Public Affairs chairman Radek John has resigned his new government post as anti-corruption tsar. Mr John told the Czech Press Agency Wednesday afternoon that he does not sense any tangible support for his position within the government. The junior coalition party chairman has been at odds with the Prime Minister in recent weeks over the personnel makeup of his office. Mr Nečas rejected the possibility of certain individuals serving under Mr John, namely his former deputy minister Michal Moroz due to his ties to the security agency ABL. Mr John was offered the anti-corruption portfolio as part of the resolution to the recent coalition crisis. In the wake of a corruption scandal involving top members of Public Affairs and the affiliated detective agency ABL, he was dismissed as Interior Minister for poor performance.
After announcing his resignation, Radek John asked for a meeting with President Václav Klaus in order to explain his position. Speaking to the press beforehand, Mr Klaus said that the government is in a fragile situation where the slightest change is worrying. Prime Minister Nečas told the press he was not informed of Mr John’s decision and had not received his resignation. He has asked for a meeting with John, who remains the chairman of Public Affairs. Deputy prime minister and TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said the situation was very serious and that a reasonable compromise would require concessions on both sides. The chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party called upon the prime minister to reconsider whether the government still has a future.
Meanwhile, Public Affairs MP Vít Bárta, generally considered the party’s de facto leader, has dropped out of the race to become the party’s chairman, saying the party should rally behind Radek John. This, he said, was the only way the party could fight corruption in the country and treachery within its ranks. Mr Bárta, formerly the director of ABL, resigned from his position in the government as Transport Minister after being accused of bribing party MPs.
Civic Democrats have replaced the head of their parliamentary club, embattled MP Petr Tluchoř. Mr Tluchoř was unable to defend his position after being opposed by the party’s chairman, Prime Minister Petr Nečas. A club election held Wednesday unexpectedly chose MP Zbyňek Stanjura as the new chairman. Petr Tluchoř has been accused of tacitly collaborating with former Public Affairs MP Kristýna Kočí to orchestrate a coup within the junior coalition party. Tluchoř stood in the vote despite the prime minister’s criticism; he did not however gain sufficient votes in any of the three rounds.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved the government’s ‘minor pension reform’ bill. The bill modifies the calculation of pensions for the benefit of those with higher incomes and sets an increase of the retirement age by two to eight months annually. The government expects that the change will decrease the pensions of 70% of the population, while the richest 20% will have higher rates. Earlier this year the Constitutional Court cited the imbalance of the previous reform, which denied higher pensions to wealthier citizens. Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek however has promised that the final amount of money received will ultimately be the same thanks to adjustments. The bill will now proceed to the Senate, where the opposition has a majority and will not support the changes to the retirement age.
The Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that Czech schools do not have to cater to children whose parents do not want them to eat animal products. In the case of a mother suing a primary school in Břeclav, the court found that schools can offer vegetarian meals if there is interest, but that they have no obligation to use vegan products that do not contain eggs, milk or dairy products. The school, which offers its 600 pupils three choices of meals, said it did not have the capacity to include a vegan meal. The court ruled that the school’s decision to allow vegan children to provide their own meals which they would then be served at lunch was an appropriate solution that did not damage the rights of vegans.
Police have arrested a man they believe responsible for the robbery of six banks around the Czech Republic. The 35-year-old from the Moravian town of Vsetín is believed to have robbed roughly half a million crowns from branches of Česká Spořitelna armed with a pistol and a grenade. The suspect was reportedly indebted and his property had been foreclosed upon. Part of the stolen money was spent on debts and part in casinos. He was arrested in Karlovy Vary, where he was working a part-time construction job.
The Supreme Court has sentenced handed down 25 years’ imprisonment to a woman who attempted to murder her five-year-old daughter. The girl was in grave condition after being served twice the lethal amount of antifreeze; she survived thanks to medical care after her mother eventually called an ambulance. The mother has not confessed to the crime and the court found that she had planned it so as to put the blame on a former boyfriend. The child testified that her mother had laughed when she said her stomach hurt and told her she was going to die.
A six-year-old male bear was transferred from Zlin zoo to Konopiste Chateau in central Bohemia on Tuesday in order to save the chateau’s century-long bear-keeping tradition. Brumbas, an Asian black bear that is endangered in the wild, will replace Kazimir who died in February. Konopiste chateau, a popular tourist destination some 30 kilometres south of Prague, has kept bears since the turn of the 20th century when the chateau was owned by Franz Ferdinand d'Este, the then successor to the Austrian imperial throne, whose assassination triggered World War One in summer of 1914.
The EC has warned Prague it will not subsidize overpriced or non-transparent projects from EU funds. The warning came shortly after the commission blocked the flow of EU structural funds to two regions in the Czech Republic on suspicion of irregularities. In response to the warning the Czech Transport Ministry withdrew subsidy requests to the tune of 110 million crowns, saying it wanted to review the infrastructure construction projects in order to make sure that they were fully in line with EC requirements.
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