Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra is at the centre of a row among the coalition parties, who expected him to apologize for and explain the ProMoPro scandal on Thursday. A special parliamentary meeting requested by the opposition Social Democrats to discuss the affair was prevented by the government parties, apparently on the condition that Mr Vondra, who is a Civic Democrat, would provide an apology and explanation for his role in the matter. The Defence Minister said he took political responsibility for the matter and apologised only for having poorly explained the situation around ProMoPro, an audiovisual company which was paid exorbitant sums from Mr Vondra’s office during the 2009 Czech EU presidency. The rest, he said, would have to wait for the results of an investigation. Immediately afterwards the head of the TOP 09 parliamentary club, Petr Gazdík, and deputy party chairman Miroslav Kalousek called for Mr Vondra to resign or else to be fired.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas responded to the criticism, saying he was prepared to discuss the situation with his coalition partners. Mr Kalousek, he added, should be minding his own ministry and is not in a position to demand the resignation of others. Speaking in Brussels ahead of an EU summit, Mr Nečas said that he was happy that the coalition had stuck to the principles of its agreement and not voting for special meetings proposed by the opposition, but that emotions in the matter needed to be calmed down. On whether he believes Mr Vondra should keep his position, the prime minister said he did not have sufficient information as he is in Brussels dealing with EU affairs.
Belorussian opposition presidential candidate, Ales Michalevič, has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic. Mr Michalevič is under investigation in Belarus for his involvement in December’s public protests against election results that gave a fourth term of office to President Alexander Lukashenko. He spent two months in prison in Minsk following the demonstrations and claims to have been tortured. He left the country when his passport was confiscated by the secret police and emerged in the Czech Republic last week. According to the Belorussian media, he has spent the last two weeks in a facility for asylum seekers near Brno. The Interior Ministry says that he will be given protection and a place to live.
The son of the high-ranking Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich has offered to repair the Bohemian chateau where his father lived as acting “Reich Protektor“. Heider Heydrich, who is 76 years old, agreed with the local mayor he would seek funding for the restoration of the dilapidated manor in Panenské Břežany, near Prague, where he lived with his mother until the age of 10, when the war ended. According to the mayor, the building would be turned into a muiseum or a monument to the national resistance. Reinhard Heydrich was one of the engineers of the Holocaust and briefly served as Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. His assassination in Prague in the summer of 1942 was a key moment of the Czech and continental resistance movement.
The Ministry of Finance has launched administrative proceedings against indebted betting company Sazka regarding the suspension of the business’s lottery activities. Sazka is currently in bankruptcy proceedings and is not paying out winnings within the legal timeframe. The company could potentially lose its licence as a result of the proceedings. The insolvency court is expected to declare the company bankrupt on Friday but allow its leadership to restructure the business and pay 100% of its debts.
The Czech Army is interested in procuring up to 18 supersonic fighter aircraft in the years 2014 to 2015, the daily E15 has reported. The Defence Ministry confirmed that it had requested preliminary information on offers from France, the United States, Sweden and the Eurofighter consortium for the sale or loan of the fighters. Only Eurofighter and Sweden have responded thus far. Ministry spokesman Jan Pejšek told the paper that the 18-unit option would allow more frequent deployment in air policing and, to some extent, foreign missions. The Ministry of Defence is to present the government with a conceptual plan for the army for the next 10 to 15 years by the end of the month.
A new survey conducted by the polling agency CVVM suggests that the Social Democratic Party would win parliamentary elections by a large margin if they were held in March. According to the poll of 1,306 adults, the left-wing party would come out of elections with 34% of the vote, 12 points ahead of their closest rivals, the Civic Democratic Party. The result marks a three-point improvement for the Social Democrats since last month. TOP 09 received 3.5 points less, at 13.5%; The Communist Party and Public Affairs held their ground with 12.5% and 9.5%, respectively.
Opposition representatives of the TOP 09 party in the Prague City Hall walked out of an special meeting on Thursday convened by Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda. The representatives said that the meeting was superfluous, as a proper session is to be held next week. The head of TOP 09’s Prague chapter, Zdeněk Tůma, said that moderation should be used in convening special meetings, for example only when a delay could be dangerous. The meeting in this case was called to express disapproval with a budget proposal due to which the city could lose 1.1 billion in state funding annually. The meeting continued without the delegates.
One of the parties competing for further construction of the Temelín nuclear power plant, the French company Areva, says that the two additional blocks could provide employment for 5000 people. According to the company’s estimates, each reactor would be operated by 300 to 400 employees, and at least 100 Czech companies would be involved. In addition to Areva, the American company Westinghouse, the Czech-Russian consortium of Škoda JS, Atomstrojexport and Gidropress are also competing for the job. The total contract will be for hundreds of billions of crowns.
Czech start forward Jaromír Jágr confirmed on Wednesday he would join the national team at the upcoming world championships in Slovakia. Jágr’s club, Avantgard Omsk, has been knocked out of the playoffs in the KHL. The 39-year-old Jágr has not missed the last three big international events including the 2009 world championships in Germany where the Czechs team won gold. The event in Slovakia kicks off at the end of April.