reached safety. He was charged by police last year. The frontier posts set up near the real border were staffed with StB officers who pretended to be from the US army and encouraged those fleeing communist Czechoslovakia to confess who helped them and their network of contacts. The so-called operation kamen (stone) was wound up from 1951 when frontier security was reinforced and escape became almost impossible.
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka made his first trip as premier to Poland on Wednesday. Discussions with Polish counterpart Donald Tusk focused on the situation in Ukraine and improved road and gas connections between the Czech Republic and Poland. Prime ministers agreed that infringements on the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine were unacceptable. Environment, industry and trade, and transport ministers from the neighbouring countries will also hold parallel talks. Poland has been one of the most active EU countries in the current Ukrainian crisis. One of Sobotka’s first visits in Warsaw was to the memorial of Ryszard Siewiec, the Pole who set fire to himself to protest the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. A Polish government delegation has been invited to the Czech Republic in the autumn.
Czech president Miloš Zeman has suggested that a strong mission of Czech observers be dispatched to check on the Ukraine presidential elections scheduled to take place on May 25. Speaking on a visit to Olomouc, the Czech head of state said that there was a risk that attempts might be made to falsify the elections and that supervision of the vote by the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe could prevent that. The Czech head of state added that the new government in Kiev following the overthrow of president Viktor Janukovych lacked the full legitimacy of an administration formed following elections.
The Czech Ministry of Industry of Trade has said it will not support any proposed changes in the country’s energy law submitted by lawmakers in the lower house of parliament. Fourteen proposals have been made, including a controversial proposal from the head of the energy sub-committee, Social Democrat Milan Urban, which would dramatically change the functioning of the independent energy regulator. The head of the regulatory office, Alena Vitásková, held a press conference Tuesday saying the proposal was motivated by Urban’s links to energy interests and was aimed at removing her from office. The ministry said that it wants to make its own far reaching changes at a later date.
The number of counterfeit Czech bank notes and coins seized last year dropped dramatically by just over 1500 to total just over 2000, the Czech National Bank announced on Wednesday. Their value of around 1.8 billion crowns was around half that of the haul in 2012. But the number of forged foreign bank notes and coins increased slightly to just over 1,000 with their value almost doubling from 2012 to 4.3 billion crowns, the bank said.
Police have said that criminal proceedings will be dropped over the massive gas explosion that ripped through a central Prague street in April last year. The explosion injured around 40 people, two seriously, and damaged nearby buildings and cars with the repair bill coming in at around 275 million crowns. An investigation found that faulty parts and work on the gas pipe caused the explosion. The head of the works unit at the gas company responsible had already died, police said.