Interior Minister Jan Kubice has dismissed another deputy, the fourth since he took office last week. The ministry told the Cezch Press Agency on Wednesday that the deputy minister for public administration, legislation and archiving, František Vavera, had agreed to leave his post at the end of April. On Tuesday, the deputies for security and finances were sacked for poor performance; deputy minister for strategy and programme management Michal Moroz has also resigned. Mr Kubice initially said there would not be a major personnel shakedown upon his taking office. The only remaining deputy from former interior minister Radek John’s team is now Viktor Čech, who handles international relations and is the police ombudsman.
The Constitutional Court has overturned a government reform to building savings, satisfying a complaint raised by the opposition Social Democrats. A special 50% tax rate on deposits from state support was cancelled effective immediately; the court ruled that the rest of the law would remain valid until the end of the year. In addition to the introduction of the tax, the legislation, in force since the beginning of this year, decreases state contributions to building savings from 15 to 10% of the amount saved. The court found the law unconstitutional in that it retroactively affects contracts signed under the previous conditions. The delay in the enforcement of the law will allow the government time to bring the reform into line with the court’s recommendations. President Václav Klaus came out strongly against the verdict on Wednesday, accusing the court of involving itself in politics and itself acting unconstitutionally. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the decision will increase the state budget deficit by roughly six billion crowns.
President Klaus has begun a two-day visit to the Balkan state of Montenegro where he will be holding talks with the country’s president, prime minister and other politicians. The trip is intended primarily to strengthen trade and Mr Klaus is being accompanied by some two dozen Czech entrepreneurs for a business forum. Following discussions the two presidents will sign a treaty on economic and industrial cooperation. After leaving Podgorica, Mr Klaus will move on to the city of Cetinje and to the port of Kotor.
The centre-right coalition government has survived a vote of no-confidence in the wake of a crippling corruption scandal that led to a cabinet re-shuffle last week. In line with a coalition agreement, deputies of the Civic Democratic Party, TOP 09 and Public Affairs supported the government with 114 votes. Three deputies who were expelled from the Public Affairs party during the crisis, upheld the no-confidence motion but the opposition still fell short of the 101 votes it would have needed to bring down the pro-reform government.
Czechs’ trust in the coalition government has further eroded, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency. The survey suggests that only 21% of people have confidence in the government and only 7% are satisfied with the political situation in the country. Some 72% of respondents said that they were not satisfied with the current political situation. The results are a sharp distinction from one year ago, at which time nearly three-fourths Czechs avowed confidence in the caretaker government of Jan Fischer. The office of the president remained the most popular constitutional institution, trusted by 68% of respondents.
The Czech economy is expected to grow by 2% on average this year, according to a regular study carried out by the Ministry of Finance, based on the prognoses canvassed from 19 domestic institutions. The ministry forecasts slightly higher growth of 2.8% in 2012, at which point tempo should gain, bringing 3.3% in 2014. The economic recovery anticipates growth in labour productivity with limited new job creation. Employment is not expected to exceed 0.3% between 2011 and 2014. The ministry will next conduct the survey in November of this year.
A government bill allowing foreigners to purchase residential real estate and land in the Czech Republic is in its final reading in Parliament. The prohibition was an exemption that the country demanded upon acceding to the EU and expires this May. Foreign companies based in the Czech Republic however already own land in the tens of thousands of hectares. The exemption prohibiting foreigners from purchasing residential real estate has already expired. Opposition parliamentarians have asked that the government extend the exemption by another three years.
The lower house of Parliament has approved a government bill allowing the defence and interior ministries to purchase defence and combat materials from abroad directly, without the use of intermediaries. Opposition members however blocked the possibility of fast-tracking the bill through Parliament. The bill will return to the Chamber of Deputies for a second reading in a month after it has been discussed by the committee for defence and security. A recent audit of the Defence Ministry showed that purchases via intermediaries over the last six years had cost the Army roughly 1.5 billion crowns. The bill is one of the key points of the government’s policy statement and of the coalition agreement.
Construction workers building the D8 motorway near the Central Bohemian town of Litoměřice have unearthed a large quantity of unexploded munitions from the Second World War. According to local police, a bulldozer working about 15 metres away from the road unexpectedly excavated about 200 machine gun bullets as well as a number of 75-millimetre mortar shells. Police pyrotechnics decided a part of the munitions will have to be destroyed on-site.
The age at which drivers may operate heavy motorcycles may be raised to 24, should Parliament pass a new amendment to the Road Act that was introduced today for its second reading. The bill was brought by the Transport Ministry in response to driving schools who report that young people often purchase heavy (35 kilowatt) motorcycles they cannot control just after receiving their drivers licences. An exception would be made for motorcycle drivers who have two years’ experience with less powerful motorcycles. The age limit for under 35-kilowatt motorcycles is also to be moved from 17 to 18 years of age.
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