The NATO summit in Chicago has approved the setting up of a multinational helicopter training centre based in the Czech Republic. The project, presented together with Croatia, is the Czech Republic’s contribution to NATO’s Smart Defence Initiative. The centre will be used to train the pilots of NATO member states whose militaries are equipped with Russian-made Mi type helicopters. Croatia has offered suitable training ground. The Smart Defence initiative deals with interconnecting different capabilities of member countries to reach higher effectiveness and economy.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that the administration of former Prague mayor Pavel Bém wasted nearly a billion crowns on useless IT projects. Citing councillor Eva Vorlíčková, the paper writes that projects were apparently launched for the sole purpose of siphoning money from the city budget. One of the projects, she said, involved 390 million worth of wireless internet equipment that does not work and will have to be dismantled. An audit has been ordered and a police investigation will be sought. Mr Bém is under heavy scrutiny since wiretap recordings emerged suggesting that he allowed a wealthy friend undue influence over city administration.
Lower house chairwoman Miroslava Němcová has proposed a bill to strip convicted MPs of their seats in Parliament. The constitutional amendment would not apply to those given a suspended sentence, such as former Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta who was convicted of bribery in April. Ms Němcová said that in addition to ethical considerations it would be impossible for a prisoner to carry out the rights and obligations of an MP. The bill will now be discussed by the government and must be approved by a two thirds majority in Parliament in order to take effect.
Central Bohemian regional councilmen have decided to retain their positions following the arrest of former governor David Rath. The regional council met on Monday to consider whether its members bore political responsibility for any of Mr Rath’s supposed crimes of accepting a bribe and damaging the interests of the EU. Deputy Governor Marcel Chládek said he moved that the entire council resign; two members voted for the proposal, one abstained and the others voted against it.
Members of the parliamentary immunity committee will question former governor Rath in Prague, but not in Parliament. Dr Rath is currently under arrest in Litoměřice prison on charges of corruption. His request to be heard in parliament, where he is still an MP, was rejected and members of the committee meanwhile refused to go to the prison. The decision was therefore made to question him at a Prague police station. The committee is tasked with either recommending or stopping the investigation into Mr Rath, who police caught receiving a seven million crown cash payment last week.
In related news, Mr Rath has filed a constitutional complaint against decisions made regarding his corruption investigation and detention. A Constitutional Court spokesman confirmed the complaint and said it was not yet possible to say when the court would rule on it. The court dismisses the large majority of complaints filed in cases that have not been closed and a verdict usually takes several weeks or months. Some of the seven other suspects in the case have also filed complaints.
The party emerging around deputy prime minister Karolína Peake has sent a request for official registration to the Ministry of the Interior. A petition requesting the registration of the LIDEM party was signed by 1,700 people. The ministry will have one month to register the party. The faction consists of MPs and cabinet members from the Public Affairs party who split in protest of the party’s methods and leadership. Members include Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš and Regional Development Minister Kamil Jankovský.
A train carrying coal derailed just before midnight on Sunday in north Central Bohemia. No one was injured and the cause of the accident is yet unknown. The derailed wagons ale knocked down five electrical poles and damaged nearly four kilometres of track, causing estimated damages of 110 million crowns. Traffic on part of the Mělník line will be suspended on Monday.
Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek received the Order of the British Empire on Monday. At a ceremony at the UK embassy in Prague, the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra was praised for his promotion of Czech and British music abroad and received the honorary rank of Commander. The honour comes as Bělohlávek, who is 66, prepares to leave the BBC orchestra in order to head the Czech Philharmonic from September.
A collector of old weapons was killed Sunday evening when a WWII mortar round exploded in his house in Plzeň. The 33-year-old had apparently been disassembling the device when it blew up. Police evacuated nearby houses after the explosion, saying the collection amounted to a mini munitions warehouse containing dozens of unexploded artillery and mortar rounds. The district mayor said the explosion scattered undetonated munitions around the premises and could have affected the entire street had the whole collection blown up.
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