Thursday, December 8, 2011

News 12.8.2011

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

News Thursday, December 8th, 2011

By: Christian Falvey

* Representatives of Czech and Russian businesses have concluded
contracts worth tens of billions of crowns.

* Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has sharply criticised Russian
elections and handling of demonstrations, as well as opposition to
NATO's missile defence project.

* Culture Minister Jiri Besser of the TOP 09 party has resigned from
his post.

* The Council of Higher Education Institutions has slammed the
Education Ministry's proposed act on tuition.

* Controversial conservative Ladislav Batora has left his position as
an Education Ministry advisor and his chairmanship of the right-wing
group D.O.S.T.

Russian President Medvedev arrives in Prague

Prague Castle welcomed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with official
honours on Thursday morning. Czech President Vaclav Klaus received his
Russian counterpart late Wednesday evening at the Strahov Monastery.
After bilateral talks regarding economic issues and a ceremonial
luncheon, President Klaus expressed his support for good aspects of the
Russian bid for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant,
saying that it provided the most subcontracts for Czech business. The
Russian President later met with Prime Minister Petr Necas, with whom
he then travelled to Brussels. Mr Medvedev also opened an exhibition of
artworks from the Kremlin collections at Prague Castle.

Czech and Russian businesses conclude contracts worth tens of billions

Representatives of Czech and Russian businesses concluded contracts
worth tens of billions of crowns at Prague Castle on Thursday, in the
presence of their respective presidents. The main deal is for the
construction of a 400km railway line in the Ural Mountains worth nearly
40 billion crowns. The work is to be done under the management of the
Brno-based company OHL ZS and will be co-financed by Czech and Russian
banks. Czech companies also secured three other multi-billion crown
projects for the construction of fossil-fuel power stations and a
chemical factory. A declaration of partnership for modernisation was
also concluded between Russia and the Czech Republic, following
negotiations between their delegations Thursday afternoon.

Klaus draws fire for refusal to comment on Russian elections

President Klaus drew fire from political pundits after Thursday's state
visit for his refusal to comment on the situation surrounding recent
Russian elections. Mr Klaus summed up the question marks over the
elections process and the police crackdown on antiestablishment
demonstrators as Russia's internal issue, adding that he himself did
not appreciate foreign commentaries on Czech domestic affairs.
Political scientists contacted by the Czech Press Agency were wholly
negative, with some suggesting it showed needless or even harmful
favouritism. The European Union has openly criticised the election,
while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the poll was neither
free nor fair. The Mr Klaus said he found the question as off the mark
as asking Mr Medvedev what he thought of Wednesday's teachers' strike
in the Czech Republic.

Schwarzenberg criticises Russian elections and use of force against

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has criticised Russia's recent
parliamentary elections and the disproportionate use of force against
protestors there. Speaking in Brussels, the foreign minister said the
amount of objections to the elections was lamentable, as he had hoped
that the days of Russia using force to influence elections were over.
He welcomed the presence of Dmitri Medvedev in Prague and said it
confirmed good relations between the countries, but said he would
welcome more the news that Moscow was responding to the results of the
elections more calmly and appropriately. If he had the chance to speak
with Mr Medvedev, he said he would ask if he too does not find the
crackdown disproportionate.

... and opposition to missile defence project

Just preceding the Russian President's visit, Mr Schwarzenberg also
responded toughly to Russia's opposition to NATO's missile defence
project. Asked about Russian demands for legal guarantees regarding the
planned anti-missile shield, Mr Schwarzenberg said the alliance would
not have conditions dictated to it, and that Moscow's Cold War stance
towards the project was confused. President Medvedev has threatened to
install missiles in Kaliningrad and other regions that would target
parts of the Western anti-missile project. Secretary General of NATO
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia would be wasting its money if it
invested in counter-measures against the NATO project. NATO has
repeatedly called on Moscow to cooperate with it in the sphere of
anti-missile defence.

