Almost 50 percent of Czechs have expressed dissatisfaction with Miloš Zeman 100 days into his presidency, according to a new poll by the STEM/MARK agency. The results were released by Czech TV. Respondents graded the head-of-state, the first in the Czech Republic elected directly by the people, in a number of areas. Those who were critical towards the president, for example, found fault with his behaviour at a recent ceremony in which the crown jewels were put on display: three-quarters of those questioned said they did not believe he was ill but under the influence of alcohol. The president on Tuesday denied he had been drunk. Forty-nine percent of those questioned disapprove of the president, while 51 percent are in favour, according to the poll.
The police are pushing for a ban on the sale of alcohol over the internet in the Czech Republic, which last year saw dozens of deaths caused by illegally produced spirits. As greater emphasis is placed on the provenance of booze, officers say stocks of alcohol sold online are very hard to police. For their part, retailers say such a ban could cost them huge sums of money.
Flood-relate damages to the agriculture sector are estimated to be at least 1.8 billion crowns, according to the Czech Agrarian Chamber. The overall figure could be much higher since the estimate does not include losses to the fishing industry. In 2002, farmers around the Czech Republic suffered damages of more than 3.5 billion crowns. Some 55 thousand hectares of land were flooded in the past week, which most of all affecting vegetable growers. Many farmers were getting ready to harvest many of their crops, which are now effectively destroyed. This will most likely cause prices of local produce to rise this year.
The Ministry of Agriculture is planning to submit an amendment that should prevent massive flood-related damages in the future. One of the things that Minister Petr Bendl plans to propose is that no buildings would be allowed to be built in flood zones. He also told the press on Monday that more efforts should be made to regularly clean river basins, in order to allow better drainage of the rivers. The ministry is still working on the full text of the draft amendment
The minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek, has admitted to being drunk in interviews to broadcast media outlets on Thursday, the news site iDnes.cz reported. Mr. Kalousek slurred his words and struggled to speak coherently in interviews for Czech Radio and TV Nova on the subject of tax reliefs for flooded businesses. Speaking on Friday, the minister said he had had two shots of spirits and, as he was tired, they had affected him more than he had expected. He apologised and said he would not offer excuses similar to those produced by other politicians in the past.
The organized crime unit of the Czech police on Friday raided the national stud farm Kladruby nad Labem, a subsidiary of the Agriculture Ministry, a police spokesman said. The raid is part of a large-scale operation in a number of places in eastern Bohemia and the capital. The police have not disclosed any further details, and said a report would be released next week. Some reports suggest the police operation is related to the distribution of EU’s cohesion funds in eastern Bohemia.
In Business News: the IMF has advised the Czech government against making further budget cuts in view of the country’s worse-than-expected economic development; Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has questioned the financial wisdom of expanding the Temelín nuclear power plant; Czech arms producer Česká zbrojovka has won a multi-million crown tender to supply 50,000 pistols to the Egyptian interior ministry and the Czech liqueur maker Rudolf Jelínek posted its first loss since 1998.
A Czech brewery is taking the country’s leading consumer magazine to court over tests which detected high levels of mould in one of its brews. The Svijany brewery questions the accuracy of the findings, as additional testing did not find increased levels of mycotoxins in its beer. In an email leaked to the press, the brewery’s manager also says that government subsidies for the magazine should be cut.
The police have uncovered close to one million liters of untaxed liquor in storage in a number of warehouses around the country. The tanks of alcohol had been cemented underground in order to escape inspections relating to the methanol scandal which broke out last year. Several people from an unspecified firm have been detained for questioning. The loss in taxes is estimated at 300 million crowns. The police’s organized crime squad is on the case.
After last year’s methanol affair in the Czech Republic, the police redoubled efforts in uncovering bootleg liquor. A week ago, it was confirmed Tuesday, they found three secret sites and uncovered close to one million litres of undeclared alcohol. Earlier searches at different warehouses around the country missed the hidden chambers as they were sealed underground beneath metre-thick concrete.
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