Civic Democrat MP Pavel Drobil is to step down as minister of the environment. He announced his resignation following allegations of corruption at the State Environmental Fund, which is run by the Environment Ministry and channels large amounts of EU money. Police have begun an investigation after the agency’s director, Libor Michálek, produced secret recordings purporting to be of Mr Drobil’s chief advisor and his own deputy pressuring him to manipulate state contracts in order to finance Mr Drobil’s political career. At a joint news conference with Mr Drobil on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he was convinced his party colleague had done nothing unlawful or unethical; he said his only mistake had been a poor choice of subordinates.
The opposition Social Democrats have called for a vote of no-confidence in the government in connection with alleged corruption at the State Environmental Fund, saying that the prime minister’s handling of the affair has been inadequate. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said the Social Democrats would call an extraordinary session of the lower house in order for the vote to take place. It would be the first such vote since the appointment of the three-party Czech government in August.
Three dozen roads were closed in the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning as heavy snow and strong winds continued to cause great disruptions to transport in the country. The worst hit regions have been in north and west Bohemia. Rail transport has also been affected, with services cancelled on a number of regional routes and delays seen elsewhere. Snowdrifts have formed on roads in some areas, and people have been warned not to drive.
Over 200 police and fire officers held a demonstration against government cuts in front of the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday morning. The gathering was dispersed by representatives of City Hall after about an hour. Like other public sector employees, police and fire fighters will see a 10-percent cut in the total amount paid to them in salaries next year. Last week around 150,000 state workers went on a one-day strike protesting the reductions; Czech police and fire officers are barred from taking strike action.
Three Polish citizens have been sentenced to three years in prison by a court in the Czech city of Liberec for looting during floods in north Bohemia in August. The Poles only stole petrol worth CZK 7,500 (USD 400); the sentence was so high because they committed the crime during a natural disaster. The three told the court they had not known there was flooding in the region, and have appealed the verdict.
Over half of Czechs speak no foreign language, according to a new survey conducted by the CVVM agency for the Institute for Social and Economic Analyses and published on Wednesday. Fifty-four percent of the country’s citizens speak no language but their own, while 27 percent of Czechs have mastered one foreign tongue, the poll indicates. English is the most commonly spoken foreign language, followed by German.
The management of Brno football club have announced that they are introducing lie detector tests for their own players in a bid to ascertain whether they have deliberately tried to fix the result of games. A club official said the move was nothing sinister, and would prevent rumours that their players were guilty of match-fixing. A clause in the contracts of new signings commits them to undergoing polygraph tests twice a season. The Moravian club, who lie second from bottom of the Czech first division, have also fined players who performed poorly in the first half of the season.
Sparta Prague host CSKA Moscow in their final Europa League group stage game on Wednesday night. The Russians have already come first in the four-team group with points to spare, while Sparta’s hold on second place is unassailable, meaning the match is something of a dead rubber. However, CSKA coach Leonid Slutski said he expected the Czech champions to put on a show for their home fans in what is their last game of 2010.
Six post communist EU nations, including the Czech Republic, have urged Brussels to push for a block-wide ban on denial of communist crimes. In a joint appeal sent to Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania, argue that the principle of justice should assure just treatment of the victims of every totalitarian regime, and the victims of communism are all too frequently forgotten. Holocaust denial is already banned in many EU states and the six nations petitioning the justice commissioner would like to see similar treatment applied to communist crimes.
Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Tuesday that in the event of a mass exodus of Czech doctors the government would have to use its emergency reserve funds to keep hospitals in the big cities operational. In the course of the past fortnight hundreds of dissatisfied doctors have handed in their notice, with some hospitals now at risk of losing up to 70 percent of their staff in the New Year. The massive protest was triggered by doctors’ trade unions who urged physicians to seek better paid positions abroad if the government did not increase their salaries threefold. Four thousand doctors have signed a petition indicating their readiness to walk out, but hospitals are still hoping many of them will reconsider. Minister Heger on Tuesday admitted that the health sector could soon face a serious crisis, with some hospitals unable to perform even emergency surgery.