Monday, April 11, 2011

News 4.11.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Monday, April 11th, 2011

By: Jan Richter

* The Czech Prime Minister has asked the country's president to accept
one resignation and approve two dismissals of government ministers.

* Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra has also offered to step down to
ensure the continuation of the country's coalition government.

* Police have launched an investigation into alleged bribery within the
junior coalition party, Public Affairs.

* A covert listening device has been found in the apartment of MP
Kristyna Koci, who had rebelled against the leadership of the Public
Affairs party.

* The European Commission has suspended payments into a Czech
operational programme over alleged errors in its functioning.

Czech prime minister informs president of three ministers' departures

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas has asked the country's president,
Vaclav Klaus, to accept the resignation of Transport Minister Vit
Barta, and to dismiss Interior Minister Radek John and Education
Minister Josef Dobes, all from the junior coalition party Public
Affairs. The move comes in the wake of a corruption scandal that racked
the Public Affairs party and resulted in a call for a change-of-guard
from the other coalition parties, Civic Democrats and TOP 09. President
Klaus said he would make a decision after a meeting of coalition
leaders scheduled for Monday evening.

The president is bound by the country's constitution to accept the
resignation and proposed dismissals, although there is no deadline by
when he should do so. Mr Klaus said earlier on Monday he wouldn't agree
to any government shake-up before the prime minister presents him with
a plan of how to ensure sufficient support for his government in

Defence Minister Vondra offers to step down to save government

In related news, Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra offered to step
down on Monday in order for the government to continue. Leaders of the
Public Affairs party said they would only continue supporting the
government in the lower house on condition that Prime Minister Petr
Necas also removes two Civic Democrat ministers, Alexandr Vondra and
Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa, and Finance Minister Miroslav
Kalousek, from the TOP 09 party, all of whom have at some point been
linked to dubious tenders.

Opposition calls for snap election

The opposition parties in the lower house of the Czech Parliament - the
Social Democrats and the Communists - said on Monday that snap general
elections would be the "cleanest" way of dealing with the ongoing
government crisis. Social Democrat deputy chair Michal Hasek told Czech
TV the project of Prime Minister Petr Necas had failed, and that he
should seek voters' confidence in a new general election. For his part,
the head of the Communist Party, Vojtech Filip said Mr Necas'
government had lost all legitimacy.

Police launches investigation into Public Affairs' alleged bribery

The Czech police on Monday launched an investigation into the alleged
bribery scandal within the junior coalition Public Affairs party. The
unofficial party leader, and outgoing Transport Ministr Vit Barta,
reportedly bribed two Public Affairs MPs in return for their loyalty
and keeping silent about the party's financial dealings. Mr Barta has
since denied the charges, and said he only provided loans to the
deputies. Police have set up a special team to investigate the issue in
which two criminal complaints have been filed.

MP Kristyna Koci's apartment wired

A covert listening device has been found in the apartment of MP
Kristyna Koci, former head of the Public Affairs' group of deputies who
had been expelled from the party after she accused last week the
unofficial party leader Vit Barta of corruption. Ms Koci said the wire
was found by a private security agency she hired last week over
concerns for her safety. She was the second Public Affairs figure to
speak publicly about corruption within the party. The scandal led to
the ongoing crisis of the Czech coalition government.

European Commission suspends payments into Czech operational programme

The European Commission has suspended payments into the Enterprise and
Innovations Operation Programme, run by the Czech Ministry of Industry
and Trade, the news website Ceska pozice reported on Monday. A
spokeswoman for the Commissioner for Regional Policy said the European
Commission was concerned over "certain financial circumstances" of the
programme. In a letter to the ministry, the commission reportedly
pointed out shortcomings in management and control and a lack of
transparency in project evaluation, among other things. The Industry
and Trade Ministry said they did not agree with the commission's
decision, and is working on a reply that should explain the functioning
of the programme which should make some 90 billion crowns available to
Czech entrepreneurs by 2013.

