Friday, April 8, 2011

News 4.8.2011

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

News Friday, April 8th, 2011

By: Jan Velinger

* The unofficial head of the Public Affairs party Vit Barta - embroiled
in a corruption scandal - has stepped down as transport minister.

* The prime minister has questioned who should head the Interior
Ministry, making clear the cabinet will face a shakeup.

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ended a two-day
official visit to the Czech Republic.

* Unemployment figures in the Czech Republic have improved for the
second straight month.

* An unknown perpetrator on Thursday stole a commemorative plaque
honouring Plastic People of the Universe frontman Milan Hlavsa.

Embattled Barta steps down as transport minister

The unofficial head of the Public Affairs party Transport Minister Vit
Barta, hit by serious corruption allegations, has stepped down from his
post in the country's cabinet. His notice was accepted on Friday by the
prime minister and must now be confirmed by the president. Speaking to
journalists, Mr Barta made clear he was taking the step to prevent
damage to the coalition government and its reform plans. The step
follows allegations on Thursday that Mr Barta gave a high-standing
former party member a 500,000 crown bribe. A former deputy leader has
made similar claims. Mr Barta has denied any wrongdoing and said the
alleged bribes were loans. Although he has quit the government, Mr
Barta confirmed on Friday he will still run for the post of leader of
Public Affairs in part, he said, to clear his name.

PM accepts resignation, promises cabinet changes

Prime Minister Petr Necas said at his own press conference following Mr
Barta's announcement, that he had expected no other outcome to
developments and said there had been no other viable option, saying he
had accepted Mr Barta's resignation 'immediately'. Speaking on live
television, Mr Necas made clear he was taking the growing scandal with
utmost seriousness, and expressed concern over new allegations of ties
between government officials and private detective agency ABL -
formerly owned by Mr Barta and now owned and run by his brother. In
that light, the prime minister has cast doubt on whether the Public
Affairs party should keep the post of interior minister, held by Radek
John, saying that will be the subject of a meeting between coalition
leaders later on Friday. Mr Necas said in no uncertain terms that the
cabinet faces a shakeup in the spring period, saying that some
ministers were not up to their jobs.

Public Affairs expels rebel party members

In related news, a day earlier Public Affairs expelled two members at a
meeting of party MPs, as corruption allegations against the party's
unofficial leader Vit Barta grew. Krystyna Koci, who filed charges
against Mr Barta for allegedly attempting to bribe her with a payment
of 500,000 crowns and was the head of the deputies' club, was one of
those thrown out. MP Stanislav Huml was also forced out after he sided
with Ms Koci and Jaroslav Skarka, another former member who has claimed
to have been paid under the table by the transport minister for his
loyalty and secrecy on financial affairs. The allegations have brought
a major shadow over the self-styled anti-corruption party and have
threatened the stability of the ruling coalition.

Peake named new head of Public Affairs deputies' club

Karolina Peake has been named the new head of the Public Affairs
deputies' group, party chairman and Interior Minister Radek John
revealed on Friday. Mrs Peake replaces Kristyna Koci who was expelled
from the party on Thursday. John, Peake and former minister Vit Barta
will represent the party in government coalition negotiations. Public
Affairs had 24 MPs after the 2010 general election but its membership
has now shrunk to 21. Another deputy Jana Sucha may become the fourth
to leave the group. She told the Czech news agency on Friday that she
was considering matters at hand.

Netanyahu ends two-day visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ended a two-day official
visit to the Czech Republic. On Thursday, the Israeli leader met with
his Czech counterpart Petr Necas, to discuss a number of topics
including economic and security issues, while on Friday Mr Netanyahu
met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Foreign Minister Karel
Schwarzenberg and other senior officials. The visit was the first ever
by an Israeli prime minister to the Czech Republic, which is a close
ally of Israel's within the EU; the visit understandably saw heightened
security. At least one civic association organised protests over
Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Social Democrats shadow ministers to be audited

The top leadership of the Social Democrats has given the green light
for the party to audit activities of the party's shadow ministers,
namely whether they have presented effective counter-proposals and
reaction to policies of the current coalition government. The idea was
proposed by the head of the party, Bohuslav Sobotka, at the Social
Democrats' recent leadership conference. The audit should be completed
by the end of April. There is speculation that the newly-elected leader
could replace supporters of his rival at the conference for the post of
chairman, Michal Hasek, who were not elected to the party's top
leadership. Names being mentioned in the media include the shadow
minister of industry and trade, Milan Urban, and shadow transport
minister Roman Onderka.

