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Government approves preliminary budget for 2015

The Czech government approved preliminary state budget for 2015 with a deficit of 100 billion, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš revealed after the cabinet meeting on Monday. The government will continue to discuss the budget until September when it has to approve the draft and submit it to the Chamber of Deputies. The finance minister said the first round of the “marathon” was at an end and that the budget for next year included wage increases for firemen, police, and teachers as well as a rise in pensions and an increase in investment.

Opencard contract with eMoneyServices sees final day

A contract between the city of Prague and eMoneyServices over the use of the transit and other purpose Opencard runs out after Monday. Prague was unable to reach an agreement with the firm on further cooperation and the city plans to take up administration of the card on its own for the time being. Card holders, of which there are a reported 1.2 million, have been promised they will not register any differences. eMOneyServices has said that while Prague can operate the system, it does not hold the rights to the software and will therefore not be able to fix bugs which come up or reprogram parts of the package.

Government to nominate Sir Nicholas Winton for country´s highest honour

The Czech government will propose to the president that Sir Nicholas Winton, the British national who saved more than 650 mostly Jewish children from the Holocaust by organizing the kindertransports out of Czechoslovakia before the start of WWII, receive the country’s highest honour – the Order of the White Lion. The decision was taken by the government on Monday, several weeks after President Miloš Zeman said he would award Sir Winton the distinction at the official ceremony held on October 28th, marking the founding of Czechoslovakia. The president himself made the announcement on the occasion of Sir Winton’s 105th birthday.

Czech car production increases by 8.5 pct between January and May

Car production in the Czech Republic increased by 8.5 percent between January and May this year, according to fresh figures by the country’s Automotive Industry Association released on Monday. In total, nearly 520,000 cars were made in the first five months of the year. Škoda Auto annually increased its production by 22 percent to over 322,000 cars, followed by Hyundai with some 132,000 vehicles. The output of the car maker TPCA, meanwhile, decreased by 24 percent to 65,000 cars.

Government approves investment deal with South Korea's Nexen

The Czech government approved an investment agreement worth 22.8 billion crowns with South Korean tire maker Nexen on Monday, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka revealed. In the first years of the investment project, Nexen will create at least 1,000 jobs in the Žatec industrial zone in the Ústí region. In the future, Nexen could invest up to 40 billion in the zone, which would be the largest investment a foreign company has ever made in the Czech Republic. The prime minister said the government had given a clear signal that the Czech Republic was keen in drawing new investors for projects. The Czech Republic won the contract in competition with strong international rivals, he added. Nexen could launch production in the zone within roughly two years.

City Hall announces planned changes to blue zones

City Hall has announced planned changes to Prague’s parking system: until now, so-called blue zones were reserved for local residents and businesses but a new phone app will make it possible for motorists to pay and park in blue-marked spaces for up to two hours. The planned change is primarily to make life easier for entrepreneurs who have found it exceedingly difficult to park in areas during the day. In addition, parking spots will also be labelled in orange and purple: purple will be for residents or for non-residents who pay via parking meter. The system should be broadened to districts that did not use blue zones until now. The proposal will still have to be passed by city councilors.

Lukoil Czech lands 27-million fine over oil reserves deal

The Czech branch of the Russian-based oil firm Lukoil has received a fine of 27 million crowns over a deal with State Administration of Material Reserves, the daily Lidové noviny said on Monday. The case goes back to 2009 when the firm reportedly failed to replace part of 30,000 cubic metres of aviation fuel. The firm is headed by chief advisor of President Miloš Zeman, Martin Nejedlý; Mr Zeman said earlier he would consider firing him depending on the court verdict.

State fund to boost number of nursery and elementary schools

The government has approved an Education Ministry plan to try and increase the number of nursery and elementary schools. Beginning in 2015, existing or planned facilities should be able to draw from a national subsidy fund overseeing 1.5 billion crowns; 12 billion crowns will be made available from European funding. The new framework proposed by the ministry should broaden the number of schools, or renovate existing ones, in areas based on demographics and demand. Prague itself has too few facilities for young children: thousands last year were not able to register at nursery schools, leaving parents little choice but to pay for private daycare or to look for other options.

Police catch thieving duo originally stopped for misdemeanor

Prague police revealed on Monday they caught two thieves red-handed at the weekend with items worth roughly half a million crowns in their car. Police originally wanted to stop the driver for a traffic misdemeanor only, but the suspect sped up and tried to evade pursuit. The driver and his female accomplice then abandoned their car and tried to escape on foot. The two were caught with expensive items including a high-end cell phone and several watches on their persons. Additional items were found in the vehicle. The two – who both have criminal records and bans for driving under the influence of pervetin or other drugs – reportedly admitted to numerous recent car thefts and break-ins in, or just outside of, Prague.

Ivory smuggler caught

A 32-year-old foreign national was detained at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport on Sunday for attempting to smuggle 35 kilograms of rare African elephant tusks along with methamphetamine in a piece of luggage, customs officials have revealed. The package was reportedly destined for Vietnam. Officials estimate the tusks alone could be worth the equivalent of a million crowns when sold in Asia and but twice that amount in China.