The government has approved a proposal by Interior Minister Jan Kubice to increase the budget of the Prague police by 15 million crowns in order to better handle anti-government protests. The bulk of the amount, 10 million crowns, is intended to cover police overtime and standby duty, with another three requested for insurance and two million for fuel, transport and catering for the police during demonstrations. The minister told the cabinet that with its decreased budget it lacks the funding for out of the ordinary events. An anti-government demonstration at Wenceslas Square on April 21 drew tens of thousands of people and was likely the largest protest since the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
President Václav Klaus has vetoed a bill that would allow authorities to ban repeat offenders from a location for up to three months. Mr Klaus said the legislation is ill-conceived, easy to abuse and probably unconstitutional. He also pointed out the government, the ombudsman and the parliamentary committee for social policy has been opposed to the legislation. The bill was proposed by controversial MP Ivana Řápková, who is well known for crackdowns on ‘non-adaptable’ urban residents. Under the proposal, non-residents could have been temporarily banned from a location for prostitution, drinking or begging, among other things.
Tobacco prices are set to increase as the government has approved new consumption taxes. A gradual increase of four crowns per pack of cigarettes will likely be made over the next two years. The Finance Ministry expects the tax to bring in 1.4 billion crowns next year and 1.9 billion in 2014, with inflation over that time expected to rise by 0.14%. The minimum consumption tax per cigarette will thus rise from 2.10 crowns to 2.25 crowns.
Doctors’ unions have announced two new protests against hospital salaries. Without stating further details, the unions said that one protest would be a cooperative effort with the countries of the Visegrad Group in the autumn. The other will be a long-term national protest for which no date has been set. Organisers said only that the events were aimed at hurting the reform government rather than patients.
The gross margin that the Omnipol arms company gained for mediating the purchase of CASA transport military planes for the Defence Ministry has reached 85 million crowns now, director Michal Hon said Tuesday, dismissing media reports of hundreds of millions in profits. He also dismissed a report by the firm American Appraisal which said the Czech state lost 658 million crowns in the deal. The police want parliament to release MP Vlasta Parkanova for prosecution over the allegedly disadvantageous contract, which was signed by her deputy when she was defence minister in 2009.
The Czech National Bank reports that the banking sector is resilient, according to the results of stress tests. The central bank’s report says that stability should not be jeopardised even in the event of a very unfavourable development, in which case however some institutions would suffer losses that might require billions in capital injections from shareholders. The results of the tests are similar to those made in the past. The bank also tested the insurance and pension funds sectors and found that the latter remains highly vulnerable to large fluctuations in the prices of its securities.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint from imprisoned MP David Rath regarding his prosecution. The former health minister and governor of Central Bohemia, who was arrested in May after receiving seven million crowns, protested against a number of aspects of his case, including his house search and detention. The court found no encroachment into the MP’s constitutional rights and said he was not qualified to complain as he had not exhausted other legal avenues.
Polls indicate that the opposition Social Democratic Party continues to suffer popularity losses due to the scandal around David Rath. One of the party’s most vocal national politicians, Dr Rath resigned his party membership shortly after being arrested last month, but has since indicated that the money he was caught and arrested with may have been part of a party financing scheme. The STEM polling agency suggests that Social Democrat preference has tumbled to less than 22% from 23.3% in May and 37% in late April. The Communist party also lost slightly while TOP 09 improved its chances by nearly two points - all of which entails that the left would not have a constitutional majority in Parliament if elections were held today.
The Vaclav Havel Library has published an extended selection of speeches given by the Czechoslovak and Czech president Havel entitled “Evropa jako úkol” (Europe As Task). The volume was presented at the conference Federalism and Europe held by the library on Tuesday. Library director Martin Palouš said it is was clear that some of Havel’s speeches still apply to today, while the messages of others are limited to the time of writing. Havel supported a gradual and deeper federalisation of Europe, a possibility currently being debated at present as a response to the present crisis.
Czechs are mostly happy with the state of the natural environment in the country, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The survey suggested that three fifths of Czechs are satisfied with the environment nationally, and three out of four give a positive assessment of the environment where they live. Residents of the more industrial regions of Moravia-Silesia, Ústí nad Labem and Prague were more likely to be dissatisfied – in north Moravia usually due to water quality and in Prague due to traffic and noise. The regions rated highest were Olomouc and Vysočina.
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