Wednesday, June 29, 2011

News 6.29.2011

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

News Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

By: Jan Richter

* The Czech foreign minister has visited Benghazi for talks with
members of Libya's National Transitional Council.

* The Czech government has approved another three healthcare reform

* CEO of the Czech power producer CEZ said Germany should pay up to
seven billion crowns for electricity transfers through the Czech grid.

* The Czech external debt decreased to 1.73 trillion crowns in the
first quarter of this year.

* The NHL club the Pittsburgh Penguins have offered Czech hockey star
Jaromir Jagr a one-year contract.

Czech foreign minister in Benghazi for talks with Libyan rebels' council

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg visited Benghazi on
Wednesday for talks with members of Libya's National Transitional
Council, the first direct contact with the rebels since the start of
the anti-Qaddafi uprising in February. Mr Schwarzenberg, who was
accompanied by the head of the lower houses' foreign affairs committee,
David Vodrazka, and deputy interior minister Jaroslav Hruska, also
delivered some 2.5 million crowns worth of humanitarian aid destined
for a field hospital near the city of Misrata. On his return, the Czech
foreign minister will bring a number of children patients from Libya
for treatment in Czech hospitals.

Government approves three healthcare reform bills

The Czech government approved on Wednesday another three healthcare
reform bills. If passed by Parliament and signed into law by the
president, the legislation will change the rules for assisted
reproduction, sterilization, and castration; it will also overhaul the
emergency rescue system and its funding, as well as rules governing the
handling of patients' records. The bills are part of a broader
healthcare reform that, among other things, introduces standard
healthcare covered by public insurance and extra care paid for by the
patients themselves. The bulk of the reform bills were approved by the
lower house last week.

Government okays private pension funds

In related news, the Czech government on Wednesday approved bills that
will allow the establishment of private pension funds. Beginning in
2013, people will be able to transfer 3 percent of their pension
insurance from the state-run pay-as-you-go system to the private funds
on condition they will add another 2 percent out of their own pockets.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told reporters the bills would
provide sufficient protection of the funds' clients by strictly
distinguishing between their savings and the property of the funds'

The planned creation of private pension funds has been criticized by
the opposition and the country's trade unions who are concerned people
might lose their savings should the funds go bankrupt.

President formally ends ban on land sales to foreigners

The Czech president on Wednesday singed into law an amendment to the
Czech Foreign Exchange Act which will formally end a ban land sales to
foreign nationals. The ban, a part of a Czech opt-out from EU law
incorporated into the country's accession treaty to the bloc, expired
in May. The new amendment is expected to enter into force in mid July,
a spokeswoman for the Finance Ministry said. However, foreigners have
long been able to buy land through Czech intermediaries.

CEZ boss: Germany should pay for power transfer

Martin Roman, the CEO of the Czech state-owned power giant CEZ, told
members of the lower house's budget committee on Wednesday that Germany
should pay up seven billion crowns a year for electricity transfers
through the Czech Republic. Mr Roman said electricity produced in
northern parts of Germany from renewable sources is transferred to the
south of the country through the Czech power grid, adding that a Czech
refusal would lead to a collapse of the German power network. The CEZ
CEO also said he expected Germany authorities to pressure the Czech
government to phase-out nuclear power.

Czech external debt down to 1.73 trillion crowns in Q1

The Czech Republic's external debt decreased by 54 billion crowns to
1.73 trillion crowns, or 47.1 percent of the country's gross domestic
product, the Czech central bank said on Wednesday. The decrease was
caused by lower liabilities of the Czech private and public sector
abroad, the bank added. An analyst for the CSOB bank said long-term
liabilities represented a majority of the Czech external debt which
posed little risk for the Czech economy and the exchange rate of the

German and Austrian firms complain about lack of German-speaking workers

German and Austrian firms operating in the Czech Republic complain
about the lack of German-speaking workers, according to a survey by the
Czech-German Chamber of Commerce released on Wednesday. A mere 15
percent out of the 222 companies polled said the availability of Czech
workers with a command of the German language was good while more than
half said it was insufficient. The Czech-German Chamber of Commerce
therefore plans to promote the teaching of German in Czech schools.

There are some 4,000 German, Austrian and Swiss firms operating in the
Czech Republic, providing more than 100,000 jobs.

Prague public transport fares, park and ride prices set to increase

Ticket fares on Prague public transport are set to increase by six
crowns as July 1st while their validity will be prolonged. Beginning on
Friday, the basic ticket will cost 24 crowns, or 1.2 US dollars.
However, it will be valid for 30 minutes and it will also allow the
passenger to transfer freely between trams, busses and the metro, which
was not possible before. The extended ticket will cost 32 crowns and
will be valid for 90 minutes. The price of the daily pass will increase
from 100 to 110 crowns while monthly, quarterly and yearly passes will
cost the same. On Friday, the prices of Prague's park and ride
facilities will double from 10 to 20 crowns per day.

Part of Prague centre suffers power cut

Parts of Prague city centre suffered a power cut on Wednesday afternoon
due to a substation failure. For about 45 minutes beginning at 5:15 PM,
electricity supply to the area of Wenceslas Square and parts of
Vinohrady was cut, bringing trams to a half-hour standstill. A
spokesman for the city's energy supplier, Prazska energetika, said the
problem might have been caused by hot weather.

Czech national football team drops to 36th place in FIFA ranking

The Czech Republic's national football team dropped by four positions
to the 36th place of the latest FIFA ranking, second worst position in
history, due to the Czech team's poor showing at a tournament in Japan
earlier this month where the Czechs played two goalless games. The team
now ranks 23rd among European nations; that means they will be seeded
in the third pot at the draw of the 2014 World Cup qualification in
July, with little chances of avoiding the strongest teams.

NHL: Penguins offer Jagr one-year deal

The Pittsburgh Penguins have offered Czech hockey veteran Jaromir Jagr
a one-year contract to return to the NHL. Pittsburgh's GM Ray Shero
said the team had offered a fair price and had been impressed by the
star Czech player at this year's World Championships in Slovakia. Jagr
- who has played in the Continental Hockey League over the last three
years - is expected to reach a decision soon. Jagr began his NHL career
with Pittsburgh 20 years ago and won back-to-back Stanley Cups. The
Detroit Red Wings have also expressed an interest in acquiring Jagr,
while at one point a potential move to Montreal was also highlighted in
the media.


The next few days will be mostly overcast with rain and storms. Daytime
highs should range between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Karlin - Prague's first suburb

Prague's leafy central suburb of Karlin may best be known outside of
the Czech Republic for the devastating floods that laid ruin to it in
2002, but much of the world has been using the machines and products
born of Karlin factories for more than a hundred years and aside from
that it is also Prague's oldest suburb - a point recalled by an
exhibition being held this year at the City Museum in Prague that was
created by historian Dr. Zdenek Mika:

Central European Muslim leaders lament restrictive legislation, media

Muslim leaders from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia
came to Prague on Tuesday to share their experiences and to discuss the
challenges faced by their communities. The numbers of the Muslim
populations in their countries vary significantly, as do their historic
backgrounds. But the debate showed that some challenges are shared by
Muslims across the region: islamophobia, media bias, and severe
legislative restrictions.

Former Czech FA chief sentenced for credit fraud

The former head of the Czech football association, Frantisek
Chvalovsky, has been sentenced to ten years in prison after being
convicted of credit fraud. Mr Chvalovsky was once a major figure in
Czech football, but has spent the last 10 years trying - so far
unsuccessfully - to defend himself from fraud charges.

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