Daily news summary News

20-12-2010

Nečas, Bavarian Minister-President meet for talks

Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer and Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas have met for official talks in Prague, discussing a broadening of bilateral cooperation, largely in transport, energy and trade. It is the first official visit to the Czech Republic by a Bavarian Minister-President since World War II. The two leaders said on Monday they still viewed differently historic developments which have burdened Czech-Bavarian relations, namely the expulsion after World War II of more than 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. However, both stressed Czech-Bavarian relations needed to focus on the future. After their meeting, Mr Seehofer said his visit - which came at the invitation of the Czech prime minister - represented a new chapter in bilateral relations.

Sazka in financial difficulty, under threat of hostile takeover, says head

The head of Sazka, the troubled private lottery provider and betting agency giant, has told reporters that while the company was facing tremendous pressure from an apparent hostile takeover bid, it was not facing “judgment day” yet. Aleš Husák on Monday added that all services were continuing as normal and that the firm would stabilise its debt through a number of measures next year. These will include the selling-off of unneeded real estate, lowering overall expenses and cooperating with the banks on the company’s restructuring.

On Monday, Hospodářské noviny reported that Czech billionaire Roman Vítek was considering filing an insolvency case against Sazka in January, if the firm didn’t pay off what its owes. Mr Vítek bought 900 million crowns worth of debt from Raiffeisen Bank and Komerčňí Banka and could make a play to buy up additional debt from other stockholders, the newspaper said. According to Hospodářské noviny, the billionaire is interested in gaining control over Sazka’s real estate. Sazka has found itself in financial difficulties, at least in part over its multi-purpose arena in the Czech capital, used for professional sports and concerts.

Doctors’ union says more than 3,500 doctors have quit over salary conditions

Just over 3,500 Czech physicians (out of 16,000 doctors in all) have handed in their notices in protest of salary conditions, the doctor’s union confirmed on Monday. The departures will affect 78 of the country’s 200 hospitals, with the situation worst in the Vysočina region (the Czech-Moravian Highlands). Zlín, Moravia-Silesia and Ústí nad Labem will also be hard hit by the departures. In view of the two-month period of notice, doctors will stop working on March 1. As a result, some hospital wards and even entire hospitals may be closed, while other facilities may have to provide only emergency care. Last week the Health Minister Leoš Heger urged doctors to reconsider their departure to allow time for planned reforms which he said should redirect funds towards salaries.

Audit unveils numerous mistakes in Czech Defence Ministry´s tenders

An audit of the Czech Defence Ministry´s financial management unveiled more than 50 mistakes and suspicious circumstances in connection with tenders, in which some bidders might have been given an advantage, the ministry told journalists on Monday. Five of the ministry´s orders were overpriced by about 100 million crowns, an audit showed and every fifth tender was not won by the cheapest bidder. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, who has held the post since July, initiated the audit. The most serious cases to surface will be investigated further; five people have also been recalled from their posts. Czech military orders have for a long time been criticised as being far from transparent and open to corruption; doubts have mainly concerned purchases of military equipment and real estate construction and management.

Czech PM apologises to former environment fund head

Prime Minister Petr Nečas has apologised to the dismissed State Environmental Fund head Libor Michálek for his statement that the latter wanted to secretly record a meeting between them the prime minister informed the Czech news agency on Monday. The original comment was made in connection with a scandal at the Environment Ministry that has shaken the coalition government. The scandal erupted after Mr Michálek secretly taped meetings between himself and Environment Minister Pavel Drobil as well as his adviser Martin Knetig, who allegedly pushed Michálek to manipulate state contracts. He later took the recordings to the media. On Sunday the former Environmental Fund head expressed disappointment over the prime minister’s words, saying he might seek an apology in court unless the prime minister responded.

The coalition is meeting on Monday evening, meanwhile, to further discuss steps in the wake of the scandal as well as ahead of Tuesday’s vote of no-confidence which was initiated by the opposition Social Democrats. If the coalition parties vote as one, the government should pass easily; the coalition holds 118 seats in the 200-member lower house.

Eleven injured in train collision

A passenger train collided with a locomotive near Prague on Monday, injuring 11 people, the spokesman for the Railway Inspection Office Martin Drápal said. The accident took place shortly before 9 am in Kamenné Žehrovice in the Kladno area. Local rescue workers were called to the scene; one of the injured had to be air-lifted to hospital. The Inspection Office said the cause of the collision was not yet known and that the investigation of the crash site would take most of Monday.

Police officer faces criminal charges over child pornography

The country’s Police Inspection Office has filed a motion for criminal charges to be pressed against an officer in Ostrava nad Ohří, in the west of the country, on suspicion of producing and distributing child pornography. The suspect is believed to have gathered child porn from 2007 until May of this year, sending material to others by electronic means. Only two days ago, another officer from the Karlovy Vary region was charged for criminal activity, concretely on suspicion of conducting a hold up at a petrol station.

Prague Airport cancels numerous flights on Monday

Prague’s Ruzyně airport on Monday afternoon cancelled 21 out of a total 375 flights due to continuing freezing conditions. The cancellations pertain to other European destinations, throughout the course of Monday, from five in the morning to nine in the evening, a spokeswoman said. She added additional cancelations could still follow. Currently airports in Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Budapest, Luxembourg, Berlin and Žilina are in operation. But airports in London and Frankfurt are still suffering difficulties. Heavy snowfall and freezing conditions have affected flights across Europe, affecting thousands of travellers.

Poll: president most trusted figure in Czech politics

A new poll conducted by the CVVM agency has suggested that President Václav Klaus remains the most trusted figure in Czech politics. Seventy percent of respondents answered favourably regarding the president in December. One third of respondents expressed trust in Prime Minister Petr Nečas, and only 33 percent felt the same for the country’s centre-right government. Three-fifths of respondents said they were not happy with the current political situation. A little more than 1,000 people were addressed in the survey.

NHL action: Neuwirth solid for Caps

Czech goalie Michal Neuwirth helped his hockey club in the NHL, the Washington Capitals, snap an eight game losing streak on Sunday when he blocked 24 shots by Ottawa. The Capitals were able to edge the game by a score of 3:2, after falling behind early. At the end of the first period they were trailing 0:2 before they began turning the game around

Weather

Mostly overcast conditions are expected on Tuesday, with daytime temperatures staying ranging between -5 degrees Celsius and 1 degree above zero. Some areas may see fresh snowfall, others rain or freezing rain.

20-12-2010