The new centre-right government is seeking the means to access money from state companies in order to boost public finances, according to Tuesday’s edition of Hospodarské noviny. The paper says that there are presently some 8 billion crowns in profits on company accounts that could be put to good use and that over the next four years the government could access another ten billion from state companies such as Budějovický Budvar, the state forestry company Lesy ČR or the country’s postal services. However accessing the funds would require a change of legislation.
Public Affairs, one of the three parties in government, has threatened to torpedo the finance minister’s proposed austerity package at Wednesday’s government meeting. Party leader Radek John, who heads the interior ministry, said the proposed measures placed an unfair burden on Public Affairs ministers who were expected to take the biggest cuts. The party leadership is set to debate the issue further on Tuesday evening. Public Affairs holds the interior, transport and education ministries. In an angry reaction to the public statement Prime Minister Nečas said all ministries were being asked to make cuts and any minister who couldn’t shoulder the burden had no place in government.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he wants to meet individually with the ministers of the new centre-right government in the coming weeks in order to get better acquainted with their work in office. The president received the new prime minister, Petr Nečas, for a working lunch at Prague Castle on Tuesday. The discussion focussed primarily on the government’s policy programme. The president has repeatedly stressed that he considers the government’s primary task reigning in the country’s excessive public finance deficit.
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Czech Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the time was not yet ripe for the EU to
reassess its policy towards Cuba in connection with the recent release of
political prisoners. Mr. Schwarzenberg said that although the move was a
sign of progress, Cuba was still far from functioning as a democracy.
Drawing a parallel to communist Czechoslovakia, the Czech foreign minister
said Cuba had moved from the hardline 1950s to the 1970s in its
development. He pointed out that in the 1970s the Czechoslovak communist
regime also had an interest in expelling dissidents from the country and
preventing them from returning. The EU has conditioned any dialogue with
Havana on an observance of human rights and some member states, such as
Spain, have suggested it may be time to revise its tough line.
The Czech Republic on Monday also supported an EU move to level tougher sanctions against Iran in a dispute over its nuclear programme. They include a block on oil and gas investment.
The city of Prague has said it wants to come to an amicable agreement with the city of Moravsk ý Krumlov over Alphonse Mucha’s Slav epic. The two city halls are at odds over the fate of the precious art collection after Prague city hall attempted to get it moved to Prague’s Veletržní Palác art gallery. However local authorities in Moravský Krumlov, where the Slav Epic has been housed for over half a century, have heeded a call from Mucha’s heirs to bar anybody from handling it. The ban will remain in place until uncertainties surrounding a 1913 contract granting the city of Prague ownership of the art work have been cleared up. Alfonse Mucha donated the 20-painting collection to Prague on the condition that the authorities built a dedicated home for his late masterpiece, a condition that remains unfulfilled. On Sunday around 1,000 people demonstrated against it being moved from Moravský Krumlov, where it is the biggest tourist attraction.
Two of the eleven Czech scouts who were injured in an accident in Lithuania over the weekend remain in intensive care with serious chest injuries, the ctk news agency reports. Six others remain hospitalized with fractures and concussion. The accident happened on Sunday when a group of 15 Czech scouts cycling around the country took shelter in a derelict building in a rainstorm which collapsed on them. The police is investigating the accident with regard to possible negligence on the part of the house-owner as well as the scout-master who allowed the group to enter a building which was clearly uninhabitable.
President Václav Klaus on Tuesday appointed Iva Ritschelová head of the Czech Statistical Office. Ms Ritschelová formerly headed the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem. The 36-year-old former university director specializes in environmental policies. The Czech Statistical Office had an acting director since its former head Jan Fischer left his post after being appointed head of the caretaker cabinet in May of last year.
Three youths have been fined 3,000 crowns each for pelting the former Civic Democrat leader Mirek Toplánek with eggs and insults at an election rally. The incident happened in the town of Hustopeče in August of last year and there was speculation at the time that the attack may have been commissioned by a rival party. The former Civic Democrat leader was hit by eggs and gravel which resulted in light facial injuries. He refused to break off the election tour. The judge issued a relatively small fine in view of the fact that there was no evidence the three youths had actually thrown gravel or stones at the politician.
Police are out in force for a Champions League preliminary round match between Sparta Prague and Lech Poznan at Prague’s Letná stadium on Tuesday evening. Hundreds of Polish fans, among them notorious rowdies, have been arriving for the match in the course of the day. A police spokeswoman said the police had checked dozens of buses crossing the border, returning a number of fans without Ids who were suspected of having been extradited for causing trouble on previous occasions. Around three thousand Polish fans are expected to attend the match, gathering first on Prague’s Old Town Square and making their way to the stadium on foot. A similar event last year ended in street clashes with the police after Polish rowdies attempted to force their way into the football grounds without tickets and vandalized public property after failing to gain admission.
A police officer is reported to have committed suicide at Prague’s police headquarters. According to the daily Právo the officer, who worked for the fraud squad for three years, shot herself with her service weapon two weeks ago. According to a source close to the victim, the 29-year-old woman left a letter in which she said she was being mobbed and humiliated by her superiors. A spokeswoman told the daily that the police would look into the allegations but was unable to provide any further details at the moment.