The Czech Constitutional Court has overturned a four-percent reduction in the salaries of the country’s judges. Announcing its ruling, the court drew attention to a previous verdict which declared that the salaries of judges had to be stable and could not be cut. The pay cut was for 2010 only and was part of austerity measures imposed by the previous government. The recently installed new cabinet had been planning to reduce judges’ salaries even further.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has reacted angrily to the Constitutional Court’s decision. He said it divided the Czech Republic’s citizens into two categories: judges and everybody else. In a rare address to the lower house of Parliament earlier this week, the president called on MPs to reign in the Constitutional Court, which he said was exceeding its powers. Mr Klaus said its decision to uphold a complaint against early elections last year was “not politically neutral”.
A dispute has arisen between the ministers of the environment and finance. In an interview for the newspaper Hospodářské noviny, Environment Minister Pavel Drobil of the Civic Democrats said the Finance Ministry had not been forthcoming with information about a huge tender for an environmental clean-up. The two ministries were charged by the prime minister on Monday with calculating the cost of dealing with the effects of communist-era pollution. However, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, who is the chairman of the TOP 09 party, said he had never been contacted by Mr Drobil in connection with the matter. He said both ministries were in constant working contact. The Civic Democrats and TOP 09 are in a coalition government with Public Affairs.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, says the authorities in France will take a far more sensitive approach in future, following the fiery debate that followed the country’s recent expulsion of Romanies from Romania. Mr Schwarzenberg made the comments at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Friday. He recently became involved in a diplomatic spat with Paris, after suggesting there could have been a racist dimension to the expulsions.
The veteran Czech ice hockey goaltender Dominik Hašek enjoyed a winning debut for his new club Spartak Moscow on Thursday, helping them to a 5:1 win over city rivals CSKA. Spartak’s next game in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League is against Omsk, who feature another all-time great Czech player, Jaromír Jágr. Hašek, who is 45, has enjoyed a hugely successful career at both club and international level.
The Czech football manager Michal Bílek says he has not given any thought to standing down. Bílek, who was appointed last October, lost his first competitive game in charge of the national team on Tuesday, when the Czechs were beaten 1:0 at home by Lithuania in the first game of their campaign to qualify for Euro 2012, and there has been criticism of the coach in the media. However, Bílek said that while the result had been a huge disappointment, he had not for a moment considered resigning. The Czech Republic need to beat Scotland in Prague next month to keep alive their hopes of reaching the next European Championship.
Lenka Štěrbová, who is 16, has become the youngest Czech to swim across the English Channel. It took the long distance specialist nine hours and 22 minutes to swim from England to France. The record for the youngest Czech to swim the Channel was previously held by Filip Pytel, who did it in 2007 at the age of 18. Only 12 Czech swimmers have ever swum across La Manche, with Rostislav Vítek achieving the best time of seven hours and 16 minutes.
Officials at Prague zoo say that one of their honey badgers has escaped. The female honey badger, a 10-year-old named Káča, climbed a fence at the zoo on Tuesday. It has not been seen since, although one member of the public did report seeing an unusual black and white animal on a road not far from the zoo. A Prague zoo official said the honey badger is one of the most fearless animals in the world. Two monkeys that disappeared from a zoo in Olomouc over two months ago are still on the loose.
The region of Ústí nad Labem has calculated damages from August floods at nearly two billion crowns, or almost two times the amount first estimated immediately after the disaster. Damages to bridges, roads and railways alone are estimated at 1.3 billion crowns, while water management infrastructure requires 450 million in repairs. The majority of damaged roads are in the area of Děčín, which is eligible for state subsidies of up to 90% of damage costs because a state of emergency was promptly declared there. Flash floods on August 7 left 1534 buildings inundated, destroyed 145 bridges and damaged 87 roads.
The initial conclusions of an inspection of army purchases set up by the Minister of Defence indicate substandard contracts having been signed that are disadvantageous for the ministry. According to the economic daily E15 on Thursday, inspectors have for example been unable to discern the cost of several vehicles and the margin received by their manufacturers. The paper’s source says that the MoD intends to sign a deal next week with the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic to prevent non-transparent and overpriced army commissions. A special national authority for military purchases is also to be established by January of 2012.