The trial of former transport minister and head of the junior coalition party Public Affairs’ parliamentary group Vít Bárta for corruption opened at a Prague district court on Monday. Mr. Bárta is suspected of having bought the loyalty of at least two former party members, Kristyna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka, to whom he handed over large sums of money in cash. While Vít Bárta admits to having given them money he claims the transactions were “personal loans”. If found guilty, Mr. Bárta, widely perceived as the party’s de-facto leader, could face a sentence of up to six years. Jaroslav Škárka is also being tried for accepting the bribe. The trial has been receiving a lot of media attention as the scandal around Mr. Bárta brought the government to the brink of collapse last year. Public Affairs have been tweeting from the trial, while many news organizations were offering live coverage.
Czech President Václav Klaus has signed into law a new piece of
legislation that will extend the previous six-month time period, which
fathers seeking to deny their fatherhood were given, to three years. The
change in law comes as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling. According
to the verdict, the six-month time period infringed on fathers’ rights.
The lower house of Parliament passed the bill in February.
Under the new law, fathers will have three years to contest paterinity; an additional three-year time period will allow them to contest it if the highest state prosecutor’s office determines a paternity test is in the best interest of the child.
Commenting on the presidential elections in Russia, the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry, Karel Schwarzenberg, said that Vladimir Putin’s victory was not surprising. Everything had gone according to plan and Mr. Putin deserved congratulations, he said. He added that the result would not affect Czech-Russian relations. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the way the elections were held. The party’s shadow foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek expressed concerns over suspected irregularities at the polls. Vladmir Putin on Sunday won the presidential elections in the first round. As a result of a recent change in the Russian legislation, he will serve a presidential term of six years, as opposed to the previous term of four years.
The French multinational industrial conglomerate Areva has signed
contracts over future collaboration with 14 Czech companies who would be
its subcontractors in the case that Areva wins the bid for the completion
of a new reactor at the Temelín nuclear plant. Among Areva’s new
partners are the Vítkovice Machinery group, I&C Energo and Schneider
Electric CZ. Other contenders for the Temelín completion bid had signed
similar cooperation agreements in the past months. The tender over the
nuclear power plant completion is in its final phase.
Areva is one of three bidders in the multi-billion tender to build new reactors at the Temelín plant, along with the American Westinghouse and the Russian state enterprise Atomstroiexport. The total cost of the two new reactors for Temelín is estimated to reach roughly 150 billion Czech crowns.
Bernd Posselt, the head of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, the main
interest group of Sudetengerman expellees, is pushing for a more direct
dialogue between the Sudetengerman minority and the Czech government. Mr.
Posselt urged German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to bring up the
Sudetengermans’ call for more direct communication with the Czech
government during his working visit to Prague on Tuesday. Mr. Posselt also
called on the German government to discuss all matters that concern
Czech-German relations with the Sudetengerman Lanndsmannschaft ahead of
discussing them with Prague.
Mr. Westerwelle is travelling to Prague on the occasion of the 20-year-anniversary of the signing of the Czech-German Declaration on Mutual Relations and Their Future. Since its signature, Czech-German relations have improved significantly, with both countries now stating that ties between the two states have never been stronger.
According to a recent poll by the Public Opinion Research Center, more than half of the Czech population is discontent with the state of the democracy in the country. The number of respondents unhappy with the country’s political system is up from the previous year. Some 53 percent of those polled said that they did not think the democratic system in the Czech Republic was functioning well, up by seven percentage points as compared to the previous year. Only 15 percent gave the current democracy good grades; 23 percent said they thought the regime before the fall of communism was working well. The number of respondents who favor democracy as a political system is also on the decrease; with only 42 as compared to last year’s 49 percent of respondents answering “yes” to the question of whether democracy was the best form of government.
Michal Schuster, formerly a reporter with Czech TV, is taking the post of government spokesman. He is replacing Jan Osúcha, who left the position after over two years due to family reasons. Mr. Schuster is expected to start his work in mid-March. He has worked in the media for 18 years and got his start as a reporter for the daily Mladá fronta dnes. Later, he worked for the Czech news agency ČTK, and for many years at Czech Television. Currently, he teaches at various universities, lecturing on communications.
The first Arnošt Lustig award, founded in honor of the late Czech writer by the Czech-Israeli chamber of commerce, will go to Prague bishop Václav Malý. The bishop will be given the prize during a special ceremony on Thursday evening. The award committee, of which Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda are members, said that Prague bishop Václav Malý’s life credo of “humbleness and truth” spoke to the values that Mr. Lustig personified. The award seeks to honor figures of Czech society who fight for moral and human values. Arnošt Lustig was a renowned Czech writer of Jewish origin who wrote novels, short stories and screenplays that often dealt with the Holocaust.
The retail price of eggs in the Czech Republic has doubled since the start of the year due to the implementation of an EU directive that introduces stricter rules for laying hen farms. As a result, the supply of eggs has dropped across Europe, which is leading to increased prices. According to the website of the daily Právo, eggs are frequently sold out even at big super markets and retail for a record price of 64.9 crowns for ten eggs. Experts from the Czech Statistical Office expect prices of eggs and other food stuffs to grow over the next few months.
Two people were killed on Monday morning in a head-on collision between a delivery van and a truck on the highway near Koclířov in the Pardubice region. Both victims were foreign nationals; the driver of the truck was only lightly injured and is being treated at hospital. A police spokesperson said either speeding or the driver’s vision being impaired by direct sunlight could have caused the accident. The highway will remain closed for at least an hour.