Friday, January 18, 2013

News 1.18.2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Friday, January 18th, 2013

By: Masha Volynsky

* Former Prague mayor Pavel Bem has been accepted back into the Civic
Democratic party less than a year after he suspended his membership
over a scandal.

* The first televised presidential duel between candidate Karel
Schwarzenberg and Milos Zeman has ended in a draw.

* The fugitive businessman Radovan Krejcir has been charged with more
crimes by the Prague state attorney.

* Public Affairs Party request to strike down the church property
restitution law will not be heard in front of the Constitutional Court.

* Prague bikers pay tribute to cycling and pedestrian victims of car
accidents with a group bike ride across the capital.

Prague Civic Democrats take back Bem

The Prague branch of the Civic Democratic party voted on Friday to
renew membership for the former Prague mayor Pavel Bem. Mr Bem
suspended his party membership last March after a scandal broke out
over secret phone calls between him and a lobbyist Roman Janousek from
2007. The conversations were made public in the Czech press causing
speculations that Mr Bem was influenced by the lobbyist in decisions
concerning a number of public tenders. Representatives of the Prague
Civic Democrats said they see no reason to keep a high-ranking member
out of the party when there is no concrete proof of wrongdoing.

First televised presidential duel ends in draw

Most political commentators have agreed that the Thursday night debate
on Czech Television between the two presidential candidates - Karel
Schwarzenberg and Milos Zeman - ended in a draw. Mr Zeman tried
attacking his opponent on a number of issues including his stance on
the recent presidential amnesty, his opinion of the deportation of
Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two, and the
mistakes the foreign minister makes when speaking Czech. Mr
Schwarzenberg fended off the criticism without changing his previously
held positions on the issues. The candidates are scheduled to appear in
two more televised debates and one more radio debate before Czechs vote
in the second round of the presidential election next Friday.

Krejcir is again under investigation

The Prague state attorney's office filed a lawsuit against the Czech
fugitive businessman Radovan Krejcir and ten other suspects on Friday.
Mr Krejcir is facing a number of charges including the intention to
kill an important witness. Some of the defendants in the case who were
previously under investigation were recently cleared of charges as a
result of the presidential amnesty from January 1, but this will not
apply to the new charges. The group is accused of a number of legal and
financial crimes. Mr Krejcir, who was handed a 15-year sentence last
November for a number of other crimes, will so far be investigated and
tried in absentia, since he escaped the country in 2005 and is
currently residing in the Republic of Seychelles.

Education Ministry plans changes to regional financing

The Education Minister Petr Fiala met with regional governors to
discuss planned changes to the financing of education that would give
all regions the same amount of money per student depending on the field
of study. Currently, there are different financing rules for all the
regions. Mr Fiala is hoping to equalize the level of education in
different regions by unifying the financing structure. The regional
governments will form a working group that will work with the minister
on the details of the changes.

Public Affairs case against restitution law will not be considered

The Constitutional Court will not deliberate on the complaint filed by
members of the Public Affairs party over the law on church property
restitution, because not enough parliamentarians had signed it. The
Public Affairs party asked the court to strike the law down. The head
of the party, Radek John, said that the requirement to have either 41
deputies from the lower house or 17 senators sign such a request to be
considered by the court was discriminatory. He added that he plans to
approach senators for support. Communist deputies are also preparing to
file a legal complaint against the restitution law that was pushed
through in the fall by the governing coalition.

Government survives vote of no confidence

The coalition government, led by Prime Minister Petr Necas, survived a
vote of no confidence on Thursday evening. The opposition initiated the
vote in reaction to the recent presidential amnesty which had been
counter-signed by the premier, which saw the release of more than 7,000
prisoners and halted, or threatens to halt, a number of major
corruption and economic crime cases. The opposition was able to find
support of 92 MPs - far short of the 101 needed to bring down the
government. The attempt was the fifth by the opposition to topple the
centre-right cabinet.

Last day to submit written absentee ballots requests

Friday is the last day that Czech citizens can submit written requests
for absentee ballots for next week's second round of the presidential
election. In-person requests that can be submitted to the local
administration offices in one's home district by next Wednesday.
Absentee ballots are meant for people who plan on voting in the
upcoming elections outside of their permanent residency district.

Greek Golden Dawn criticizes Czechs' release

The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn strongly criticised of
the government's decision to release from jail two Czechs - Ivan Buchta
and Martin Pezlar - suspected of espionage. In an article on its
webpage, the party said the court's decision shows once again that the
Greek government is not concerned with national security. It also
supported the unsubstantiated allegations that the two Czech videogame
developers were recruited to spy for the Turkish government. Mr Buchta
and Ms Pezlar were released from jail this week after spending four
months in custody and returned to the Czech Republic on Thursday.

Auto*mat commemorates cycling and pedestrian victims of car accidents

Dozens of people paid tribute to cyclists and pedestrians who have died
in Prague as a result of car accidents by participating in a communal
bike ride across the city on Thursday afternoon. Similar bike rides are
organized by the civic association Auto*mat once a month to promote
cycling and safer roads in the capital. This particular event was
dedicated to a former member of the association Jan Bouchal, who was
hit by a car in 2006 while riding his bike and died from the injuries.
Auto*mat is planning to install a memorial to Bouchal and other victims
of car accidents, which was designed by the contemporary Czech sculptor
Kristof Kintera.

Tennis: Djokovic downs Stepanek at Australian Open, Berdych advances to

Czech tennis player Radek Stepanek threw everything he had at world no.
1 Novak Djokovic in their third-round match at the Australian Open,
coming to the net on 67 occasions to try and dominate. But it wasn't
enough against the Serbian, who is the two-time defending champion. The
match lasted two hours and 22 minutes and the final score was 6:4, 6:3,
7:5. Stepanek's teammate Tomas Berdych on the other hand had no trouble
winning his third -round match against Jurgen Melzer. The only Czech
left in the tournament, Berdych will face the South African Kevin
Anderson in the fourth round.


It will be partly cloudy over the weekend, with more snow coming our
way. Temperatures will be holding at around -3 to -5 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Presidential candidates remain deferential in TV debate

On Thursday evening, presidential hopefuls Karel Schwarzenberg and
Milos Zeman faced off in the first of two debates on Czech TV. Viewers
over the course of the broadcast had plenty of opportunities to weigh
both their strengths and weaknesses; the question now is whether the
debates will sway still undecided voters ahead of the second round.
Kupka exhibit bolsters National Gallery's international partnerships

The Czech National Gallery is currently hosting a highly publicized
exhibit of a selection of works by the famous Czech artist from the
first half of the twentieth century - Frantisek Kupka. "The road to
Amorpha" traces the way the artist's work evolved from figurative to
abstract representation. Radio Prague spoke to the National Gallery's
director Vladimir Rosel and asked him how international institutions
were involved in the creation of the exhibition.
Business News 18.1.2013

In Business News this week: Czech government approves savings measures
of 8.6 billion crowns; a new pipeline opens providing alternate route
for Russian gas; car maker Skoda Auto posts record sales; most Czech
joint-stock companies are anonymously owned; Budvar wins major
trademark battle in UK.

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