President Václav Klaus issued eight pardons on humanitarian grounds on Monday. The president’s spokesman says that the pardoned offenders were mostly either caring for their children, had health problems or were of advanced age. Three of the cases involved failures to pay alimonies, others fraud or minor offences. A Brno physician convicted to seven years for falsifying medical reports had her sentence waived due to previous good behaviour and a poor psychological condition. In other cases the president commuted prison sentences to community service so that the offenders could work to repay their debts.
The Ministry of the Interior is considering ways to monitor the treasuries of political parties and movements. On Wednesday the government is to discuss a ministry analysis for the potential establishment of an independent supervisory body or possibly extending the purview of the Supreme Audit Office. The analysis also suggests other measures such as requiring parties to have a separate transparent account for campaign financing and more detailed annual financial statements. The ministry is also calling for increased fines for violations of parties’ financial regulations.
Health care unions will be holding a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Health on Tuesday to protest government reforms. The organisers intend to use pantomime and theatrical performances to show what health care will look like if the reforms are implemented, and then set out on a march across Prague. The protest is timed to coincide with the first day of parliamentary debate on the reforms. The unions are primarily opposed to the establishment of standard and above-standard medical care, increased hospital fees and the lack of a broader consensus on reforms between the government on the one hand and the opposition and specialists on the other.
Public Affairs MP Vít Bárta reportedly intends to seek the leadership of the party’s parliamentary club, the Czech Press Agency reports. Citing Public Affairs members, the agency writes that Mr Bárta has a good, but not certain chance of replacing MP Karolína Peake in the post, as the latter is set to head the government’s legislative council. Vít Bárta, a former transport minister often called the defacto leader of the party, is currently being investigated for allegations of bribery. The parliamentary committee on immunity is to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to give him up for investigation, as police have requested.
The office of Václav Havel says he remains in poor health after contracting a respiratory infection four months ago. Mr Havel’s secretary says the former president is still suffering from fatigue and is being looked after in his home by doctors and nurses, as well as his wife Dagmar, who cancelled a visit to the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival due to her husband’s poor state of health. Respiratory infections pose a great health risk to Mr Havel, who had part of his lungs removed due to cancer 15 years ago. The 74-year-old has frequently suffered from respiratory infections since. In March he was hospitalized for two weeks and was recently treated at a health spa.
The Ministry of Agriculture is investigating tenders called by the state forestry company Lesy ČR, the winners of which refuse to sign contracts intended to prevent cartels and profiteering. Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa told reporters on Monday that the selection would be cancelled if there were suspicions of manipulation in any of the 117 administrative districts involved. The statement came in response to findings by the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International that the tenders for forest exploitation and other work showed strong evidence of cartels among certain forestry companies.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint regarding Prague’s Opencard project and the use of personal data. The challenge was raised by an attorney who had previously took the Prague transit authority to court because obtaining an Opencard required the processing of his personal information. The Constitutional Court threw out the case, saying that the amount involved - 1,170 crowns – was too minor to constitute an infringement of fundamental rights. The court did however state that the previous Prague district court had not dealt with the issue of privacy law in the case. Opencard is a chip card meant to facilitate purchases in public transit and elsewhere in Prague. It has been plagued by numerous problems and controversies since its beginning.
An ultra-light aircraft crashed near Brno on Monday, killing the pilot. The operator of the aircraft was reportedly 71-year-old Jaroslav Jiřík, a former player for the Czechoslovak hockey team and the first Czech to play in the NHL. The plane crashed into a wheat field shortly after taking off. Initial reports put the cause down to a technical malfunction, though the plane was new. Rescuers reached the crash site in only eight minutes, however the pilot was already dead..
According to political pundit Vladimíra Dvořáková, the current government’s single biggest success is the fact that it still exists after having been shaken by a number of scandals in the year since it was appointed. Business analysts also criticized the government for not approving a number of important reforms quickly enough, but assessed that it deserves praise for its efforts to push through far-reaching austerity measures. Following a serious crisis that brought the three-party, right-of-center coalition government to the brink of collapse in April, the public’s trust in it dropped to a low figure of 16 percent, according to a STEM survey conducted in June.
Foreigner Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be meeting with his Cyprian and Namibian counterparts in Prague next week. Cyprus’s Markos Kyprianu will be paying an official visit to the Czech capital on Thursday. Mr. Schwarzenberg and Mr. Kyprianu will be discussing EU issues. His visit is the first by a Cyprian foreign minister in 12 years. The Namibian Utoni Nujoma will be arriving in Prague on Thursday, the first time that a foreign minister from this country has ever visited Prague.