EU's agriculture reform not to lower subsidies for Czech farmers:

The proposed overhaul of the EU's common agriculture policy after 2013
should lower subsidies for Czech farmers, the European Commissioner for
Agriculture Dacian Ciolos told reporters in Prague on Monday. The
27-member-bloc's planed reform of its agriculture policies should among
other things introduce limits for basic agriculture subsidies; Czech
farmers fear this could reduce subsidies by around 12 billion crowns
per year.

Fuel prices reach record highs

Fuel prices in the Czech Republic have reached record highs, according
to date released by the CCS petrol seller on Monday. The price of
top-selling gasoline Natural 95 went up to 34.20 crowns per litre last
week, while the price diesel increased to 34.20 crowns per litre.
Analysts believe fuel prices will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

Polish press: high-speed trains to link Czech Republic and Poland

The Czech and Polish governments have agreed on linking the two
countries with a high-speed train service, the Polish daily
Rzeczpospolita reported on Monday. High-speed trains should run between
Warsaw and Prague via Wroclaw as well as between Warsaw and Vienna via
Brno. The paper said a joint working group should be established in
three months' time, and the service could be launched by 2019. The new
service would significantly cut travelling time between the Czech and
Polish capitals, which is now around 8.5 hours.

Trade unions in oil refinery firm consider strike action over salary

Trade unions in Ceska rafinerska, the country's largest oil refinery
firm, said on Monday they would consider going on strike after salary
negotiations with company management have failed. Negotiations will now
continue through mediators. Ceska rafinerska, which operates refineries
in Litvinov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, has around 640 employees, half of
which are members of trade unions. The company's largest shareholders
are Unipetrol, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni.

Jan Balaban's novel Ask Your Father named book of the year

Jan Balaban's novel Zeptej se taty, or Ask Your Father, has won the
Magnesia Litera award for the book of the year 2011. The author Jan
Balaban died last year at the age of 49, shortly after finishing the
novel book. Poet Josef Hruby was awarded for the best book of poetry,
while Alzbeta Skalova's Pampe a Sinka got the prize for best children's
book. The award for best work of non-fiction went to Vladimir Papousek,
the author a new history of modern Czech art. The Magnesia Liteta
awards were handed out in Prague's Estates' Theatre on Sunday.

Actor Ladislav Lakomy dies aged 79

Czech actor Ladislav Lakomy died on Monday at the age of 79. Mr Lakomy
was mainly a stage actor, although he appeared in more than 80 TV and
film roles. He spent most of his career in south Moravia; after a stint
at a theatre in Uherske Hradiste, he joined the National Theatre in
Brno in 1965, where he worked until January. Mr Lakomy last appeared in
the 20014 Czech-Greek movie entitled Returning in Autumn.


The start of the week will see overcast skies with occasional rain
showers. Daytime highs should range between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Michal Pechoucek - AI specialist developing ways of improving aviation
and protecting ships from pirates

Though still only in his late 30s, Professor Michal Pechoucek is an
internationally recognised expert in the field of artificial
intelligence. His work includes developing machines that are capable of
working together without active human input, while he has also helped
create sophisticated programmes aimed at improving flight traffic
control - and thwarting the pirates that disrupt international shipping
in the Gulf of Aden.

Pundit: early elections may be the only viable option

The fate of the Czech government hangs in the balance in the wake of a
corruption scandal involving the junior coalition party Public Affairs.
The prime minister's intention to dismiss two Public Affairs ministers
perceived as close allies of Transport Minister Vit Barta who resigned
on Friday amidst allegations of corruption, have raised the ire of the
smallest party in government. Public Affairs has threatened to walk out
unless its coalition partners sweep before their own doors first -
triggering a broad cabinet reshuffle. The deadlock over who should stay
and who should go has precipitated a crisis that could result in early
elections. Radio Prague asked political analyst Jiri Pehe to assess the
government's chances of survival.

Sports News 11.4.2011

In Sports News: Hockey's Vitkovice win a dramatic Game 4 to stay alive
in the Extraliga hockey finals; in the NHL, goalie Vokoun blanks
Washington; football's Olomouc & Usti continue downward slide; Petr
Cech and Chelsea will have their work cut out for them in Champions
League second-leg match against Manchester United.

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