Unemployment figures improve

Unemployment in the Czech Republic fell to 9.2 percent in March from
9.6 percent in February, the second monthly improvement in a row,
official data just released has shown. Employment offices registered
525,500 job seekers in March, down 21,757 from February and 30,804
fewer than in March 2010. Specialists stress that unemployment improved
due to seasonal factors as sectors such as construction, farming and
some services have begun hiring. The unemployment rate has been
hovering around the 9.0-percent level since the end of 2009. In March
2010, it stood at 9.7 percent.

Skoda Auto triumphs in Czech Top 100

The Mlada Boleslav-based carmaker Skoda Auto has triumphed in a survey
of "most admired" companies on Czech soil for 2011, voted upon by top
managers, economic and financial analysts, union representatives and
members of the Top 100 Association. The contest is in its 13th year.
The winner Skoda was followed by Czech energy giant CEZ in second
place, and the tourist transit company Student Agency in third. While
many firms finish in top spots regularly, the head of the Top 100
Association Jan Struz said the latest competition had seen a number of
newcomers place for the first time, among them the Prague Zoo.

Hlavsa plaque stolen by unknown vandal

An unknown perpetrator stole a commemorative bronze plaque honouring
the late Milan Hlavsa, the frontman and key member of the legendary
Czech underground band The Plastic People of the Universe. The theft
took place on Thursday in Prague's Jecna street. The police have
estimated the damage at a quarter of a million crowns. The plaque was
originally unveiled six years ago. Milan Hlavsa died in 2001 at the age
of just 49. In January former band mates and friends held a special
concert in Prague in his memory.

NHL: Atlanta goalie Pavelec keeps Rangers off scoreboard

Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec kept the New Yorker Rangers off the
scoreboard in their Thursday matchup, stopping 29 shots to earn his
fourth shutout of the regular season. Atlanta are out of playoff
contention but the win complicated the situation for the Rangers as the
season wraps up: New York is in the eighth and final spot in the
Eastern Conference and will need a win in the final game to qualify.


Mostly clear skies are expected into the weekend; daytime temperatures
on Saturday should reach highs of around 14 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Aero: cinema with an atmosphere

It's Wednesday night and Kino Aero in Prague's Zizkov district is
swarming with people. Despite it's slightly run down interior and
uncomfortable creaky chairs this small cinema has become a legendary
venue here in Prague and people don't mind spending the extra twenty
minutes or so that it takes to get here from the city centre. Kino Aero
has just recently celebrated ten years of its existence and I went to
meet its manager Ivo Andrle to find out what exactly it is that makes
the place so special:

Transport Minister Vit Barta resigns over corruption allegations

Five days of scandal rocking the Public Affairs party came to a head on
Friday with the resignation from the cabinet of the man recognised as
the party's unofficial leader, Transport Minister Vit Barta. After
seeming to consolidate support in the party, amid allegations he had
bought the silence and loyalty of certain members with up to a million
crowns or more, Mr Barta announced we would be leaving so as not to
damage the government's ongoing work on reforms.

Czech Republic and Israel to boost cooperation in science and economy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Prague for a
two-day visit, the first by an Israeli PM to the Czech Republic. Mr
Netanyahu and his Czech counterpart, Petr Necas, discussed ways of
boosting cooperation between the two countries in science and research,
industry and defence; the officials also praised the excellent
relations between both countries.

Business News 8.4.2011

In this week's Business News: the Czech Republic's industrial output
outpaces the EU average; Czech car manufacturer Skoda achieves a
historic sales record; one in three German investors would no longer
choose the Czech Republic as a place for investments today; the CEO of
a troubled lottery company offers a cash reward for information on
persons behind a prank; and the Czech restaurants' association protests
the discontinuation of tax incentives for meal tickets.

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