Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas, upon his arrival at an EU summit in
Brussels on Monday, said that the current draft of the fiscal compact was
unsatisfactory for the Czech Republic. If the Czech Republic was to sign
the compact and contribute funds to the IMF, it should be treated as a
full-fledged partner, he said. Mr. Nečas added that without full Czech
participation in eurozone summits, the pact would not be acceptable.
EU leaders are expected to sign off on the final text of the fiscal compact, aimed at establishing tighter fiscal discipline across the eurozone, on Monday. Another point on the agenda is a treaty creating the European Stability Mechanism.
Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra will be presenting a proposal for the Czech mandate in Afghanistan up until the year 2014 in the spring. Mr. Vondra told press on Monday that Czech troops would continue taking part in the peace-keeping mission ISAF but that the contingent would gradually be reduced. NATO members had entered the mission together and should finish it together as well, he said. He added that he would be discussing the Czech mandate with the opposition and that he wanted to ensure the soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan would be informed of the details of a possible future deployment by the end of this year, when their current deployment ends. Mr. Vondra will also be discussing the ISAF mission in Brussels at the end of this week, as well as at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May. Some 600 Czech soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan.
The Czech construction company Metrostav has signed a cooperation
agreement with the US firm Westinghouse, which has applied for a tender to
complete the Temelín nuclear power plant. The contract, signed on Monday,
concerns the construction of two new reactors at the plant, which should
amount to some 30 percent of the total price of the tender. Metrostav’s
general director said that while other bidders for the Temelín tender had
approached his company, he believed Westinghouse had a strong chance of
winning it. In December, Westinghouse signed a cooperation agreement with
the Czech engineering company Vítkovice with a view to supplying
components for the two planned blocks at the Temelín nuclear power plant.
Westinghouse is one of three bidders in a multi-billion tender to build new reactors at the Temelín plant, along with France’s Areva and the Russian state enterprise Atomstroiexport. The total cost of the two new reactors for Temelín is estimated to reach roughly 150 billion Czech crowns.
A bugging device was uncovered in the car of Transport Minister and Public
Affairs party member Pavel Dobeš last autumn, the Czech daily Mladá
fronta Dnes reports. Technicians allegedly found the listening device
during a technical check. At the time, Mr Dobeš’s chauffeur was Tomáš
Jánský, the paper said, describing him as an aide to the party’s de
facto leader Vít Bárta and to the ABL security agency that Mr Bárta
owned before entering high politics.
Last autumn, no one reported the uncovered bug in the transport minister’s car to the police, who learned about it only in connection with a different investigation. According to the newspaper, Tomáš Jánský figured in a police file concerning Vít Bárta’s alleged attempt to bribe then-fellow Public Affairs MPs Kristýna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka. Mr Bárta was himself transport minister from mid-2010 to April 2011 when he resigned over suspected corruption.
The European Commission has slammed the Czech Education Ministry for two
of its projects financed with EU funds, OKNO and SPORT. Both projects were
of dubious quality and their effects questionable, the commission writes
its letter to Education Minister Josef Dobeš. The EC has voiced harsh
criticism over the fact that the projects, with a combined budget of 1.2
billion Czech crowns, did not have a sound financing plan. In addition,
more than half of the funds spent under the SPORT initiative went to
analyses and TV commercials, which was simply unacceptable. EU funds for
education are meant to go to individuals, not PR agencies, the commission
writes in its letter. It notes that the ministry’s use of EU funds casts
doubt on whether the money is being used to make the systematic changes
needed to modernize the country’s education system. Prime Minister Petr
Nečas is set to discuss the matter with Mr. Dobeš.
This is not the first time Mr. Dobeš’s ministry has come under fire from the European Commission. Previously, Brussels auditors had uncovered irregularities in EU-funded projects and ordered that all further payments from the Education for Competitiveness Operational Program be frozen until the matter was investigated and fully explained.
The Supreme Audit Office has expressed concern over the Czech Environment Ministry’s use of EU funds awarded to fight pollution and lower emissions. Inspectors from the office said Monday that even though the country does not meet most of the union’s emission limits, only a small portion of funds from the Operational Program “Environment” has been used to fight pollution and lower emissions to date. Inspectors said that while 18 billion crowns had been earmarked for the Czech Republic for the years 2007 to 2013, the total budget of projects approved by the ministry nearly four years after the start of the program amounted to only 1.5 billion crowns. This was connected to the Czech Republic’s unfavorable legal situation regarding air pollution. NKU inspectors have warned that the European Commission may call for sanctions to be imposed on the Czech Republic over its violation of emission limits should the funds not be used by 2013.
Eleven branches of the labor office workers’ union from across the
country have harshly criticized Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír
Drábek and are calling for his resignation over problems connected to the
introduction of a new system of making welfare payments. According to
members, the new computer system that was introduced as part of a
far-reaching social reform is not functional; the minister is downplaying
the situation, which union leaders have called “fatal”. Among the
unions’ main complaints is that the new software is preventing them from
efficiently performing their job and paying out welfare in the necessary
time frame. However, the ministry announced last week that the majority of
welfare payments for January would be dispensed on time.
IT-workers from labor offices across the country have backed the unions. According to a report that they have handed over to the ministry, the new system lacks connectivity between different applications and has failed to fully digitalize the welfare application process.
A Czech student who had been sent to Papua New Guinea for a research trip was killed on January 27th. He was working on his dissertation at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice and was an employee of the university’s entomological institute. His doctoral thesis focused on the ground beetle. He died after a fall into a ravine in Papua New Guinea’s Finisterre mountain range.
A decapitated head that was found in Prague’s Karlín district on Sunday
belongs to the body of a dead woman, whose torso and limbs were found in
Prague at the end of last year, a medical examination confirmed on Monday.
Police are investigating the case and have called on the public to contact
them with any possible clues that would help identify the woman.
The head was found on Sunday at the corner of Pobřežní and Šaldova streets, in an area that is frequented by homeless people. The find was the latest in a series of gruesome discoveries in the Czech capital: at the beginning of December hands cut at the wrists and taped together were found near the Kunratice stream.
A bus collided with a car near the town of Rychnov in the Hradec Králové region on Monday morning. The driver of the car was killed in the accident; another five people were injured. According to police, the accident happened around 7 a.m., when the driver of the automobile swerved out of his lane and into the opposing traffic. Police say it is not yet clear what caused the driver to swerve into oncoming traffic and are investigating the case.
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