Prime Minister Petr Nečas says his government has passed its initial test in the first year in office. Writing in the daily Lidové noviny a few days prior to its first anniversary, the prime minister says that in spite of much squabbling the government has succeeded in pushing all of its plans through Parliament. The cabinet, he says, has worked hard and has been able to arrive at reasonable compromises, implementing responsible budget policies while not fearing temporary drops in popularity. The Civic Democratic chairman went on to describe free health care and the vision of a welfare state that looks after everyone as “crumbling icons" evinced by the economic situation in Greece. The centre-right, tri-party government came to power after general elections in May of 2010 and enjoys a comfortable majority of 118 deputies in the 200-member lower house. Its popularity, however, has fallen to a mere 20% and it has been rocked by a series of scandals and internal disputes.
The junior coalition party, Public Affairs, has objected to next year’s draft budget, submitted by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. The party’s economic expert, Michal Babak, told the Czech Press Agency that the party was surprised that the information submitted at a meeting of economic ministers last night had “changed everything” in the government’s coalition agreement. Public Affairs chairman Radek John said that the budget versions he saw were disastrous, and that he rejects VAT being raised to more than the coalition had agreed upon. Public Affairs tabled its budget demands during coalition negotiations on the future of the government, however the other parties rejected the inclusion of the budget in the new coalition agreement.
A survey of MPs conducted by the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that 116 will vote to withdraw immunity from Public Affairs MP Vít Bárta. Police have requested that the de facto leader of the junior coalition party be given up for investigation on suspicion of corruption; the report suggests that the lower house will apparently grant that request. TOP 09 party members agreed earlier to vote in unison against Mr Bárta, and a large majority of left-wing MPs followed suit. Mr Bárta was forced to leave his cabinet post as transport minister earlier this year when he was accused by two former party colleagues of paying them large sums of money for their loyalty and silence on party finance issues.
The Swiss company Diag Human has appealed the verdict of a Viennese court, which cancelled the seizure of three Czech artworks as compensation for damages. The appeal makes it unlikely the artworks will be returned to the Czech Republic in the near future. Two weeks ago, the court found that the two paintings and one sculpture were exempt from seizure as cultural property. The court had previously recognised the firm’s compensation claim worth an estimated 10 billion crowns owed by the Czech state for thwarting its planned trade. The works of art had been on loan for an exhibition in Vienna when they were seized.
Another miner was killed on Thursday morning during a seismic disturbance one kilometre underground; another man was injured. The 42-year-old man was the second miner to lose his life this week and the fourth this year. A similar such disturbance in the same mine in north-eastern Moravia took the life of a 45-year-old mine worker on Tuesday. The causes of the unusual series of accidents are under investigation by a special commission of mining authorities working in cooperation with the police. Experts say that seismic disturbances are often impossible to protect against, in spite of modern warning technology.
Czech Industry Minister Martin Kocourek met with Namibian Foreign Minister Utoni Nujoma on Thursday to discuss possibilities for improving trade between their countries, which currently show little profit. Mr Nujoma suggested that Czech firms become more involved in the modernisation of basic infrastructure in Namibia and in supplying technology for mining and energy production. Deputy minister Milan Hovorka pointed out that the long-term economic results of trade between the countries did not correspond to their potential..
The District Court in Ostrava has handed down a sentence of 18 years in prison to a doctor convicted of murdering his former patient. According to the state prosecutor, the doctor visited the 74-year-old woman’s flat, beat and strangled her and stole several thousand crowns worth of items, allegedly to get money for alcohol. The man had apparently been committing petty thefts for several months and had stolen from family members to pay for an alcohol habit he said was caused by depression.
The public has paid final respects to violinist Josef Suk, who died on July 7 at the age of 81. The ceremony in Prague’s Rudolfinum palace was organised by the Prague Spring music festival and the Czech Philharmonic, with which Mr Suk played for decades. The great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák and grandson of composer Josef Suk will be buried on Friday in his family tomb at the Vyšehrad cemetery, where many well-known Czech figures are laid to rest. A mass will be served by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and attended by President Václav Klaus.
A project to scent buses in Prague with perfume has been cancelled due to a lack of funds. The Prague transit authority, DPP, tested the idea in February and March of this year to reportedly unanimous acclaim. However, it has since decided that the 31 million crowns that the project would require annually are beyond its budget capabilities. DPP and the company Škoda Transportation are also currently testing free internet connections in Prague trams.
A powerful thunderstorm hit Bohemia on Wednesday evening. Thousands of households, primarily in the south, were left without electricity; around a hundred remained without power as of Thursday evening. Accompanying high winds fell trees in many areas around Bohemia, complicating traffic conditions on Thursday morning. The storm also brought an unusually high number of lightning strikes that caused several fires and struck, but did not injure, one young man. The meteorological institute recorded some 60,000 flashes of lightning, nearly half of the monthly average.
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