The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill on Czech participation in foreign military missions until 2013. The bill envisages boosting the current Czech contingent in Afghanistan from the current 500 to around 720 next year and maintaining around 640 troops in 2012. Meanwhile, the Czech peace keeping force in Kosovo is being gradually withdrawn. The last Czech contingent has already returned leaving behind 92 soldiers to maintain a base should it be needed in emergencies. The debate on the government-proposed bill was intentionally brought forward so as to secure support for it in the upper chamber where the right wing Civic Democrats lost their majority in last weekend’s senate elections.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill on the 2011 state budget in its first reading. Following the vote, in which the budget won support from 109 coalition MPs, Prime Minister Petr Nečas thanked the house for supporting the government’s reform drive and a responsible fiscal policy. The draft budget for 2011 envisages a public finance deficit of 135 billion crowns or 4.6 percent of gross domestic product. The acting head of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka said his party would not try to hold up the bill’s passage through Parliament despite the fact that he considered it to be one of the worst draft budgets in the country’s history which would negatively impact growth in 2011. The bill needs to pass through three readings before going on to the Senate and being signed into law by the president. With its comfortable majority in the lower house the governing coalition has enough votes to push its through.
The Czech government considers the creation of mechanisms to secure fiscal
discipline within the EU a matter of the utmost importance, Prime Minister
Petr Nečas said on Wednesday. In connection with Thursday’s EU summit
Brussles, which is to debate fiscal policy, Mr. Nečas said the Czech
Republic supported the proposal by a European team of experts on enforcing
fiscal discipline and would strive for the summit to agree on clear
guidelines for solving future crisis in the Euro-zone. The Czech prime
minister noted that the euro´s stability was of key importance to Czechs
despite the fact that the country was not as yet a member of the
The Czech Republic recently supported Slovakia, a euro-zone member, in its refusal to contribute to a bail-out package for Greece, on the grounds that it would set a bad precedent.
The cabinet on Wednesday approved the dismissal of Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká. She is to leave her post at the end of the year and will be replaced by Pavel Zeman, the Czech representative at Eurojust the European body for the enhancement of judicial co-operation. Vesecká has been under pressure to resign for months following her alleged attempts to intervene in a court case relating to a former deputy prime minister, Jiří Čunek. The Supreme State Attorney tried to clear her name in court, but failed after it emerged that she had held a number of secret meetings with prosecutors involved in the Čunek case.
The Social Democrats have nominated former trade union leader Milan Štech
for the post chairman of the Senate. After its victory in last weekend’s elections to a third of the 81-member Senate the party will, for the first time in history, hold a majority in the upper house, enabling it to push through its own candidate to the post of chairman and giving it the power to block constitutional amendments and international agreements. The new senators are to be sworn in on November 24th.
A fire at a disused building near Prague’s Florenc bus station killed nine people on Tuesday night. The fire was signalled soon after midnight and firemen managed to get two people out of the inferno before the roof collapsed. Eight bodies were later found on the ground floor of the building. A search through the debris revealed a ninth body and the remains of a dog later on Wednesday. The dead are believed to have been homeless people sheltering from freezing night time temperatures. The death toll is one of the worst in the capital in the last 20 years.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský has expressed objections to the government’s proposal for people who quit their jobs to receive lower welfare support. In a statement on his website the Ombusdsman said this would be unfair to those who leave their job because of harassment or mobbing. The proposed amendment to the labour code has drawn criticism from trade unions and along with a proposed 10 percent wage cut for public sector employees, sparked street protests in which 40,000 people took part.
Czech authorities have set the date for the planned exhumation of the remains of astronomer Tycho Brahe on November 15. The famous Danish-born scholar died in Prague in 1601 under suspicious circumstances and experts from Denmark’s Aarhus University have asked for samples which could determine the cause of his death. An earlier study of the astronomer’s remains, conducted in 1901, concluded that he most likely died of mercury poisoning. Danish scholars say they believe Brahe may have been murdered in Prague on the orders of Danish King Christian IV, and want to analyze his remains again, looking for traces of arsenic or some other poison. Both Czech and Danish scholars are to receive samples, before the grave is closed on November 19.
President Vaclav Klaus has pardoned eight people, largely on humanitarian grounds. Among them are a Belarusian national who could face persecution for political reasons in his homeland if expelled for overstaying his visa and the director of a hospice who administered hard drugs to a dying patient in order to alleviate their pain.
The operating profit of Czech car maker Skoda Auto was 64.4 percent higher year-on-year at 8 billion crowns in the January-September period, a Skoda spokesman said Wednesday. Sales over that period rose by 16.3 percent to 160 billion and the firm sold a record 568,990 cars. Skoda is striving to expand to markets in Russia, India and China while consolidating its traditionally strong position in Europe.