The Czech Finance Ministry has asked the central bank to investigate whether the Prague Interbank Offered Rate (PRIBOR), the main benchmark for the country's money market, may have been manipulated, the Reuters news agency reported on Friday. In a letter sent to central bank Governor Miroslav Singer, Deputy Finance Minister Martin Pros referred to "unsettling reports concerning PRIBOR rates, of which the most serious ones include concerns of their manipulation" and asked the bank for a thorough investigation. According to Reuters Pros did not accuse any individual or institution of wrongdoing or spell out in the letter what his allegation was based on.
President Miloš Zeman, who is to visit Moscow for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, will not be viewing the planned military parade, his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said at a press briefing in Prague on Friday. Mr. Ovčáček said that at the time of the parade President Zeman would be meeting for one-on-one talks with the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. The Czech president will join other foreign dignitaries in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin wall.
The Czech President’s planned trip to Moscow, at a time when most EU heads of state have declined the invitation over Russia’s policy in Ukraine, has evoked a great deal of controversy in the Czech Republic. The government even postponed a decision on whether it would cover the cost of the trip indicating that this would not be possible were the president to attend the planned military parade which is seen as a show of force underscoring Russia’s dominance in the region.
Czech political leaders have welcomed the news that President Zeman will not be attending the planned military parade in Moscow. Prime Minister Sobotka said it was a wise decision that opened the way for the government to approve the financing of the president’s trip. Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek, whose party first raised the issue in the cabinet, welcomed the move, saying the president had made the right decision. Similar reactions have come from the opposition benches.
The Czech Army is planning to recruit around 1,800 new soldiers this year, according to the army chief-of- staff General Petr Pavel. The general said recruitments of a similar size would continue in the coming years until the army had raised the ranks of its professional soldiers from the present 21,000 to 27,600 which is the optimal number in view of the army’s role and NATO commitments. Petr Pavel said the army has suffered severe budget cuts in the past years due to the former government’s austerity program and some units were drastically undercut. The general stressed that while the Czech Army’s strength lies in its chemical unit and passive surveillance systems the army must maintain a high level of professionalism in all areas.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš will be making a week-long working visit to the United States next week, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. Minister Babiš will be attending the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank and he is set to hold talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, several congressmen and the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
The head of the Office of the President, Chancellor Vratislav Mynář, has said he will make public his salary and that of all the senior office employees once he gets permission to do so from the Office for the Protection of Private Data. Mr. Mynář is a highly controversial figure on the president’s team. He has come under fire for failing to get security clearance, which is a precondition for his post, and recently raised speculation over the purchase of a villa at a surprisingly low cost from a controversial Prague businessman who is now in prison for hit-and-run.
Finance minister and leader of the ANO party Andrej Babiš continues to top the ladder as the most popular politician in the Czech Republic, according to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM agency. Mr. Babiš enjoys the trust of 64 percent of those polled, down by 8 percent from a previous survey, he is followed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka whose current trust rating is 54 percent and Defense Minister Martin Stropnický who got 52 percent. Despite often coming under fire over a possible conflict of interests, the Czech finance minister, who owns a multi-billion crown business enterprise, has consistently topped the popularity ladder since January of last year.
The number of Czechs on social networks is on the rise, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office. In 2014 approximately 3.5 million Czechs used them, which amounts to 37 percent of the population. Five years ago it was less than a million people. The most popular social networks are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
The majority of Czechs neglect regular health check-ups, according to the country’s largest health insurer VZP. The company which registers 6 million clients, says that only around 40 percent of the population visit their doctor for a regular health check, and in Prague the number is even lower – a mere 32 percent. The insurer has been trying to change this by sending its clients invitations to screenings for the most widespread oncological diseases – breast cancer and cancer of the large intestine. People over 50 are entitled to a free check up every two years.
Around 440 people were evacuated from Prague’s Pankrác prison on Thursday night after a fire broke out in the prison courtyard. Inmates were moved out of danger from one part of the building to another but were not freed from the prison area. Two people were trated after inhaling smoke. The prisoners were later returned to their cells. The blaze was caused when building material stored in the courtyard caught fire.
In ice hockey, the Czech national team bet Slovakia 3:2 but only after the match went into extra time and penalty shootouts. The narrow win was the third triumph in a row in preparations for the World Championships being hosted by Prague and Ostrava at the start of May. Five changes were made to the Czech team that faced Norway twice in the previous warm ups. Slovakia took the lead but the hosts turned the game around with two goals, one being the first for the national team by back Martin Pláněk. Slovakia’s forward Milan Bartovič left it until the 52nd minute to draw level at 2:2 and take the game into extra time.
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