The government has said the gap in public finances will be reduced at a slower pace than earlier envisaged. In a document put to the cabinet on Thursday the Finance Ministry reviewed its estimate for this year’s deficit from 3 to 3.2 percent of GDP. The slide has changed the deficit target for the coming years with the revised figures being 2.9 percent of GDP for 2013, 2.5 for 2014 and 1.6 for 2015. At a press conference following Thursday’s cabinet session Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the cabinet had had to make a choice between further austerity measures and cutting the gap in public finances at a slower pace. He said ministers had concluded that further austerity measures could prove counter-productive since they were likely to undercut growth.
The government has decided to leave a sensitive decision regarding proposed salary-hikes for judges, state attorneys, ministers, deputies and MEPs in the hands of Parliament. The proposal drafted by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry comes in response to a ruling by the Constitutional Court which abolished a law that cut the salaries of judges within a broader framework of austerity measures. The proposed salary hike would mean that the salaries of judges, politicians and state attorneys would be calculated from a higher base than now and the lower house id to be presented with several alternatives as to what that base should be from 2.7 times the average salary to over three times the amount. Although the government says it has no alternative but to respect the ruling of the Constitutional Court it has been accused of arrogance of power. Trade unions say the amendment is an insult to ordinary people at a time of salary cuts, tax hikes, rising inflation and growing unemployment.
The chief justice of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský on Thursday rejected the claim that the government had no option but to implement extensive salary hikes for all officials in high office in the executive, legislative and judiciary spheres. Judge Rychetský said the respective ruling had been related to a cut in judges’ salaries only and the court had moreover ruled that judges salaries could not be lowered which did not mean they had to be raised.
The police says it has tightened security at all Czech airports in the wake of Wednesday's bomb attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. A police spokeswoman said more officers were patrolling the premises and security checks of luggage had been tightened. Israel bound flights from Prague’s Ruzyně Airport are being given special attention. The police spokeswoman said the tightened security was a routine measure taken in the wake of the attack in Bulgaria and stressed that the police had no reports of a heightened security threat in the Czech Republic.
Bailiffs will not have access to the social cards via which the state will in future pay social welfare benefits, the head of the Association of Bailiffs Petra Bačová told the ctk news agency on Thursday. She said this was the result of an agreement between the association, the ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the bank Česká Sporitelna which will manage the accounts. The bank has pledged not to disclose the account number and it will be up to its owner to decide whether or not he wants to use part of the money for debt-repayment. There have been complaints by the socially needy that bailiffs often leave them without money with which to buy basic necessities for themselves and their children.
President Vaclav Klaus has sent a message of congratulations to the former Slovak prime minister Vladimir Mečiar on occasion of his 70th birthday. In the letter, Mr. Klaus refers to the break-up of the Czechoslovak federation which was effected by the two statesmen and gives the former Slovak prime minister credit for the civilized manner in which it was handled. President Klaus refers to the Czechoslovak split as an inevitable step that was professionally done and benefitted both countries. He points out that, 20 years on, both countries are strong and stable members of the EU and remain close friends and allies. Earlier this week Slovakia marked the 20th anniversary of the declaration of national sovereignty passed by the Slovak Parliament which set in motion the “velvet” divorce.
The coalition government survived yet another vote of no confidence on Wednesday. Only 89 out of 101 needed MPs voted against the government, with a record number of 22 parliamentarians absent. All 89 members of the governing Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and LIDEM parties who were present voted in favour of the government, as did independent MP Michal Doktor and Public Affairs’ Milan Šťovíček. The vote was preceded by six and a half hours of debate that Prime Minister Petr Nečas said was senseless political theatre. Opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka said the vote was essential in spite of its failure, as the debate cast light on the coalition’s attempts to impede the police and the justice system. It was the fourth vote of no confidence that the current government has faced.
Deputy Milan Šťovíček of the opposition party Public Affairs may get kicked out of the party after repeatedly supporting the governing coalition in crucial votes. The MP stayed with Public Affairs after the party split and the break-away faction around deputy prime minister Karolina Peake remained in the government but despite his party being in the opposition he has almost consistently continued to support the ruling coalition. Although Public Affairs has repeatedly called their MP to order over the matter the party is hesitant to expel him given the fact that such a move would most likely strengthen the numbers of the ruling coalition. Karolina Peake, the head of the break-away faction now going under the name LIDEM, has said she has not given up on her efforts to bring more politicians to her camp.
A 13-year-old boy is in critical condition after attempting to commit suicide by hanging at a summer camp near Hluboká. The boy was rushed to hospital and is on life-support. The head of the camp said she had had no indication that the boy was in trouble, saying it was unlikely that he had been a victim of bullying. The case is being investigated.
Czech football club Viktoria Plzeň face Georgia’s Metalurgi Rustavi on Thursday evening in the second qualifying round of UEFA’s Europa League. The match takes places in Tbilisi and news website idnes reported that Rustavi players actually turned up to watch Plzeň players train. Plzeň finished third in the Czech league last season, a year after winning the Czech League for the first time.