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Senate sets up commission to assess EC audits on PM Babiš

The Senate has established a special commission to assess the European Commission audits concerning Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's suspected conflict of interest which could mean that the Czech Republic might have to return close to half a billion crowns in EU subsidies.

The commission, headed by Zdeněk Nytra from the Civic Democrats' senators' group, does not have the status of an investigative body, it will merely analyse available information on the case.

The two EC audits, which are both preliminary, claim that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest due to continued influence on the agro-chemical business conglomerate Agrofert which he established and later put in trust funds in order to comply with a strict new conflict of interests law.

Prime Minister Babiš has denied any wrongdoing, saying he fully adhered to Czech law.

Russian ambassador says there is no change in Russia’s position on 1968 invasion

The Russian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Alexander Zmejevskij, has assured President Zeman that Moscow has no intention of changing its position on the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, as reflected in the 1993 agreement between Russia and the Czech Republic.

The ambassador was summoned to Prague Castle in order to discuss a controversial draft amendment to the Russian law on veterans, which has caused much indignation among Czech officials, including the president, who called it a gross insult to the nation.

The proposed draft claims that the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops was aimed at stabilising the political situation in the country and that soldiers who took part in it were suppressing an attempted coup.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier also assured Czech and Slovak officials that there was no change to Moscow’s official policy line. The bilateral bilateral agreement signed in 1993 clearly states that the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and the deployment of Soviet troops in the country was in breach of international law.

Minister Lavrov said the draft amendment to the law on veterans presented in the Russian Duma was an isolated initiative by a single MP.

Prague is city with highest level of equality, claims study

Prague has the lowest level of differences between the rich and poor, according to a study conducted by the consulting firm A. T. Kearney, which analysed the quality of life in 130 metropolises across the world. The Czech capital came in first in the so-called Gini coefficient, a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution among residents.

According to last year’s Eurostat data, the Czech Republic is also the state with the most equal distribution of income in the European Union.

State-owned forestry company suffers loss in profit due to bark-beetle infestation

The state-owned forestry company Česke Lesy saw a 70 million crown loss in profit in 2018, down from 3.08 billion crowns the previous year.

The reason was a significant fall in the price of timber due to the bark-beetle calamity that has hit many areas of Bohemia and Moravia, which resulted in extensive logging.

Logging in infested areas was given top priority while other plans were shelved, which meant that the company mainly did business with lower quality timber.

České Lesy owns almost half of the forests in the country.

Police push ahead with investigation of dubious Export Bank loans

Officers from the country’s National Centre for Combatting Organized Crime have proposed filing criminal charges against a former employee of the Czech Export Bank who is believed to be responsible for two suspect loans afforded to companies between 2007 and 2010 which resulted in damages to the tune of 1.5 billion crowns. If charged and convicted the man could face up to eight years in jail for abuse of position.

The Czech Export Bank and its mother company, the Export Insurance Company EGAP are still dealing with the effects of big losses incurred between 2007 and 2011 due to a number of dubious contracts, some of which are still under investigation.

One of the most highly-publicized cases was a series of loans to the tune of hundreds of millions of crowns afforded to Chinese companies for which five former managers have been charged.

Use of social networks among Czechs sees a slight drop

The use of social networks among Czechs has seen a slight drop, according to a survey conducted by AMI Digital Index.

While last year 80 percent of Internet users in the country went on social networks daily, now their number is at 77 percent and the average time spent on social networks has dropped from 149 to 143 minutes a day.

Although Facebook and You Tube remain the most widely-used social networks, the popularity of Facebook, in particular, is dropping, while the popularity of Instagram is on the rise.

Weather forecast

Friday should bring clear skies around most of the country with day temperatures between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius.