The Czech Republic is against a UK proposal to freeze the European Union’s budget in the 2014 to 2020 period. Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said his government was opposed to the plan, adding that talks on the matter were in their infancy. The Czech Republic could in theory lose some of the money it receives under the bloc’s cohesion policy if the idea meets acceptance. Great Britain would like to see the EU’s budget frozen at 2013 levels, with spending only rising in line with inflation until the end of the decade.
The Czech prime minister has also said that a change to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to allow for a eurozone stability mechanism would require the agreement of President Václav Klaus, who is a committed eurosceptic. Speaking before agreement was reached on the change on Thursday night, Mr Nečas said he could not imagine what kind of legal chicanery could be used to circumvent the standard ratification process, including the president’s signature. The Czech Republic was the last country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, with Mr Klaus putting pen to paper after securing an opt-out from the document’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
President Klaus has expressed support for Pavel Drobil, who this week resigned as environment minister following allegations of corruption. In an interview for Lidové noviny, Mr Klaus said it was more likely that Mr Drobil’s subordinates had “erred” than the minister himself. Police began an investigation after the head of the State Environmental Fund, Libor Michálek, produced secret recordings purporting to be of Mr Drobil’s chief advisor pressuring him to manipulate state contracts in order to finance Mr Drobil’s political career. That was followed by a tape appearing to show Mr Drobil offering Mr Michálek a promotion, if he destroyed the original evidence. Leaders of the three-party coalition are due to discuss the affair at an emergency meeting, while the opposition Social Democrats have tabled a no-confidence vote.
President Klaus signed into law on Friday a 5-percent cut in the salaries of lawmakers, state attorneys and judges. The bill also reduces the president’s own income. It is one of a raft of measures aimed at fulfilling the government’s pledge to balance the Czech Republic’s budget by 2016. The amount of money paid in salaries to those working in the public sector next year will fall by 10 percent.
The Swiss ministry of justice has agreed to extradite fugitive Tomáš Pitr to the Czech Republic, where he has been sentenced to a total of 11 years in jail for tax evasion and fraud. A spokesman for the Swiss authorities said the actions of which he had been found guilty were also crimes in his country. Mr Pitr, who fled the Czech Republic in 2007, can appeal the decision, and Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil said on Friday he believed there was a fifty-fifty chance the process would end in his extradition.
Two dozen fire units were sent to deal with a blaze at in an industrial complex that sent clouts of smoke over the Prague district of Malešice on Friday morning. Over 100 fire officers managed to bring it under control within two hours. By coincidence, a number of fire engines were being repaired in an auto shop inside the complex. Nobody was injured in the fire, the cause of which is as yet unknown.
What is being described as the first Czech 3D feature film premiered at Prague’s Aero cinema on Thursday night. Heart Beat, starring Jan Budař, is directed by Jan Němec, who was a key figure in the Czech New Wave in the 1960s. A story that was the basis for the film was written 40 years ago by the director and playwright and future president Václav Havel, who appears in it briefly.
The Czech Republic’s ice hockey players beat Finland 3:2 after penalties in their first game at the Channel One Cup on Thursday. The win gives the Czechs their first points in the four-nation European Hockey Tour, after they suffered a washout at the Karjala Tournament last month. Their next game is against Russia in Moscow on Saturday.
Sparta Prague have drawn Liverpool in European club football’s second-tier competition, the Europa League. The first leg takes place at Sparta’s AXA Arena on February 17, with the second game at the English club’s Anfield ground a week later. Liverpool won the Europa League’s predecessor the UEFA Cup in 2001, before winning the more prestigious Champions League four years later.
The opposition Social Democrats have filed a no-confidence motion against
the coalition government in response to allegations of corruption at the
Environment Ministry. The vote on the government is to take place on
Tuesday. The centre-right coalition, which holds 118 of 200 seats in the
Chamber of Deputies, should be able to pass. The no-confidence
motion is the first against the three-party coalition since it assumed
office in mid-July.
On Wednesday, Environment Minister Pavel Drobil announced his resignation following allegations he tried to cover up corruption in his department by a chief advisor who appears to have tried to manipulate state contracts; the Social Democrats have charged, however, that the move did not go far enough, suggesting the prime minister also knew about the case earlier. Social Democrat regional governor Michal Hašek said the prime minister should also step down, unless he explained his steps.