President Miloš Zeman has sent a letter of congratulations to the newly elected Slovak President Andrej Kiska and extended an invitation for him to visit the Czech Republic. In the letter Mr. Zeman said he looked forward to future cooperation and hoped that he and Mr. Kiska could further deepen the two neighbouring states above-standard relations. The Czech Republic and Slovakia spent 73 years in a common state and the newly-elected Slovak head of state has already confirmed that, in line with tradition, his first trip abroad would be to the Czech Republic.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he would be prepared to back the construction of a fifth reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant in southern Moravia. On a visit to Třebíč on Monday the prime minister said he would bring the matter up within the ongoing debate on the government’s long-term energy strategy. Dukovany has a licence to operate its four nuclear reactors until 2015 and plans to ask for an extension until 2025 and eventually 2035. A newly-built reactor could produce energy for another 60 years. Meanwhile the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plant in south Bohemia from the present two to four reactors looks increasingly uncertain.
Czech household debt to banks and financial institutions grew by 773 million to 1.2 billion in February, according to data published by the central bank. The overall household debt was 45.6 billion higher year-on-year. One–day deposits of households stood at 1.2 billion crowns in February, an annual rise of 80 billion crowns. February saw a rise of 14 billion crowns.
Following the closure of the Rožná uranium mine northwest of Brno, the state owned uranium mining company Diamo wants to open a new uranium mine near Brzkov in the Jihlava region. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed preliminary support for the idea on Monday saying the cabinet would debate the matter and make a decision within the next few months. Villages located in the vicinity of the potential mining site have previously protested against the idea. If the project were to go ahead, preparation work would take up six to seven years after which the site would be mined for around 16 years, providing jobs for several hundred people.
Czechs are expected to pay on average 10,192 crowns a month in taxes in 2014, with the highest amount 4,312 crowns going towards social insurance, according to an information brochure published by the Czech Finance Ministry. People will pay on average 2,323 crowns a month in value added tax, 1,152 in excise duty and 1,128 in individual income tax. The brochure, intended for the public, represents the Czech version of the Citizens Budget whose publication is recommended by international organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD and the International Budget Partnership.
The Finance Ministry is aiming for a 2015 state budget with a 100 billion crown deficit, i.e a gap below 3 percent of the GDP, according to ministry sources. The proposed draft budget will be put to the three coalition parties of the centre-left government on April 9th. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has refused to reveal further details until the proposal has been debated in cabinet. The ministry wants to improve the state of public finances by an overhaul in public spending and cracking down on tax evaders. The finance minister has also indicated he wants to invest or use profits from state owned firms, such as the power giant ČEZ.
A leading Czech propagator of naturism, Ivo Žurek, has been sent to three years in prison for distributing pictures of nude children. According to the court Žurek and four other suspects from Poland took pictures of nude children at a naturist beach and then sold them to third parties. Some of the photos ended up on an American server. Žurek said in his defense that the photos were made to propagate naturism, but according to the state attorney he and others repeatedly put pressure on children and youths between 3 and 17 years of age to take their clothes off and allow themselves to be photographed on the beach in return for MP3 players and small gifts.
The blast at the Palestinian embassy that killed ambassador Jamal al Jamal on January 1st of this year was not caused by a built in security device as previously thought, according to the results of an ongoing police investigation. According to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulová a test carried out within the investigation shows that the explosion did not occur inside the safe. The internet news site iDnes says there is reason to believe that the ambassador was holding the explosive in his hands when the blast occurred. Police ruled out foul play early on and are now are investigating the incident as death caused by negligence.
Forty-nine people died on Czech roads in the month of March – three fewer than the same period last year, according to police statistics. The weekend of the 20th to the 23rd was the most tragic, over which five people lost their lives in traffic accidents. In January the number was 42 and in February 22 – the lowest number of fatalities over the course of any month since 1990.
The country’s Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has responded sharply to an earlier statement by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka suggesting he should give up all business activities. In a radio broadcast, he said the prime minister was free to recall him from his post or even to find a new coalition partner. Mr Babiš has stepped down as the head of the Agrofert Group, a food, agriculture, chemistry and media conglomerate, to avoid potential conflict-of-interest. However, he retains full ownership, which critics charge is still highly problematic.