The Russian television lies in a documentary about the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, President Miloš Zeman said at a press conference at the end of his visit to South Bohemia on Wednesday, adding that the invasion was a crime. The documentary, shown in May by the country’s public broadcaster Rossiya, claims that the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia was to protect the country against a planned attack by NATO troops. The Russian ambassador to Prague, Sergej Kiseljov, previously told the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek that the film did not reflect the official stand of the Kremlin.
The cabinet has approved draft legislation, put forward by the Health Ministry, which envisages a blanket ban on smoking in Czech bars and restaurants. The same restriction would also apply to electronic cigarettes. Under the new legislation, the drinks menu would have to offer at least one non-alcoholic drink that would be cheaper than beer or other alcoholic drinks. It would also be forbidden to smoke in cinemas, theatres, sport arenas, schools, transport means and roofed platforms and roofed bus and tram stops. All previous attempts to ban smoking in Czech bars and restaurants have failed, but since the governing coalition has a comfortable majority in the lower house the bill stands a good chance of winning approval. President Zeman, who is a long-term chain smoker, said he would not veto the legislation.
The government has approved the Czech Army’s surveillance mission of Icelandic airspace, the spokesman for the Defence Ministry Petr Medek said on Wednesday. The Czech Republic will deploy five Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets for a period of six weeks in July and August. The mission was originally to be carried out by Canadian pilots, who will instead be involved in operation against Islamic State. The Czech air force took its turn protecting Icleand’s airspace last autumn over the course of nine weeks. Iceland is the only NATO member state with no air force of its own and the activities of Russian air forces allegedly intensified close to the Icelandic airspace.
The Czech Cabinet Wednesday cleared a long term plan for the development of the nuclear sector. The plan counts on at least one new nuclear reactor being built at the current Dukovany and Temelín sites, with four new reactors in the long term likely sprouting at the two locations. Priority for construction will be given to the Dukovany site, where the first of its four reactors will probably close in 2035. The plan says that a decision on a final go ahead for the first new reactors can wait till 2025 when the electricity prices might have recovered enough to make state support unnecessary.
Government approves draft bill curbing presidential powers The Czech government has approved a draft bill on curbing the powers of the country’s head-of-state, the Czech news agency reported on Wednesday. The changes include the Senate having to co-sign appointments to the board of the Czech National Bank and the government being solely responsible for Czech foreign policy. The draft legislation, criticised by the President and part of the opposition, also introduces a so-called sliding mandate, a practice under which a minister is replaced in the lower house during his term in office. If approved by both chambers of Parliament, the legislation will come into effect as of the beginning of next year. In reaction to the bill’s approval, President Miloš Zeman said he finds it ‘absurd’ that a directly elected head-of-state should have less power than president elected by parliament.
The Prague Waterworks have received over 2,000 demands for compensation from people who were taken sick after drinking water contaminated by coliform bacteria in Prague 6, the company’s spokesman Tomáš Mrázek told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday. The compensation will be paid out on the basis of a doctor’s certificate. The tap water in Prague’s district of Dejvice was contaminated by the sewage water from a nearby construction site, where a sewage pipe has been damaged by construction workers. Close to 500 people were treated for diarrhoea, vomiting and fevers after drinking it. People had to do without drinkable tap water since May 22 until May 28.
The government on Wednesday approved a draft bill introducing electronic cash registers. Under the new system, restaurants, groceries and other businesses will have to electronically transmit their transactions every month to the tax authorities. The bill is part of a broader effort to fight the grey economy, particularly to clampdown on the billions of crowns of undeclared income, especially VAT, which escapes the tax authorities notice when cash payments are made without being recorded. According to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the system should be launched in February 2016 at the earliest.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has published a more optimistic growth outlook for the Czech Republic. The OECD revised its forecast for Czech GDP growth in 2015 to 3.1 percent, compared to November’s 2.3 percent. According to the OECD, the Czech economic outlook is favourable, driven primarily by strong domestic demand, although it estimates a drop in GDP growth to 2.5 percent next year. The OECD’s revised estimate for the Czech Republic remains more optimistic than those of the Czech National Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission, neither of which expect growth to exceed 2.7 percent.
The Czech Army has begun using drones for monitoring purposes in Afghanistan, Novinky.cz reported. The US made and supplied ScanEagle drones have been deployed to help guard Bagram Air Base and to assist security patrols, the news website said. The Czech Army began trials with the 10 drones – which cost around CZK 200 million each – in May. Speaking on a visit to Bagram, new army chief-of-staff Josef Bečvář said discussions on deploying the unmanned aircraft had begun two years ago.
Prague will remain the ninth most visited city in Europe and the 19th on a world scale, according to a survey released by the credit card company MasterCard. The list of most visited world cities was topped by London, followed by Bangkok, and Paris. Prague is expected to host nearly 5.5 million visitors this year, compared to 5.2 million in 2014. The study estimates the foreign visitors will spend altogether some 82 billion crowns in Prague in 2015.
The makers of the Czech beer Gambrinus have admitted to selling it under a fake microbrewery brand in order to help improve its reputation. Producers Plzeňský pivovar set up the bogus Patron microbrewery in a village in West Bohemia and began supplying the purported craft lager to specialised pubs in Prague and Plzeň. Revealing the unusual marketing step, Plzeňský pivovar said it had been taken because Gambrinus had begun to receive a bad name despite its high quality.