The new Czech president, Miloš Zeman, took up office at Prague Castle on
Monday, three days after being sworn in. The head of state’s first tasks
included a meeting with Czech diplomats, whom he told he support
international trade and would bring delegations of Czech businessmen with
him on foreign trips. Mr. Zeman also told members of the diplomatic corps
that combating terrorism was the common task of the international
On Wednesday, Mr. Zeman will meet the governors of the Czech Republic’s 13 regions. However, he has turned down an invitation from Prime Minister Petr Nečas to attend a government session on Wednesday, the first since he assumed office.
Mr. Zeman’s designated chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, has said he will remain a member of the president’s Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites. However, he will not stand for re-election as party chairman. On Monday morning, the future head of the President’s Office told Czech Radio that he would discuss with senior party members how to make the maximum use of his new post to benefit the Zemanites. Mr. Mynář’s comments have been condemned by members of the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, the biggest parties in Parliament.
MP David Rath may be released from custody after his wife and father posted bail of CZK 2 million set by the Prague West district court. An official for the court said it had received the money and would discuss his release at a hearing on Friday morning. However, as the state attorney has filed a complaint against the bail procedure, the superior Central Bohemian Regional Court will also have to rule on whether Mr. Rath can be released. The former Social Democrat governor of Central Bohemia and a one-time health minister, he was arrested last May on corruption charges.
The minister of justice, Pavel Blažek, has suspended Prague judge Ondřej Havlín, who stands accused of corruption. Mr. Blažek said the judge would not be allowed to return to court while he remains under investigation. Justice Havlín, a former diplomat, is being held on remand at the request of the senior state attorney, Lenky Bradáčová. State attorney František Fiala is also being along with a number of other people in conjunction with the alleged rigging of verdicts.
The Czech economy contracted by 1.2 percent last year, according to a revised official estimate released on Monday. Gross domestic product declined by 1.7 percent year-on-year in the final quarter of last year, and analysts believe there was a further contraction in the first quarter of this year. The country is currently going through the longest recession on record and the forecast for the whole of 2013 is for continued decline or at best stagnation.
The police have new evidence in connection with the alleged solicitation of a huge bribe in connection with a contract to buy armoured personnel carriers for the Czech Army, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday. The evidence consists of the transcription of a 2007 conversation with lobbyist Marek Dalík made by Victor Jackovich, a former US diplomat and an advisor to the Austrian firm Steyr, which sold over 100 Pandur vehicles to the Czech state in a deal worth CZK 14.4 billion. In the document, Mr. Jackovich says Mr. Dalík, a close associate of then Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek, asked for a bribe of nearly half a billion crowns. Mr. Dalík has been under investigation since his arrest last year.
The great US jazz and fusion pianist and keyboardist Chick Corea played a sold-out concert at Brno’s Boby Centre on Sunday night. Corea was performing with his new group The Vigil as part of their first European tour. Now aged 71, he is regarded as one of the leading jazz pianists of the post-John Coletrane era and has picked up 20 Grammy awards. His concert was organised by the festival JazzFestBrno, which runs throughout Apríl.
Czech women’s number one Petra Kvitová has reached the fourth round of tennis’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, after a 6-2 7-6 victory over the Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko on Monday. Kvitová’s opponent in the next round will be fellow Czech Klára Zakopalová, who overcame Dominka Cibulková of Slovakia 6-4 7-5.
Pavel Horvath has signed a contract extension with Viktoria Plzeň that will keep him at the soccer club until at least the summer of next year. The midfielder, who turns 38 in April, has played a key role in the club’s success in recent seasons. He led Plzeň to their first ever league title in the 2010–2011 season, while they have also appeared in the Champions League group stage and are currently in the knock-out stage of the Europa League.
President Miloš Zeman has discussed who he will name in the coming days to key roles at Prague Castle. Speaking on commercial TV station Prima Family on Sunday, the new president revealed that Vratislav Mynář, the chairman of the Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites Party is to be chancellor. He made clear that Mynář would step down as party leader. Hana Burianova is set to stay on as Mr Zeman’s spokeswoman, while the head of the foreign affairs section at the Castle will be Hynek Kmoníček, the current Czech ambassador to Australia. Two top names from the previous presidency, Jiří Weigl, and Jindřich Forejt, are staying on – Mr Weigl in the short-term to provide advice and training.