According to political pundit Vladimíra Dvořáková, the current government’s single biggest success is the fact that it still exists after having been shaken by a number of scandals in the year since it was appointed. Business analysts also criticized the government for not approving a number of important reforms quickly enough, but assessed that it deserves praise for its efforts to push through far-reaching austerity measures. Following a serious crisis that brought the three-party, right-of-center coalition government to the brink of collapse in April, the public’s trust in it dropped to a low figure of 16 percent, according to a STEM survey conducted in June.
Foreigner Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be meeting with his Cyprian and Namibian counterparts in Prague next week. Cyprus’s Markos Kyprianu will be paying an official visit to the Czech capital on Thursday. Mr. Schwarzenberg and Mr. Kyprianu will be discussing EU issues. His visit is the first by a Cyprian foreign minister in 12 years. The Namibian Utoni Nujoma will be arriving in Prague on Thursday, the first time that a foreign minister from this country has ever visited Prague.
Health Minister Leoš Heger said on a program on Czech Televison on Sunday that part of the tax revenue from tobacco taxes should go into the health sector. He added that he is in favor of a further increase in tobacco taxes. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had given him a vague promise that in the case of an overall increase in taxes, some of the tobacco tax revenue would go into the health sector, the health minister said. He also explained that another way of involving insured patients more and increasing their responsibities towards the insurer would be to introduce higher health insurance rates for those who practise high-risk sports.
Unions, employers and government officials have reached agreement on a piece of legislation that will determine under which conditions people who work in high-risk or physically demanding jobs will be able to retire prematurely without taking a cut in their pensions. Employers will be contributing funds in cases where employees retire between one and five years earlier. The new legislation is part of far-reaching pension reform. As part of this reform, the current age of retirement will gradually be increased.
Nearly two thirds of all Czechs will not be able to afford a summer vacation abroad this year, according to a poll published by the SANEP agency. While 45 percent of the population is planning a holiday for later in the year, almost a third will not be leaving on either a domestic of foreign vacation at all in 2011. For nearly half of the 339 respondents, cost is the most important factor in deciding on a holiday. Of those who are leaving on vacation this summer, one in two will be getting to their holiday destination by car, while only 13.6 percent will be traveling by plane.
The Israeli movie Restoration, directed by Joseph Madmony, has taken the best picture prize at the 46th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. France’s Pascal Rabate was awarded the best director Crystal Globe for Holidays by the Sea during Saturday evening’s closing ceremony, while Punk’s Not Dead by the Macedonian director Vladimir Blazevski took the prize in KVIFF’s flagship East of the West section. Guests at the festival, which was first held in the West Bohemian spa town in 1946, included actors Judi Dench, John Turturro and John Malkovich.
The Czech Republic was hit by strong storms Saturday night. Firefighters had to remove fallen trees and branches in a number of places across the country, especially in southern Bohemia, and assisted people whose cellars flooded due to heavy rain. Railway traffic was also affected by the inclement weather and several routes were shot down due to fallen trees and branches. In Prague, a house caught fire it was hit by lightning, leading to damages of around 1 million Czech crowns. No one was injured.
Police chief Petr Lessy has announced that he wants to put an end to what he calls the ‘artificial inflation’ of police salaries, the daily Právo writes on Saturday. He said that this year, he introduced a new policy under which the total amount of bonuses and other payments beyond the regular monthly wage a member of the police can receive in a year may not exceed 100,000 Czech crowns. Previously, such payments could reach up to several hundred, in some cases even a million crowns. Some high-ranking officers received inflated pensions as a consequence, since they continued to hold and be paid for administrative posts after they retired from active police duty. In some cases, pensions of several tens of thousands of crowns per month were paid out. This sum that widely exceeds the average pension of around 10,000 crowns.
The Czech army paid four times as much for its armored Pandur vehicles as
the Portuguese army, the daily Mladá front dnes writes on Saturday.
Quoting a contract between the Portuguese army and the Austrian firm
which provided the vehicles to both countries’ armed forces, the daily
writes that the armored personnel carriers purchased by the Portuguese
were extremely similar in their equipment to the 199 carriers that the
Czech army bought in 2009. The price of 135 million Czech crowns per
vehicle, which has been quoted by Czech politicians, is inflated, since
Portuguese only paid 35 million for each of the Pandur vehicles it
purchased, the daily writes. A Czech-Austrian police team launched an
investigation into possible corruption in the Pandur public tender awarded
by the Czech Defense Ministry a year ago.
In February, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes suggested that members of the Ministry of Defense, which in 2009 had signed a 14.4 billion crown contract with the Austrian company Steyr to buy armored personnel carriers, had earmarked two to three percent of the tender as kickbacks for the two strongest political parties. The report caused a scandal and some politicians called for far-reaching reforms that would create greater transparency of public tenders.
According to some experts, President Václav Klaus is not fully abiding by the constitution, the daily Lidové noviny writes on Saturday. This week, Mr. Klaus decided not to endorse two bills: the government’s ‘minor pension reform bill’ and another piece of legislation concerning biofuels. Constitutional law expert Jan Kysely says that the president is legally bound to sign off on bills that have passed through the legislative process. He adds that both Mr. Klaus and former president Václav Havel have often expressed their opinions regarding certain bills rather than merely fulfilling the formal act of signing of on them. This, he says, is unconstituional and inappropriate, since it demonstrates the president’s disregard of the country’s constitution.
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