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One-time senior labour ministry officials get jail terms

A Prague court has handed a former deputy minister of labour and social affairs a six-year jail term for attempted blackmail. Vladimír Šiška was found guilty of offering a software company a contract worth at least CZK 100 million if it withdrew a complaint it had lodged at the anti-trust authority against the ministry. Then minister Jaromír Drábek stood down over the matter; he was close to Mr. Šiška and had previously co-owned a company with him. Mr. Šiška’s co-defendant Milan Hojer, who headed the ministry’s IT department, got five years behind bars for his part in the affair.

Government to increase tax credits for parents of more than one child

The coalition parties have agreed to increase tax credits for parents with more than one child. Next year parents will be able to deduct more from their tax returns for second and third children. While the Christian Democrats, who strongly back the change, want the credits to rise even further in future years, the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš of ANO, said it was only possible to discuss changes in the short term as it was impossible to predict how the economy would develop. At present parents get a monthly tax credit of over CZK 1,100 for every child; in 2014 there will be CZK 200 more for a second child and CZK 300 more for a third.

Zeman welcomes Gašparovič on final visit to Prague before leaving office

Prior to leaving office next month, the Slovak president, Ivan Gašparovič, has paid a final visit to his Czech counterpart, Miloš Zeman in Prague. On Tuesday Mr. Gašparovič presented Mr. Zeman with his country’s highest honour, the Order of the White Double Cross. Having invited his guest to a hunt at his Lány residence, the Czech head of state gave Mr. Gašparovič hunting boots and binoculars. Mr. Zeman said it was a pity his counterpart was departing and that he had been a friend to the Czech Republic.

Study: Czech Republic has one of highest rates of methamphetamine use in Europe

The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of methamphetamine consumption in Europe, according to a study carried out for the journal Addiction and published on Tuesday. Prague’s waste water showed the strongest traces of methamphetamine in a comparison involving 42 European cities. Another Czech city, České Budějovice, placed second in the study. Prague was ranked 14th in terms of the amount of THC, which is found in cannabis, in its waste water, and 15th with regard to traces of ecstasy. Methamphetamine is known locally in the Czech Republic as pervitin.

Backing of former TOP 09 supporters helped Free Citizens into European Parliament, finds study

The Free Citizens’ Party – one of six Czech groupings that won seats in the European Parliament in elections last weekend – attracted votes from people who backed TOP 09 in October’s general elections, suggests a study of voting patterns released by the group KohoVolit.eu. The Pirate Party, who were less than one percentage point away from taking a seat, took votes from the Green Party, according to the study. The Communists and the Christian Democrats had the highest percentage of votes from people who also supported them in the general elections. By contrast, ANO, who came first in the Euro elections, lost many previous voters to smaller parties.

Václav Klaus welcomes low voter turnout in European elections

The country’s leading Eurosceptic, former president Václav Klaus expressed satisfaction over the low voter turnout in elections to the European Parliament in the Czech Republic late Monday. Mr. Klaus told Czech Television that the 18.2 percent turnout was a clear indication that Czechs were not interested in the European Union and were aware that the EU was not run according to democratic principles. Mr. Klaus said the real winners of the European elections were the 82 percent of people who ignored them. In response to the outcome of the vote across Europe, the former Czech head of state noted that the success of Eurosceptic parties would mean only a marginal change.

Heavy storms cause flooding of cellars and roads

The Czech Republic was hit by severe storms on Tuesday, with heavy rain and hail flooding cellars and roads. In Prague fire officers were called out to deal with flooding at around two dozen spots, including the basement of the National Library, the vestibule of Můstek metro station and a theatre. More heavy storms are forecast for Wednesday.

Functionalist Mánes art gallery to reopen Wednesday

The Prague art gallery Mánes is set to reopen after a two-year renovation on Wednesday with an exhibition of works by caricaturist and illustrator Ivan Steiger. Restaurant and office spaces at Mánes are still awaiting building approval, with its operators saying they would like to open the entire complex to the public in the summer. The Functionalist structure hosted the 80th birthday party of President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in 1930, the year it opened with a show looking back at a century of Czech art.

Popular ‘90s band Lucie return to stage after 10-year gap

The popular Czech rock band Lucie have returned to the stage after a 10-year gap. The group played the first show of a reunion tour in front of 6,500 fans in the Slovak city of Košice on Monday night. Lucie – who were one of the country’s most popular bands in the 1990s – have sold over 100,000 tickets for the comeback tour. Two additional shows have been organised in Prague due to high demand.

Vrba calls up players from Czech league for Austria friendly

The manager of the Czech national soccer team, Pavel Vrba, has mainly selected players from the Czech league for a friendly game against Austria in Olomouc next Tuesday. Striker Matěj Vydra of England’s West Bromwich Albion is the only foreign-based call-up. Among the 18-man squad are three uncapped young players: Jiří Fleišman from Liberec, Lukáš Hejda of Plzeň and Jablonec’s Jan Kopic.