Monday, January 30, 2012

News 1.30.2012

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Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Monday, January 30th, 2012

By: Sarah Borufka

* Prime Minister Petr Necas has labeled the current draft of the EU
fiscal compact unsatisfactory for the Czech Republic.

* Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra has announced a proposal for the
future of the Czech mandate in Afghanistan will be completed by the
spring.

* The Czech construction company Metrostav has signed an exclusive
agreement with the US firm Westinghouse to expand the Temelin nuclear
power plant if the U.S. company wins a tender for the deal.

* A bugging device was uncovered in a car used by the transport
minister last autumn, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports.

* The European Commission has slammed the Czech Education Ministry for
its use of EU funds.

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Czech Prime Minister criticizes current draft of fiscal compact
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Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, upon his arrival at an EU summit in
Brussels on Monday, said that the current draft of the fiscal compact
was unsatisfactory for the Czech Republic. If the Czech Republic was to
sign the compact and contribute funds to the IMF, it should be treated
as a full-fledged partner, he said. Mr. Necas added that without full
Czech participation in eurozone summits, the pact would not be
acceptable.

EU leaders are expected to sign off on the final text of the fiscal
compact, aimed at establishing tighter fiscal discipline across the
eurozone, on Monday. Another point on the agenda is a treaty creating
the European Stability Mechanism.


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Defense minister: Proposal for Czech mandate in Afghanistan to be
completed in spring
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Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra will be presenting a proposal
for the Czech mandate in Afghanistan up until the year 2014 in the
spring. Mr. Vondra told press on Monday that Czech troops would
continue taking part in the peace-keeping mission ISAF but that the
contingent would gradually be reduced. NATO members had entered the
mission together and should finish it together as well, he said. He
added that he would be discussing the Czech mandate with the opposition
and that he wanted to ensure the soldiers currently serving in
Afghanistan would be informed of the details of a possible future
deployment by the end of this year, when their current deployment ends.
Mr. Vondra will also be discussing the ISAF mission in Brussels at the
end of this week, as well as at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in
May. Some 600 Czech soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan.


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Metrostav and Westinghouse sign cooperation deal for Temelin completion
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The Czech construction company Metrostav has signed a cooperation
agreement with the US firm Westinghouse, which has applied for a tender
to complete the Temelin nuclear power plant. The contract, signed on
Monday, concerns the construction of two new reactors at the plant,
which should amount to some 30 percent of the total price of the
tender. Metrostav's general director said that while other bidders for
the Temelin tender had approached his company, he believed Westinghouse
had a strong chance of winning it. In December, Westinghouse signed a
cooperation agreement with the Czech engineering company Vitkovice with
a view to supplying components for the two planned blocks at the
Temelin nuclear power plant.

Westinghouse is one of three bidders in a multi-billion tender to build
new reactors at the Temelin plant, along with France's Areva and the
Russian state enterprise Atomstroiexport. The total cost of the two new
reactors for Temelin is estimated to reach roughly 150 billion Czech
crowns.


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Daily: bugging device found in car
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A bugging device was uncovered in the car of Transport Minister and
Public Affairs party member Pavel Dobes last autumn, the Czech daily
Mlada fronta Dnes reports. Technicians allegedly found the listening
device during a technical check. At the time, Mr Dobes's chauffeur was
Tomas Jansky, the paper said, describing him as an aide to the party's
de facto leader Vit Barta and to the ABL security agency that Mr Barta
owned before entering high politics.

Last autumn, no one reported the uncovered bug in the transport
minister's car to the police, who learned about it only in connection
with a different investigation. According to the newspaper, Tomas
Jansky figured in a police file concerning Vit Barta's alleged attempt
to bribe then-fellow Public Affairs MPs Kristyna Koci and Jaroslav
Skarka. Mr Barta was himself transport minister from mid-2010 to April
2011 when he resigned over suspected corruption.


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European Commission slams Education Ministry for use of EU funds
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The European Commission has slammed the Czech Education Ministry for
two of its projects financed with EU funds, OKNO and SPORT. Both
projects were of dubious quality and their effects questionable, the
commission writes in its letter to Education Minister Josef Dobes. The
EC has voiced harsh criticism over the fact that the projects, with a
combined budget of 1.2 billion Czech crowns, did not have a sound
financing plan. In addition, more than half of the funds spent under
the SPORT initiative went to analyses and TV commercials, which was
simply unacceptable. EU funds for education are meant to go to
individuals, not PR agencies, the commission writes in its letter. It
notes that the ministry's use of EU funds casts doubt on whether the
money is being used to make the systematic changes needed to modernize
the country's education system. Prime Minister Petr Necas is set to
discuss the matter with Mr. Dobes.

This is not the first time Mr. Dobes's ministry has come under fire
from the European Commission. Previously, Brussels auditors had
uncovered irregularities in EU-funded projects and ordered that all
further payments from the Education for Competitiveness Operational
Program be frozen until the matter was investigated and fully explained.


