Opposition parties in the Chamber of Deputies are continuing in the fifth day of a filibuster intended to block the passage of government reform bills. On Friday the parliamentarians remained in session until after midnight and began an extra-ordinary weekend session on Saturday morning. The coalition is expected to approve the possibility of another late-night session. The effort to obstruct a vote on fifteen reform bills, which were returned to the lower house by the opposition-controlled Senate, began on Tuesday morning. A vote on next year's budget proposal was allowed on Wednesday in order to avoid a provisional budget for next year.
The opposition says that parliamentary lawyers are contesting the restrictions on speaking format imposed by the coalition during the filibuster. Deputy Social Democrat chairman Lubomír Zaorálek says that the Legislative Committee of Parliament, which interprets the rules of procedure in the house, found that the coalition’s rules on speaking times and the merging of debates defies common practice and could be grounds for a review by the Constitutional Court. The coalition parties however are standing by their interpretation of the rules, by which the number of speakers is determined per subject rather than subject point.
Police are investigating a ten-million-crown public order awarded by the Defence Ministry that they believe was assigned illegally. The daily Právo writes that Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra approved an auditing commission for the consultation firm KPMG last summer without a public tender and without publication of the fact – an option legally allowed only under extreme circumstances. According to documents that the newspaper claims to possess, the ministry acted on the commission in spite of warnings from its lawyers that the deal would be in contravention of the law. By law, all public commissions worth more than two million crowns must be arranged through a public tender.
The Czech “Alois Nebel” will join 17 other films in competition for an Oscar nomination for best animated film, the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced. The Czech Film and Television Academy has already selected Alois Nebel as the Czech candidate for the best non-English speaking film category. The debut film by director Tomáš Luňák must yet be presented in Los Angeles by the end of this year to have a chance of being shortlisted for an Oscar nomination. The story of a train dispatcher at an out-of-the-way station near the Polish border in the 1980s uses a unique technology called rotoscoping, which combines feature and animated film for the first time in Czech cinematography.
Czech and Slovak foreign ministries have agreed to provide mutual consular services for each other’s citizens and visa applicants. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and his Slovak counterpart Mikuláš Dzurinda signed the agreement with the aim of easing problems for tourists and decreasing costs for both countries’ consulates. Czech embassies in six countries will represent Slovakia, while Slovakia will do the same in Kenya. Similar treaties are in place with other countries.
A replica of the first Czech long-haul aircraft completed a 120km trip from Pardubice to Prague on Saturday, marking the 100 years since the first such flight by aviator Jan Kašpar. Pilot Petr Mára originally intended to repeat the famous feat on its anniversary, May 13, but was impeded by strong winds. The replica Blériot can fly for roughly an hour and a half but requires an almost complete absence of wind and clouds and keeps an altitude of about 500 metres.
The Fed Cup world group final between the Czech Republic and Russia remained drawn on Saturday, 1:1. World no. 2 Petra Kvitová handed her team the advantage in round one, handily defeating Maria Kirilenko, 6:2, 6:2. In the next round, the host nation’s Svetlana Kuznetsova won an equally sound victory over the Czech Republic’s Lucie Šafářova 6:2, 6:3. The two victors, Kvitová and Kuznetsova, will now face off in the third rubber at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.
The country’s health minister, Leoš Heger, has said he will order state hospitals to raise wages in January by 6.25 percent instead of an earlier promised 10 percent. Speaking to journalists on Friday, he stressed that the remaining 3.75 percent could be added midway through the year, if revenues are collected by the insurance companies allowed. The minister stressed the decision was a compromise in light of gloomy economic predictions for the Czech economy for 2012 - not expected to grow more than – at best - one percent. The unions had been asking for all 10 percent as of January and are expected to respond to the minister’s decision on Monday. Despite the poor economic outlook, the minister has promised that he will do his utmost to make sure patient care remains unaffected; if anything new investment will need to be curbed to meet current financial difficulties.
Government ministers have conceded the possibility that planned tax and pension reforms may have to be postponed by a year i.e. from the beginning of 2013 to 2014. At a press conference in Prague on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas rejected speculation that a postponement was being considered as a concession to the opposition which had been obstructing a vote on reform bills in the lower house for more than three days. He said the matter was being considered for purely legislative and technical reasons. The opposition, which argues that in view of the current economic situation the government should put some of its planned reforms on hold, has welcomed the news, arguing that the next general elections, scheduled for 2014, could serve as a referendum on the proposed reforms.
The country’s Supreme Audit Office has found shortcomings in the manner in which the Justice Ministry satisfied damage claims between the years of 2007 and 2010. According to the office, common mistakes included delaying decisions on claims that were later paid but with considerable interest, or in some cases failing to appeal court decisions in time. Between 2007 and 2010, the Czech Republic paid 400 million crowns in just over 4,500 damage claim cases. In its review, the Supreme Audit Office examined 128 cases – worth 57.6 million crowns.
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