Prime Minister Petr Nečas has told his Georgian counterpart, Nika Gilauri, that the Czech Republic supports Georgia’s bid for NATO membership. In a statement likely to irritate the Caucasus country’s northern neighbour, Russia, Mr Nečas told Prime Minister Gilauri that the Czech Republic – like other former Soviet-bloc countries – had had to overcome the same kind of Russian opposition to their joining NATO. Those countries’ membership, he said, contributed to the security and stability of Europe and did not lead to a conflict with Russia. The Russian Federation has long opposed Georgia’s aspiration to join the alliance, primarily because of its numerous border disputes with the country, which led to open military conflict in 2008. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be visiting the Czech Republic at the beginning of December.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has accused fellow Civic Democrat Boris Šťastný of trying to destabilise the party in Prague. Mr Svododa’s words came in reaction to statements made by Mr Šťastný at the weekend, in which he claimed he had signals that the mayor and people close to him may be switching to the TOP 09 party. Mayor Svoboda said the comments were evidence of the fact that the Prague district leader of the Civic Democratic Party is trying to destabilise it at all costs and that his supporters had signed the new coalition agreement based on the support of their district associations. Boris Šťastný initiated last week’s collapse of the grand coalition at Prague City Hall, which many believe was intended to remove the mayor from his post. Three days later Mr Svoboda negotiated a new coalition with the centre-right TOP 09 party.
The Police Presidium has confirmed that criminal proceedings have been launched over allegations of a corrupt pardon granted by President Václav Klaus. The police have declined to specify the exact crimes they believe were committed, saying only that two criminal acts are suspected and that no one has yet been charged. The claims were first raised in early October by the weekly Respekt, which reported on a pardon that might have been bought from the president’s office for an ex-police officer who was to serve two years in jail for corruption. President Klaus has strongly denied the allegations.
Health Minister Leos Heger has announced that the volume of health care in 2012 will be the same as in the preceding year, with hospitals´ budgets rising by 3% on average and doctors’ pay by 6.25%. In an aside to health care workers seeking the fulfilment of wage-increase promises made earlier this year, Mr Heger told journalists on Monday that the system’s 226-billion-crown budget for 2012 would not have been possible without the assistance of those who acquiesced to legislative and austerity measures earlier in 2011. The ministry’s directive on the matter entails a unification of the payments made to all hospitals, with more sought-after hospitals receiving more money. Investments in new medical equipment, buildings and massive development will remain on hold, and funding for laboratories will be decreased.
Plans for a new line of the Prague metro will be shelved at least until 2014, Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said Monday. The mayor told the daily Hospodářské noviny that the construction of the metro line “D” was a dream at the moment and that preparations would stop. Last year Mr Svoboda committed to beginning work on the line before the next local election in spite of budget cuts, with savings to be found within the transportation authority. He now says the renewal of the city’s tram tracks, the completion of metro line A and the construction of D would cost the city 104 billion crowns; meanwhile the city is attempting to postpone the maturity of the transit authority’s multibillion liabilities and determine whether the payment of new trams can be postponed. Metro line A is set to be completed despite the fact that Prague lacks the money to do so.
The Municipal Court of Prague has begun the trial of “the robbery of the century”, though the main suspect has not been apprehended. The state prosecutor accuses a guard for the security agency G4S, František Procházka, of stealing more than 500 million crowns from the company almost exactly four years ago. Procházka disappeared after the crime without a trace, though his friend and suspected accomplice, Milan Čermák, was arrested in early 2008 and found with several million crowns in cash as well as SIM cards and several licensed weapons. Police say that trace evidence links him to the vehicle used in the theft. Čermák himself says that he had sat in the van with Procházka two weeks before the robbery and never saw him again afterwards. If convicted he faces up to ten years’ imprisonment.
The Education Ministry dismissed 228 workers this year, the ministry’s head Josef Dobeš told a press conference on Monday. Mr Dobeš referred to the dismissals as cutting bureaucracy and said they saved the ministry 487 million crowns. Heavy criticism that the ministry has received in the last year has however pointed to the fact that the “bureaucratic” layoffs entailed closing five of the ministry’s pedagogical research institutions. The information was given as a recapitulation of the government’s overall policy plan for education, which the minister said has been fulfilled with the exception of three out of 30 main points, among them the launch of leaving examinations.
Followers of the ultra-right Workers' Party of Social Justice physically and verbally attacked African American singer Tonya Graves in a restaurant in Vimperk, Northern Bohemia, on Saturday. Ms. Graves, who lives permanently in the Czech Republic, told the Czech Press Agency that members of the party, considered a neo-Nazi outlet, shouted racist slogans at her while she was alone in the restaurant, and pulled her hair and spat at her. She said there were two off-duty police officers in the restaurant who did not help her and that the police who were called said they could do nothing because the assailants were not locals. Some 300 people attended a far-right rally in Vimperk on the same day to protest Roma “inadaptability”.
About two dozen Czech Greenpeace activists occupied a coal excavator in Northern Bohemia on Monday morning to protest the expansion of coal mining in the area. The activists believe the government is considering breaking coal mining limits which were declared in order to protect the village of Horní Jiřetín. They said they felt that an indefinite blockade on the excavator would be the last chance to highlight the energy concept the government is preparing to pass. Last year, the communities affected elected politicians who disagree with the expansion of the mining. However, authorities in the region of Usti nad Labem, which is dominated by the Social Democrats, proposed last week that they be rescinded.
A fire that broke out on the premises of the GZ Digital Media company in Loděnice in Central Bohemia on Sunday has been extinguished, with two people reported injured, a spokeswomen for the Central Bohemian fire fighting brigade said on Monday. The blaze was contained on Sunday evening but fire fighters are still present at the site. The fire is believed to have started on the third floor of an older production hall of the CD and DVD manufacturing company and was reported at 5 pm on Sunday. The cause of the fire is being investigated. The preliminary damage estimate has been put at 20 million crowns.