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Supreme Audit Office inspectors concerned over environment ministry's
use of EU funds
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The Supreme Audit Office has expressed concern over the Czech
Environment Ministry's use of EU funds awarded to fight pollution and
lower emissions. Inspectors from the office said Monday that even
though the country does not meet most of the union's emission limits,
only a small portion of funds from the Operational Program
"Environment" has been used to fight pollution and lower emissions to
date. Inspectors said that while 18 billion crowns had been earmarked
for the Czech Republic for the years 2007 to 2013, the total budget of
projects approved by the ministry nearly four years after the start of
the program amounted to only 1.5 billion crowns. This was connected to
the Czech Republic's unfavorable legal situation regarding air
pollution. NKU inspectors have warned that the European Commission may
call for sanctions to be imposed on the Czech Republic over its
violation of emission limits should the funds not be used by 2013.


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Labor office workers' unions call for resignation of Labor and Social
Affairs Minister
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Eleven branches of the labor office workers' union from across the
country have harshly criticized Labor and Social Affairs Minister
Jaromir Drabek and are calling for his resignation over problems
connected to the introduction of a new system of making welfare
payments. According to union members, the new computer system that was
introduced as part of a far-reaching social reform is not functional;
the minister is downplaying the situation, which union leaders have
called "fatal". Among the unions' main complaints is that the new
software is preventing them from efficiently performing their job and
paying out welfare in the necessary time frame. However, the ministry
announced last week that the majority of welfare payments for January
would be dispensed on time.

IT-workers from labor offices across the country have backed the
unions. According to a report that they have handed over to the
ministry, the new system lacks connectivity between different
applications and has failed to fully digitalize the welfare application
process.


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Czech student killed on research trip to Papua New Guinea
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A Czech student who had been sent to Papua New Guinea for a research
trip was killed on January 27th. He was working on his dissertation at
the University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice and was an employee
of the university's entomological institute. His doctoral thesis
focused on the ground beetle. He died after a fall into a ravine in
Papua New Guinea's Finisterre mountain range.


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Decapitated head found in Prague's Karlin
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A decapitated head that was found in Prague's Karlin district on Sunday
belongs to the body of a dead woman, whose torso and limbs were found
in Prague at the end of last year, a medical examination confirmed on
Monday. Police are investigating the case and have called on the public
to contact them with any possible clues that would help identify the
woman.

The head was found on Sunday at the corner of Pobrezni and Saldova
streets, in an area that is frequented by homeless people. The find was
the latest in a series of gruesome discoveries in the Czech capital: at
the beginning of December hands cut at the wrists and taped together
were found near the Kunratice stream.


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Driver killed in collision with bus
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A bus collided with a car near the town of Rychnov in the Hradec
Kralove region on Monday morning. The driver of the car was killed in
the accident; another five people were injured. According to police,
the accident happened around 7 a.m., when the driver of the automobile
swerved out of his lane and into the opposing traffic. Police say it is
not yet clear what caused the driver to swerve into oncoming traffic
and are investigating the case.


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Temperatures across the country drop to record lows
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Across the country, temperatures are set to drop to record lows in the
upcoming week. The Czech Hydrometeorogical Institute has warned that in
areas where deep frost will hit, temperatures can reach up to minus 20
degrees Celsius on Tuesday; with conditions expected to get harsher on
the weekend, when in some regions, temperatures could drop to minus 35
degrees. In the Jeseniky district, the lowest temperature record of
-16.4 degrees centigrade was broken on Monday; meteorologists measured
temperatures of -19.9 degrees Celsius. Near the town of Vsetin, in the
country's Zlin region, railroad tracks broke due to the harsh frost.
Railroad dispatchers are expecting weather-related complications across
the country.


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Weather
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The start of the week brings clear and cold conditions, with daytime
temperatures between -6 and -2 degrees Celsius.

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Articles posted on www.radio.cz today
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Sports News 30.1.2012
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The Australian Open ended with mixed blessings for the Czech players,
the happiest of whom was doubtless Radek Stepanek. Unseeded Stepanek
and Leander Paes of India won the men's doubles tournament, defeating
the defending champions, the American Bryan twins, 7-6, 6-2. With that,
Karvina native Stepanek leapt forward 68 places in the rankings to
world 23rd, two places behind his compatriot Frantisek Cermak.

http://radio.cz/en/section/sport/sports-news-2012-01-30


Czechs keep their options open in Brussels
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After much controversy at home on whether the Czech Republic should
join the euro-zone's emerging fiscal compact, the Czech government
delegation headed for Monday's key EU summit in Brussels determined to
keep its options open. In the midst of continuing discord on the
subject, there is just one thing Czech politicians heartily agree on -
they want to have a finger in the pie.

http://radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/czechs-keep-their-options-open-in-brussels


Documentary filmmaker Martin Dusek on why his native region continues
to inspire him
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Martin Dusek, who often works with co-director Ondrej Provaznik, is a
two-time winner of the main prize at the Jihlava International
Documentary Film Festival, the Czech Republic's most prestigious
documentary award. His films "A Town Called Hermitage" and "Coal in the
Soul" were both shot in the former Sudetenland in North Bohemia, a
border region whose Sudeten German inhabitants were expelled from
Czechoslovakia after the war. Martin Dusek 's latest film deals with
his own Sudeten German heritage - in a humorous and provocative way. I
caught up the director to speak about why this part of country
continues to inspire him and how he discovered his love for making
documentaries.

http://radio.cz/en/section/one-on-one/documentary-filmmaker-martin-dusek-on-why-his-native-region-continues-to-inspire-him


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