Czech Transport Minister Vít Bárta on Thursday held exploratory talks with the Chinese ambassador about the possibility of Chinese companies building roads and other infrastructure in the country. He said after the meeting that he wanted to develop a pilot project which could serve as a model testing how this could work in practice.
The minister is seeking to shake up local companies and push down the price of construction contracts. Inspiration has come from neighbouring Poland where the Chinese have been hired at prices 40 percent below the local competition to build a section of motorway.
Local construction companies have complained that Chinese firms are subsidised by the state and that they cannot meet the same quality and safety standards. The Minister of Industry Martin Kocourek has cautioned against inviting Chinese companies into the country highlighting the impact on local companies which are struggling to recover from the recession.
A Prague court ruled on Thursday that local elections in the capital last month were valid. The ruling rejected complaints from the Public Affairs, Green Party and SNK European Democrats that the previous Civic Democrat city government had divided Prague into seven electoral districts shortly before the elections, a move seen as favouring them and other big parties. The ruling removes the last formal barrier to a new coalition being formed to rule the capital. But the Greens have said in the past that they would take the matter to the country’s constitutional court.
An agreement on who should govern the Czech capital for the next four years should be sealed within a week, the chairman of the Prague regional branch of the Civic Democratic Party told Czech Radio on Thursday. Boris Št’astný made the prediction ahead of a fresh round of negotiations between his party and TOP 09, the winner of local elections in the capital last month. Some TOP 09 party leaders on Wednesday gave just a five percent chance of talks concluding with an agreement between the two right of centre parties. A deal between the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats was far more likely, they said. TOP 09 got 30 percent of the vote but fell short of a majority in city hall last month leaving a coalition between any of the biggest three parties a possibility.
An auction in Prague on Wednesday night set a new record for a painting by the Czech cubist artist Emil Filla in a Czech salesroom. His painting Still Life with a Bottle of Cherry was sold for 16.25 million crowns. The starting price was 10.0 million. The painting also becomes the fifth most expensive ever sold in the country. The previous Czech record for a Filla painting was set last year when his work Glass and Newspapers was sold for 11.2 million crowns.
Former Social Democratic mayor Roman Onderka has been returned to the post in Brno. At a special session of the council he was elected unopposed and received the votes of right-wing Civic Democrats, Communists as well as his own party. The Social Democrats won just over 30 percent of votes in the mid-October elections, Civic Democrats around 22 percent and TOP 09 just over 14 percent. Some members of the Civic Democrats had called for a coalition with TOP 09 with support sought from some of the smaller parties. The Social Democrats with 19 seats and Civic Democrats with 14 seats have a clear majority in the 55-seat council.
The Constitutional Court has refused a pensioner’s complaint that he was not allowed to fully clear his name after being convicted for setting fire to a collective farm’s haystack as an anti-Communist protest in 1950. The conviction for endangering the public and three year jail sentence that went with it for Cyril Michalica was already quashed by a local court in Břeclav but the declaration of guilt was not. The High Court refused that request in 2007 because Mr. Michalica had not submitted his application in time. The Constitutional Court stood by that decision. As a 17-year-old, Mr. Michalica was a member of an anti-Communist group, Orel, and said that he planned the attack on the collective farm to highlight the violence that accompanied moves to collectivize private farms.
Cuban dissident Rolando Jiménez Posada was granted political asylum status at the Ministry of Interior on Thursday, 16 days after arriving in Prague from his homeland. Mr. Posada had served an almost eight year prison sentence in Cuba for criticising the regime. He was part of a contingent of around 50 political prisoners who were offered their freedom earlier this year and the only one so far who took up the Czech offer of asylum. The promise of rapid asylum from the Ministry of Interior has drawn critical comments from Czech groups helping other asylum seekers, They pointed out that these people often had to wait a year or longer to have their applications processed.
European cross country cycling champion and world championship cross country silver medallist Jaroslav Kulhavý has been voted Czech cyclist of the year by the country’s cycling federation. The 25-year-old takes the title for the first time and dethones the 2009 and 2008 winner of the award, road racer Roman Kreuziger. Kulhavý also won a bronze medal in the world championships in the relay event.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych made it into the prestigious year end World Tour Finals tournament in London starting on November 13 for the first time. He achieved this without hitting a ball on Thursday when one of the rivals for one of the eight places, Fernando Verdasco, lost to Frenchman Gael Monfils in the Paris Masters 7:6, 6:7, 5:7.
The Czech weather office has warned of winds of up to 145 kilometres an hour on high places from Thursday evening. The winds should ease by Friday morning. The gusts could topple electricity pylons, fell trees and endanger transport with the office warning people to stay away from exposed sites during the danger period.
Showers can be expected over the next couple of days, with temperatures reaching a maximum of 14 degrees Celsius.