The opposition Social Democrats have called on President Vaclav Klaus to consult his foreign policy statements with the government and not damage the Czech Republic’s image abroad. Deputy speaker of the lower house Lubomír Zaorálek said the president was acting like a lone player and ignoring the fact that in a parliamentary democracy it is the government which sets the foreign policy line. He accused Mr. Klaus of voicing his own views and defending his own interests when he should be mindful of the best interests of the Czech Republic. The Czech president recently made headlines when he publicly slammed the government’s foreign policy and referred to the Greeks as lazy ouzo drinkers, though he said later he had been misinterpreted.
The Czech branch of Transparency International has called on the government to close a multi-billion environmental clean-up tender, without selecting a winner, citing an enormous corruption risk. The multi-billion crown tender on the clean-up of environmental damage inflicted in past decades in over 500 Czech localities would be the biggest ever commission awarded by the Czech government. It has been criticized for lack of transparency and a great risk of corruption. The government last week appointed a new nine-member commission to asses the offers of the three companies who made the shortlist- Geosan Group, Marius Pedersen Engineering and Environmental Services. A decision is expected later this month.
The controversial Education Ministry official Ladislav Bátora continues to make waves in top-level politics. More insulting remarks directed at TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzebnberg appeared on Mr. Bátora’s Facebook page on Tuesday, of a similar nature as those which caused a government crisis in recent weeks and resulted in Mr. Bátora being relegated to a less visible position at the ministry. Mr. Bátora denies having written them saying the offending remarks were the work of hackers and he would file a criminal complaint against an unknown culprit.
Flights to and from Italy have been disrupted by an 8-hour strike in the country. A spokeswoman for Prague’s international airport said three flights to Rome and Venice had been cancelled and there had been several delays. Passengers bound for Italy have been asked to contact information well in advance of scheduled flights. Train transport has also been affected with the Munich-to-Verona line going only as far as Innsbruck from where passengers are asked to use a replacement bus service. The strike was called by Italy’s largest trade union in protest against the government’s cost-cutting measures.
The police on Tuesday charged Public Affairs parliamentary group leader Vit Barta with corruption. The former transport minister was forced to leave his government post 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. He was recently stripped of his immunity by the lower house, opening the way for a criminal investigation. Another party member Jaroslav Škárka, has also been charged with corruption on the grounds that he accepted a bribe from Mr. Barta. Both men claim they are innocent of the charges against them.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is to visit Czech Republic on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on security issues, NATO’s present day role its transformation and the Czech Republic’s contribution to the alliance. The NATO top official is expected to meet with Prime Minister Petr Nečas, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra.
Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra returned from a morale-boosting trip to the Czech contingent in Afghanistan late on Monday night. During his two-day visit to the country, where 720 Czech soldiers are serving in ISAF, Mr. Vondra visited a total of four bases, one in Kabul, and three others in the provinces of Wardak and Logar, where Czech soldiers have recently come under increased attacks from insurgents. He also met with the Afghan interior and defense ministers. Mr. Vondra said the primary goal was to help Afghanistan ensure its own security needs by 2014, when international troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country.
Police have arrested three members of an international gang suspected of large-scale credit data theft on Czech territory. The three were arrested in the process of installing a skimming device onto a bank machine in the spa town of Karlovy Vary, western Bohemia. They have been charged with credit data theft and credit card fraud which could get them sentences of between 8 and 15 years.
In view of growing demand in investment gold and silver the Jablonec Mint has started minting large investment silver medals to be sold at between 35,000 and 50,000 crowns a piece, depending on their weight. A special platinum medal with an engraving of Velehrad cathedral is to sell at 800,000 crowns apiece with 100 of these coins in mintage. The mint also sells gold bars and medals in various weights.
The Czech Republic's foreign trade surplus in July surpassed expectations on continued export growth, but industrial output growth is slowing and the overall outlook is clouded by Europe's economic slowdown, data from the Czech Statistical Office showed Tuesday. The July trade surplus totalled 14.00 billion crowns (805.0 million US dollars), compared with a revised 18.1 billion surplus in June. The market expected a surplus of 8.6 billion. Exports in July rose 9.3% on the year, compared with annual growth of more than 17% in four of the first five months of the year, while imports rose 4% in July, also down from highs earlier in the year.
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