Investors in solar energy are threatening lawsuits if the state goes ahead with a planned withholding tax intended to reduce electricity prices next year. According to the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association, the measure will harm 1,450 firms and generate lawsuits of 260 billion crowns, ultimately costing the state 168 billion more than it will receive from the tax. The Ministry of Industry, however, is standing by the plan, saying it should return the profitability of solar investments within 15 years. The government hopes the 26% tax should keep energy price rises to 5.5% for both households and businesses. The expense of solar energy production is blamed for the increases, which were initially expected to reach up to 20%.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš on Monday sought to allay concerns over the poor results of Czech students in a trial version of state leaving exams, saying the outcome is no cause for panic. Around a third of the tested pupils failed the tests. Mr Dobeš told a press conference on Monday that there would be another round of trial exams in the spring, and that he does not intend to decrease their difficulty. The failure rate in the test climbed to 48% in maths, 34% in English and 22% in Czech. Minister Dobeš says he expects the final failure rate will not exceed 20 percent when uniform school leaving exams are phased in next year. However, he says the trial outcome does show a drop in knowledge among Czech children, particularly in mathematics.
The Ministry of Culture has pressed criminal charges against the former director of the National Technical Museum, Horymír Kubíček, for improper management of property. Charges were also brought against the former financial director, Oldřich Rambousek. Culture Minister Jiří Besser said Monday that the decision to prosecute was based on the results of two audits of the museum. Mr Kubíček said he would not comment on the matter until he has seen the audit results. He was dismissed by the ministry in the summer over discrepancies in the museums financial reports and replaced by Mr Rambousek, who resigned only several days later. The Ministry is also auditing the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and plans to do so with the National Museum and the National Gallery.
The director of the Šumava National Park, František Krejčí, has tendered his resignation to the Minister of the Environment, Pavel Drobil. A ministry spokesperson told the press that Mr Krejčí had resigned in order to facilitate the new conception for the park promoted by the ministry. František Krejčí was appointed by the Green Party in 2007 when it controlled the environment ministry in order to fulfil a policy of non-intervention against the bark beetle infestation that has devastated parts of the forest. Environmental organisations say the resignation was forced by the new ministry, which want to take a head on approach to the problem.
Police have charged a 29-year-old man with a series of 40 robberies carried out across the Czech Republic. The man is suspected of having stolen roughly five million crowns from banks, post offices and betting offices. The police called the suspect highly intelligent and said he changed his masks, accent and even shoe-size for each robbery. The locations were reportedly chosen at random, usually just before closing, and the robber used at least seven different bicycles for his escapes. The tip for police apparently came when he was followed by an employee after one robbery. No money was recovered in his arrest and he said he had either gambled it or spent it. If convicted the suspect faces up to 12 years’ imprisonment.
Young man charged with hacking thousands of email accounts and blackmailing women
A 20-year-old IT student is suspected of having broken in to thousands of email accounts and blackmailed a number of women. Police say the suspect used a false social networking website to gather login information and then searched the email accounts for compromising sexual material. He would then threaten to publish the material if the women did not agree to send him more, or meet with him online. If found guilty he could face up to four years in prison, and police have said the charges may include other crimes.
The intelligence agency BIS says that right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic is losing ground. The agency’s third quarter report on the issue says that the loss of political platforms, namely the outlawed Workers’ Party, and concern over repression has made the community passive, disoriented and reluctant even to hold concerts. The report specifies that neo-Nazi groups are confining their gatherings more to private meetings and travelling to Poland and Hungary for larger events that would draw more attention from the police and the media in the Czech Republic. The prohibition on the far-right Workers’ Party earlier this year has had a large impact on the community, according to BIS.
In related news, the District Court of West Prague has once again exonerated Czech-Canadian Vladimír Stwora, who put a Czech translation of an article denying the holocaust on his website. Mr Stwora was first charged with hate speech crimes last year and given a ten-month suspended sentence. However, a higher court overruled the decision on the grounds that he was not proven to have cast doubt on the holocaust. Mr Stwora says the aim of the text was to point out the various official holocaust death counts and start a discussion about it.
Slightly over half of the households in the Czech Republic say they enjoy financial security, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. Students, entrepreneurs and families of three or more people feel the most secure, the poll suggests, while 37% of households said they were suffering from financial problems, particularly those who are unemployed, who have only basic educations, families of manual labourers and retirees living alone. STEM indicates that the numbers of people who feel financially secure is growing in the long term. 41% reported financial security in 2004 and the statistic has hovered at around 50% since 2007.
Czech tennis player Květa Peschke and Slovenian partner Katarina Srebotnik failed to win the finals of the season ending WTA Championships doubles in Doha on Sunday. The number two seeds went down 5:7, 4:6 against top seeded Argentinean-Italian pairing of Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta. Peschke and Srebotnik had a set point at 5:4 in the first set but failed to convert it.
Conditions are expected to be cloudy to party cloudy over the coming days, with a chance of showers on Tuesday and daytime highs of around 13° Celsius.