Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 18
21 May 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 12 May 2001

Mark Preskett


Senate approves new TV law

A new law amending TV and radio broadcasting regulations in the Czech Republic was approved by the Senate on Thursday. The law was expected to fail, given the opposition by the majority 4Coalition Party. However, three senators from the 4Coalition Party provided crucial votes in favour of the new law. The law now goes to President Vacláv Havel for approval.

View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

The law, supported by the ruling Social Democrats (ČSSD), the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Communist Party (KSČM) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), has been openly described by some senators as the "Lex Želežný." Any current holder of a broadcasting license is able to extend the license automatically for a fee of CZK (Czech koruna) 200 million (USD 5.1 million). In addition, a company which gains a license through the selection process is eligible to sell it after two years.


Defense shake-up

After only 12 days as minister of defense, Jaroslav Tvrdík announced that he would dismiss all current deputies and replace them with a team "made up of people that can be trusted." Tvrdík, who served in the armed forces, replaced Vladimír Vetchý. Vetchý was dismissed as the minister of defense two weeks ago for failing to manage the ministry properly.

Following a meeting with NATO Secretary General George Robertson in Brussels on Wednesday, Tvrdík stated that NATO is happy with his plans to reform the Czech armed forces. NATO has been putting pressure on the Czech government to modernise its armed forces. Tvrdík is preparing a programme for the creation of a professional army and the abolition of national service.

Also, this week the commander of the Czech air force, Ladislav Klíma, unexpectedly announced his resignation for personal reasons. He was known to be unhappy with the state of the armed forces, which he described on Thursday as "basically second-rate." Frantíšek Padelák, the first deputy chief of staff, will serve as a temporary replacement.


Chvalovský's assets frozen

A Prague court ordered all assets belonging to President of the Czech and Moravian Football Association Frantíšek Chvalovský to be frozen on Tuesday. Chvalovský, together with five close associates, has been charged with credit fraud. According to the police, this fraud amounts to CZK 1.4 billion (USD 35.8 million). Including interest, the figure is estimated to be closer to CZK 2.5 billion (USD 64 million).

The frozen assets include ten luxury cars, several lucrative plots of land and real estate and assets in various companies. According to the Czech national daily, Lidové noviny, the frozen assets make up only ten per cent of the owed sum or CZK 140 million (USD 3.6 million).


Kavan fighting fit

The Czech foreign minister, Jan Kavan, had to cancel part of his official program in the United States this week after suffering a mild heart attack. Although the attack was not serious enough to deter Kavan from continuing with his mission, a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell was cancelled after his release from the hospital on Tuesday. The meeting, which was expected to focus on both Prague's hosting of a NATO summit in 2002 and human rights issues, has been tentatively rescheduled for later in the year.


Bail-out bank has new director

The minister of finance, Jiří Rusnok, has instigated a major change in the state-owned bail-out bank, Konsolidační banka (KoB). On Tuesday, he dismissed the general director, Ladislav Řezníčka, and replaced him with the current director of the department of internal audit and control, Pavel Řežábek.

The ministry of finance failed to reveal any concrete reasons for the change, though Rusnok told Lidové noviny, that "I have the right to choose my co-workers. KoB deals with matters that markedly affect the state budget."

In the last few years, KoB has taken on tens of billion of crowns worth of debts from state-owned banks, including Komerční banka and České spořitelna. An additional CZK 180 billion (USD 4.6 billion) of debt can be attributed to the bankrupt Investiční a Poštovní banka.


Film opens in style

Tmavomodrý svět (Dark blue world), written and directed by the famous father-son duo, Jan and Zděněk Svěrák, premiered in Prague on Wednesday. The gala opening of the film, which centers on Czech fighter pilots stationed in England during the Second World War, was attended by President Vacláv Havel.

The Svěráks met with great success in 1997 with the Oscar winning film, Kolya. Tmavomodrý svět is expected to be similarly well-received. The film is being touted as the most expensive production in Czech feature film history.

Mark Preskett, 18 May 2001

Moving on:


Hospodářské noviny
Lidové noviny
Mladá fronta Dnes
ČTK—Czech News Agency

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