Prime Minister Petr Nečas has nominated his science advisor, former dean of Masaryk University Petr Fiala, the position of education minister. Mr Fiala told the Czech Press Agency that he would comment on Monday. Leading members of the governing parties Miroslava Němcová and Karel Schwarzenberg called Fiala a good candidate with high professional credit. The opposition Social Democrats have taken issue with the long absence of a head of the ministry, which they also said had such a poor budget outlook that even a respected expert could not improve its situation. The ministerial post has been vacant since late March, when Josef Dobeš of the Public Affairs party resigned.
Convicted MPs Vít Bárta and Jaroslav Škárka could lose their seats on their parliamentary committees. Lower house chairwoman Miroslava Němcová reminded Czech Television on Sunday that the independent deputies, formerly of the Public Affairs party, had refused to give up their mandates as MPs and that the only thing the chamber could do would be to remove them from their functions. Mr Bárta, the de facto head of Public Affairs, was given probation for bribery in March, while his former colleague Škárka was sentenced to three years’ for perjury. Bárta is a member of the budgetary and organisational committees; Škárka is the deputy chair of the inspections and petitioning and budgeting committees.
Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka says his opposition party will return the government’s bills more often to the Senate, where they have a majority. Speaking to Czech television on Sunday, Mr Sobotka said they will thus put pressure on the government’s loss of a comfortable majority of 118 MPs. The government received a thin majority of 105 in a vote of confidence on Friday, and some of those deputies have said they will not support all of the cabinet’s proposals.
The Finance Ministry has prepared an updated economic forecast to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of May. The Convergence Programme states that following this year’s slight economic growth the Czech economy should recover and reach 2.8% growth by 2015. The Convergence Programme is a basic document for a country’s acceptance of the single European currency and describes the government’s strategy for developing public finances for the coming years. GDP growth of 0.2% is expected for this year and 1.3% in the next.
Unseasonably high temperatures at the weekend have caused a sharp rise in fires. Fire departments have estimated the damages from fires on Friday and Saturday alone at nearly nine million crowns. They noted a 75% increase in fires on Friday and a 167% increase on Saturday – in all 243 fires. Weekend temperatures of around 30° Celsius (86° F) have broken records older than 200 years.
An early painting by Czech surrealist Jindřich Štyrský entitled “Cloister” has been sold at auction for 4.6 million crowns. The 1922 work is considered an important piece of Czech cubism. A 1917 cubist still-life by Emil Filla was also sold for 3.8 million. Galerie Art Praha sold off 461 works of Czech 19th and 20Th century art on Sunday. The sale included a benefit auction of one hundred statues and paintings for the reconstruction of Prague’s Mánes gallery, which brought in about one million crowns.
Police are unable to determine the identities of two men who were killed in the crash of an ultra-light aircraft near Karlovy Vary Saturday evening. Fire crews found the burnt remains of the men laying near the ruins of the plane, which was still on fire when they arrived. The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation. The aircraft’s automatic rescue system and parachute had been launched.
Prime Minister Nečas has told an ideological conference of his party that the government will concentrate primarily on pro-growth measures after the Chamber of Deputies renewed its mandate on Friday. The government’s top goal of balanced budgets could not be attained without a growing economy, he said. Analysts have voiced concern that the budgetary cuts the government approved in early April will decrease the performance of the economy. Mr Nečas said that for that reason the government will now concentrate on renewing economic growth.
Police have begun an investigation into accusations that the lottery company Sazka defrauded T-Mobile customers of 230 million crowns. The telecommunications firm has yet to receive the money, which its customers spent on lottery terminals in the spring of last year, and claims that Sazka kept it. The largest betting company in the Czech Republic, Sazka was declared bankrupt last spring and its business activities have been taken over by the finance companies PPF and KKCG.
Hackers using the moniker Anonymous shut down the governing parties’ websites on Saturday. The Civic Democratic Party and TOP 09 took their sites offline for security reasons after it became apparent that a strong attack was underway. The website of the Communist Party was also down Saturday afternoon, while the Public Affairs website was slow. Anonymous warned of the attack ahead of time as part of an initiative called “Together for Change! We Want Real Democracy!” The opposition Social Democrats said they did not condone the attack, but that they considered it an expression of a broad feeling of helplessness and dissatisfaction in society.
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