Leaders of the three parties in the Czech centre-right government – the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and LIDEM – agreed on Tuesday that a new coalition agreement should be signed before the end of the year. The revised agreement should outline some policy adjustments, such as measures to boost economic growth and to lower the state’s bureaucratic burden as well as goals the government plans to carry out before the end of its term in 2014. Coalition leaders also briefly discussed candidates for the post of transport minister, which will be vacated next month when Pavel Dobeš of LIDEM steps down. However, no agreement was reached at Tuesday’s meeting and negotiations will continue.
The Czech Republic could receive some 30 percent less money from EU’s cohesion funds in the period of 2014-2020 as a consequence of the bloc’s tighter budget, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said. Between 2007 and 2013, some 26.7 billion euros was earmarked in the funds for the Czech Republic. The cuts are likely to affect all EU member states, according to Mr Schwarzenberg.
Doctors and other health workers in some 60 Czech hospitals on Tuesday joined in a first international protest held simultaneously in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. In the Czech Republic, the protest took place in one third of all hospitals and lasted for five minutes. Health workers demanded higher salaries and criticized plans to close down hospitals and budget cuts in the health sector.
President Václav Klaus has vetoed a bill that would have banned the expropriation of land for mining. According to the president, the legislation would have significantly impacted energy policy, taking away a primary tool, and led the way to increased speculation over properties. The president’s veto, which can still be overturned by Parliament, was welcomed by leaders in the region of Ústí, where coal mining is an important industry, but criticised by environmentalists. Municipalities that could lose land to mining in the future are Horní Jiřetín, Černice and Karviná.
Oldřich Bubeníček of the Communists was on Tuesday elected the governor of the Ústí region in northern Bohemia, following his party’s victory in October elections there. Mr Bubeníček has become the first Communist governor since the introduction of a new regional administration system in the year 2000. The Communist Party also won the ballot in the neighbouring region of Karlovy Vary; however, it is not yet clear whether that region will also have a Communist governor. Communists have become part of governing coalitions in eight of 13 regions where the elections were held.
The Czech state-owned crude oil-transporting company Mero has acquired a five-percent stake in the Transalpine Pipeline, or TAL, from Shell Deutschland, Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said on Tuesday without giving any financial details. The transaction is seen as a move to increase the Czech Republic’s energy security, as it will lower its dependency on oil shipped from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline. The TAL pipeline transports crude oil from Italy to Austria and Germany where it is linked to a network that supplies Czech oil refineries in Kralupy and Litvínov.
The Czech National Bank sees no reasons for the policy of quantitative easing, the bank’s governor, Mojmír Hampl, told a conference in Prague on Tuesday. The problems of the Czech economy differed from those of the countries which opted for the move, Mr Hampl said; the Czech Republic has a stable financial sector, it does not have issues with liquidity and does not face the threat of the so-called deflation trap. Governor Hampl also suggested there was a big difference between the real and the perceived state of the economy whose foundations were sound.
A Czech association of people with disabilities along with a human rights group, Iuridicum Remedium, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against former labour and social affairs minister Jaromír Drábek and his deputy Vladimír Šiška over a new electronic system of providing welfare benefits. Under the new system, people would receive welfare via electronic cards known as S-Cards. The groups say the officials provided personal data of welfare recipients to the Česká spořitelna bank which runs the system, which is something the ministry was not authorized to do. The new system has come under heavy criticism from the opposition; Prime Minister Petr Nečas said participation in the new system should be voluntary.
The Czech government is scheduled to discuss draft legislation by the Interior Ministry that would establish a computerized central registry of firearms. The current system is considered inaccurate which complicates the work of the police. The bill would among other things introduce stricter rules for the transportation of firearms and allow the police to control it. The legislation would also allow people to give up their firearms permit and at the same time prolong the permits’ validity from five to ten years.
Musicians Bono, The Edge, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Yoko Ono have paid for a large tapestry in honour of the late Czech president Václav Havel which will be unveiled at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport next month, a spokeswoman for the airport said. The tapestry, designed by Czech artist Petr Sís, cost CZK 1.5 million, or USD 75,000. The artists have been invited for the unveiling which will take place on December 9, the spokeswoman said but it’s not clear if they’ll arrive for the occasion. The former Czech president, playwright and dissident Václav Havel passed away on December 18, 2011, at the age of 75.
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