The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Wednesday approved the state budget for next year. The budget projects a deficit of 100 billion crowns, or around 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Compared to this year’s budget, the revenues are set to increase by 20 billion while expenditures should rise by 8 billion. During a debate in the lower house on Wednesday, MPs approved some minor changes including an additional 450 million crowns for welfare and social services. The opposition has criticized the budget over lower funds allocated for investment; these are set to reach 75 billion crowns next year, some 25 billion less than in 2014.
Another explosion was heard at an ammunition depot in eastern Moravia on Wednesday morning, after several minor blasts occurring on Tuesday evening. The blasts were the first since Friday and mean the period before pyrotechnics experts can begin working at the site will be extended by a number of days. Two people were killed when a munitions store near the village of Vrbětice blew up in mid-October. The situation seemed to have calmed before more explosions began at an adjacent depot last Thursday. Locals, who have been repeatedly evacuated, have been critical of the handling of the situation.
The Czech minister of agriculture, Marián Jurečka, has rejected a claim by his Polish counterpart, that the Czech food inspection authority targeted food imports from Poland. In a letter to Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki, Mr Jurečka argued that food from other countries had been subject to inspections more frequently that food from Poland; however, a chart provided to the media shows that after food produced in the Czech Republic, Polish foodstuffs were most frequently inspected, followed by food imported from Germany and Spain.
The Czech banking sector is sufficiently resilient to negative shocks, according to the results of stress tests released by the Czech National Bank on Wednesday. The tests suggest that the bank’s capital levels would remain above the 8-percent benchmark even under a scenario of a strong decline in the economic activity in the Czech Republic and abroad. The sector’s resilience is mainly based on its relatively high capital adequacy which in September exceeded 18 percent, the central bank said.
The Czech government sometimes struggles to adopt measures aimed at protecting human rights in the country, Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier told reporters on Wednesday, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day. The Czech Republic faces EU sanctions over failing to integrate Romany children into mainstream schools; Mr Dienstbier said the situation should improve after existing education legislation is amended. The government has also rejected plans to introduce legislation mandating female quota in corporate boardrooms.
The carmaker Škoda Auto on Wednesday produced its millionth vehicle this year, a white Škoda Fabia, the company said in a statement. It is the first time the German-owned manufacturer produced a million cars in one year. Škoda CEO Winfried Vahland said the company’s strong output was due to the fact the firm now offered the widest choice of models in its history. Over the first nine months of the year, Škoda’s revenues grew by nearly 20 percent to 8.8 billion euro. By 2018, the carmaker plans to increase production to 1.5 million vehicles annually.
Some 39 billion crowns are annually spent on treating patients with dementia in the Czech Republic, according to a report released on Wednesday. Some 143,000 Czechs suffer from various forms of dementia, with their numbers set to reach 154,000 by the end of the year. The Czech Alzheimer Society however warns that the government has adopted no action plan to combat various forms of dementia, while there are major differences in what type of care and services are provided to patients in individual regions, the society said.
President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday appointed attorney David Uhlíř judge of the Constitutional Court. Mr Uhlíř, an expert on civil law, has served as deputy chair of the Czech Bar Association; he replaces Ivana Janů at the top court whose mandate expired in September. Justifying his choice, President Zeman said that the Constitutional Court should also have an attorney in its ranks. Mr Uhlíř’s nomination was approved by the Senate last week. With 15 judges, the Constitutional Court is now complete.
Poker tournaments are a form of gambling, the Czech Constitutional Court has ruled, rejecting an appeal by the Czech Poker Association. The group contested an interpretation of the country’s legislation, applied by the authorities since 2012, which regulated poker tournaments and required their organizers to get licences from the Finance Ministry. The court argued that chance was a crucial factor in poker, making it gambling rather than a game. In a reaction, the poker association said this means poker can only be played in casinos.
Airborne dust levels remain high in Moravia-Silesia, with emissions limits of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre breached at all of the 15 measuring stations in the region on Wednesday morning. The worst situation is at Dolní Lutyně-Věřňovice in Karviná, where dust levels three times over the limit have been recorded. The largely industrial region frequently suffers from pollution.