President Václav Klaus met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Prague on Thursday. The Czech head of state said that he wanted to make the EU project “Eastern Partnership” with six former post-Soviet nations a real partnership, which he currently does not consider it to be. He added that he hopes other EU member states would make an effort to get the initiative off the ground. The two heads of state also discussed the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a landlocked area in the South Caucasus that is the subject of a long-standing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Mr Klaus showed understanding for the Azerbaijani position, stating that he would not appreciate it either if a part of his country’s territory was occupied by someone else.
The trial against Public Affairs de-facto leader Vít Bárta went into its final stage on Thursday. Mr Bárta faces corruption charges related to payments he made to Public Affairs deputies. The hearings on Thursday continue with the testimony of Public Affairs MP Kristýna Kočí, as well as a recorded phone conversation in which top party officials discuss the pension reform. If convicted, Mr Bárta will face up to six years in jail. The court is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday.
Police in the Moravian city of Ostrava have arrested a 37-year-old man who is suspected of having turned his illegal methamphetamine lab into a family business. According to officers, the man, who had been charged with illegally producing the drug in the past, was running the lab with his partner, a friend and his wife, as well as two other individuals. Social workers are taking care of the couple’s children, who were present when the man and his partner were arrested. Police suspect that the man had been producing methamphetamine since 2008 and sold half a million crowns worth of the drug since last fall, when they started monitoring him. If found guilty, he faces a prison sentence of up to ten years.
Galatasaray Istanbul and Czech international striker Milan Baroš broke his nose at his team’s training session and underwent surgery to fix it, the Turkish club’s website reported on Thursday. The accident reportedly took place when Baroš clashed with defender Gökhan Zan. The 30-year-old footballer is out for at least one game of the Turkish Süper Lig and might have to wear a protective mask when he returns.
The Czech government will step down if no agreement among the coalition
parties is reached by next Tuesday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after a
meeting of the Civic Democrat party leadership. Mr Nečas said his party
was ready to accept some of the demands made by the junior coalition Public
Affairs party which triggered the latest government crisis; namely, to
reduce the number of ministries by three and to revise the coalition
agreement. Leaders of the three government parties are to meet on Tuesday;
if no agreement is reached, Mr Nečas said the country would head for early
general elections that could take place in June.
The prime minister’s announcement came a day after the Public Affairs party threatened to quit the coalition if their demands are not met by the end of the month. Both Civic Democrat and TOP 09 party leaders however rejected the ultimatum and said they would rather opt for snap elections.
In related news, the opposition Social Democrats and Communists said on Wednesday they were ready for negotiations about early general elections with the coalition parties. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka has been authorized to approach the leaders of the Civic Democrat and TOP 09 parties to reach agreement on calling snap elections which could take place in June. Communist chair Vojtěch Filip also said his party was ready to support such a motion in the lower house.
The trial against Public Affairs de-facto leader Vít Bárta continued on Wednesday. Mr Bárta faces corruption charges related to payments he made to Public Affairs deputies. The hearings continued on Wednesday with the testimony of MP Josef Novotný and a reporter for the weekly Respekt who broke the story last year. If convicted, Mr Bárta will face up to six years in jail. The court is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday.
President Václav Klaus has questioned the government’s plans for the
restitution of church property confiscated by the communist regime in the
1950s. Speaking at an economic forum in Prague on Wednesday, Mr Klaus said
there were several issues that still needed to be clarified, and that he
had doubts about whether the government had chosen the right concept for
the restitution, particularly in relation to its scope.
The government plans to return physical property worth around 75 billion crowns to Czech churches which would receive some 59 billion crowns as reimbursement for the rest. The respective legislation is awaiting debate in the lower house of Parliament.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved proposals to regulate lobbying. The cabinet assigned deputy PM Karolín Peake to draft a bill that would define lobbying and introduce sanctions for illegal lobbying activities while lobbyists would have to register. The cabinet rejected plans to introduce ‘public diaries’ in which officials would be required to register all contacts with lobbyists. The bill should be ready by the end of August.
A number of Czech NGOs on Wednesday called for the establishment of a “civic parliamentary committee” that should investigate links between organized crime and politics. Entitled You Stole Our Country, Give It Back, the initiative also called for any related materials collected by the Czech intelligence services to be declassified. The organizers said the initiative was a reaction to the latest wiretapping scandal which revealed that former Prague mayor, Pavel Bém, consulted some of his decision with lobbyist Roman Janoušek.