Culture Minister Jiri Besser resigns

Culture Minister Jiri Besser of the TOP 09 party has resigned from his
post. Mr Besser said on Thursday he decided to leave office because he
didn't feel the support of his government colleagues and was not given
space to explain his case. Mr Besser had failed to include his share in
the Comoros Group company in his property statement. The TOP 09 party,
with which Mr Besser is affiliated, plans to select a new candidate for
the post on Monday. His resignation has been accepted by the prime

Council of Higher Education Institutions slams proposed tuition act

The Council of Higher Education Institutions has slammed the Education
Ministry's proposed act on tuition, saying it cannot be improved, only
rejected. Among a series of 65 comments on the proposed bill, the
council notes that at a cost of more than 46 million crowns in EU
funding, the actual bill is only a page and a half long - the remaining
50 pages they say are merely annexes and assessments of the impacts of
legal regulations. The council's academics have issued their own
134-page set of criticisms of the bill, which they say aside from
preparedness lacks also references to other laws, analyses of the
effects of tuition on students and the state budget and fails to define
even key terminology.

Batora leaves Education Ministry and chairmanship of D.O.S.T

Controversial conservative Ladislav Batora has left his position as an
Education Ministry advisor and his chairmanship of the right-wing group
D.O.S.T., several days after making crude remarks about the finance and
foreign ministers. Minister Dobes said earlier in the week that
Batora's vulgar references to the two cabinet officials were
unacceptable, and his departure from D.O.S.T., which is considering
becoming a political party, may indicate that his associates there were
of the same opinion. A former candidate for the extreme-right National
Party, Mr Batora's tenure at the ministry was hotly protested by many
ever since he was suggested for the post by President Klaus. He left
one position voluntarily in October, saying he wanted more freedom to
express his views.

Necas: Czech Republic will support all steps towards eurozone stability

The Czech Republic will support all steps leading to stabilising the
eurozone, Prime Minister Petr Necas has said. However, he said, such
measures should be agreed upon by all 27 members of the European Union
and applied only to the common-currency countries, otherwise
intergovernmental agreements beyond EU law would not be ruled out.
According to Mr Necas, the Czech Republic is in favour of using the
existing legal framework to resolve Europe's debt crisis, with only
certain changes to EU law. Budget policy incursions, he said, should be
faced only by countries with pending budgetary problems.

Hospodarske noviny: police had evidence of DPP scam for years, but did

The daily Hospodarske noviny writes that anticorruption police had
evidence that money was being funnelled out of the Prague transit
authority for nearly two years, but failed to act. According to the
paper, the director of the printing company producing tickets for the
city-run transportation company DPP submitted evidence to the
anticorruption unit of the police in January, 2010 and believed it had
been "swept under the carpet". The Anticorruption Endowment reported on
Tuesday that an organised group has been at work funnelling money out
of deliveries of spare parts, fuel and ticket production. On Monday the
Prague Public Transport Company cancelled a contract for passenger
tickets that the contracted company itself admitted was wildly


The coming days are expected to be mostly cloudy with chances of rain
or sleet and daytime highs between 4 and 7o Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Consumer protection advocate: people need to say what's wrong

Twenty-two years after the fall of communism Czech shops are crammed
with goods and people have long forgotten the hours they spent waiting
in line to buy bananas and oranges for their Christmas table - a rare
treat unavailable throughout the year. Shopping malls and supermarkets
now offer a wide variety of goods sold across Europe. But beneath the
surface of the glossy packaging -there's a small hitch. Discerning
shoppers often find that certain brand products they relished abroad
still don't taste quite as good in the Czech Republic. I met up with
Miroslav Huml from the consumer protection agency to
find out why this may be so and how the position of the Czech consumer
has changed over the years.

Russian President Medvedev signs business contracts, opens exhibition
at Prague Castle

More than a dozen important bilateral agreements and business deals
were on the agenda of a two-day state visit to Prague by the Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev and his entourage. Bilateral relations were
at the forefront of attention, but topics such as the eurozone's debt
crisis and the recent parliamentary elections in Russia were also

Culture minister resigns amidst corruption allegations

Czech Culture Minister Jiri Besser tendered his resignation to the
prime minister on Thursday amidst allegations of corruption and
unethical behavior. The minister said that while he was innocent of any
wrongdoing he felt that he lacked support in the cabinet and in his own
party which would allow him to defend his case. He is the seventh
minister forced out of the Necas government since it took office in
June of 2010.

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