In an interview for the news server iDnes on Wednesday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas defended the presidential amnesty and his role in the affair. Mr Nečas pointed out that it is a constitutional convention for the prime minister to sign a presidential amnesty in order to confirm its legality and the government’s responsibility to carry it out. But the initiative of the amnesty is the exclusive right of the president, the premier noted. He claims he could not refuse to sign the amnesty along with the president since it was within legal norms. Mr Nečas also denied rumors that his signature was a “trade” for President Klaus’ signing of the government tax reform package in December. The prime minister is set to offer the president an opportunity to address the issue of the amnesty in front of the parliament.
Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman has announced that the accused in 18 cases that are being dealt with by state attorneys are eligible for the presidential amnesty. In total, Mr Zeman said, somewhere between 100 and 150 criminal suites may be suspended due to the amnesty granted by President Klaus on New Year ’s Day.
The Czech President Václav Klaus made his last visit as president to Germany on Wednesday. His German counterpart Joachim Gauck praised Mr. Klaus for contributing to the Czech Republic’s transition to a market economy and to solidifying the relationship between the two countries. During their lunch together Mr. Gauck also pointed out that the future lies in a unified Europe. The Czech president is due to hold talks with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, later on Wednesday evening. His visit comes soon after the one Mr. Gauck made to the Czech Republic, becoming the first German president to pay his respects to the people of Lidice at the site of the Nazi massacre there in 1942.
The highest unemployment in the country at the end of last year was in the Ústí nad Labem region, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The employment rate in this northern Bohemian region went up by 0.6% from November to reach 14% in December. Contributing factors to the worsening situation on the job market are cutbacks carried out by some of the major employers in the region.
Some 150 firefighters from 28 brigades have been fighting a massive fire since early Wednesday morning in the east Moravian city of Zlín. The fire started at around 1 am at a warehouse with electrical appliances belonging to HP Tronic Zlín, the owner ETA and Euronics. Three employees of the company were at the scene and suffered from slight smoke inhalation. No one else is reported injured. The surrounding area, including primary schools were evacuated to locations further away, as a preventive measure. Smoke particles in the air are under the permitted limit.
Seven people have died in the Czech Republic so far this winter due to complications from the flu. Almost 50 people are currently in hospitals with severe flu symptoms. In the past two days, two people have died and 19 were hospitalized. There has also been an increase of cases of swine flu, which has recently claimed one victim in the Czech Republic. The chief hygiene officer Vladimír Valenta previously issued a warning that the country is on the verge of a flu epidemic. The Health Ministry has opened a telephone hotline that provides advice to doctors around the country. Most serious cases of the flu are associated with lung infection.
In an effort to support the use of electric cars, the Czech state-owned
energy producer ČEZ has announced it will offer personal charging
and special electricity prices for electric car owners. The company’s
representatives believe that this year will be a groundbreaking year for
electric vehicles. Currently, ČEZ allows customers to charge their
vehicles at its 32 charging station around the country for a flat monthly
fee of 150 crowns.
Government wants to rework proposal on parties finances
The government has suspended deliberations on the proposal that would introduce an independent office that would oversee political parties’ finances. Parties have been unable to agree for a longer time whether it is preferable to introduce a new body in a time of budget cuts. Interior Minister Jan Kubice has been charged with reworking the proposal in a way that would introduce stricter measures for managing parties’ finances and would allow the public to have easier access to financing information.
The Czech ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr made a surprise final appearance for his hometown club Kladno on Tuesday night before heading back to the US following the ending of the NHL lockout. Jágr, who is 40, had previously said his NHL club Dallas had instructed him not to play again for Kladno. However, in the end he took to the ice to the delight of the home fans and provided two assists to help the team overcome Litvínov 3:2. His presence helped turn Kladno into one of the biggest draws in the Czech Extraliga.
Presidential candidate Miloš Zeman has got an edge over his rivals in the race for the country’s top post. The results of a poll conducted by the ppm factum agency indicate that the former prime minister would win the first round of direct presidential elections scheduled for this Friday, followed closely by another former head of cabinet Jan Fischer. The poll shows Miloš Zeman in the lead with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Jan Fischer with 20.1 percent. Composer Vladimir Franz has placed third with 11.4 percent, followed by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg with 11 percent and Social Democrat Senator Jiří Dienstbier with 10.6 percent. Only the two strongest candidates will advance to the second round of elections, to be held a fortnight after the first.