The government’s pension reform has come under fire from the European Commission. In a report published on Wednesday the EC says that the reform is half-baked and more changes will have to be made in order to secure its long-term sustainability. It criticizes the proposed early retirement scheme as undermining the reform’s credibility and the fact that there is no clear correlation between the retirement age and life expectancy. Brussels has also urged Prague to resolve persisting problems with EU funding and redouble its efforts in fighting corruption.
The government has approved a bill eliminating anonymous bearer shares. Under the legislation, firms will have to register bearer shares in a central depository kept by the stock exchange or deposit them with banks. Both alternatives will enable law enforcement bodies, those awarding public procurement or allocating subsidies to identify share owners. The bill is part of a broader package of anti-corruption measures approved by the centre-right government.
Several hundred pensioners on Wednesday joined an anti-government protest against a slower growth of old age and disability pensions in the coming years. The demonstration on Prague’s Palach Square was organized by the council of senior citizens which argues that the living standard of pensioners has consistently dropped in the past decade putting many pensioners on the poverty line. The average monthly pension in the Czech Republic is 10.000 crowns –the equivalent of 400 euros. Economists agree that pensioners will be the hardest hit group by the government’s austerity measures.
Thursday is the last day on which people can order inflation-beating state bonds from the Czech Finance Ministry. The ministry has so far received orders for 14.2 billion crowns worth of bonds. It is planning to release another issue in the autumn. The maturity of the bonds is eight years with the option of premature repayment after one year of ownership. The Finance Ministry started issuing state bonds last year in view of covering part of the deficit in public finances.
The government on Wednesday approved an amendment to the road law which would allow drivers to select their own vehicle registration number for the price of 5,000 crowns per plate. If approved by Parliament the amendment could be in force by the fall of this year. The authorities have said plates would be issued on a first come first served basis.
Environment activists have accused the management of the Šumava National Park of endangering local species by the use of harsh chemical insecticides against bark-beetle infestation. The environment group Hnutí Duha says water species and wood grouse are particularly at risk from the spread of the poisonous substances. The Environment Inspection Office says it is investigating the matter. The management of the national park says it is fully entitled to use insecticides in the given localities and in doing so adheres to all environmental safety norms.
Czech President Václav Klaus will not be granting a presidential pardon to Roman Smetana, a former bus driver, who is charged with damaging public property by scribbling over election posters. According to the president’s spokesman Mr Smetana is not in a situation that would justify a presidential pardon. Roman Smetana, who was sentenced to 100 days in prison by a lower instance court and released last week pending a Supreme Court review of his case, was charged anew on Monday with evading his prison sentence. This could land him another 3 years in jail.
Customs officials in western Bohemia have cracked down on a workshop producing counterfeit goods with a neighboring warehouse containing 90 million crowns worth of fakes by well-known international brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Armani. Officers confiscated over 3,000 textile products and 8,000 purses and handbags. Three people have been detained.
A fire at the Unipetrol chemical-works in Záluží near Litvínov was brought under control early on Wednesday with no injuries or loss of life reported. The fire broke out in the wake of a hydrogen pipeline explosion which, according to the results of a preliminary investigation, was most likely caused by a faulty sealing device. The fire closed the main road from Litvinov to Most for several hours.
A quarter of all voters who took part in the 2010 general elections say they made a bad decision and would vote differently next time round, according to the results of an opinion survey published by the STEM polling agency. This concerns mainly supporters of centre-right parties, particularly Public Affairs, which was recently forced out of the government by a corruption scandal. Nine out of 10 people who voted for Public Affairs now say it was a mistake. On the other hand 90 percent of left-wing party voters say they made the right decision.