President Miloš Zeman, who on Thursday concludes a two-day working visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, says EC chief Jose Barroso has promised to exert greater effort on behalf of the EC in getting Canada to lift its visa requirement for Czech nationals. The Czech side has repeatedly tried to elicit greater involvement from the EU on the issue after its own appeals to Toronto went unheard. Canada reintroduced visa requirements for Czechs in 2009 following a wave of largely Romany asylum seekers to the country.
In related news President Miloš Zeman assured the EC chief that the Czech Republic fully realized the importance of adopting a public service act as soon as possible. Mr Barroso stressed that without the legislation, the country could have problems drawing EU funds during the next budgetary period. The Czech Parliament adopted a public service act ahead of the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, but it never entered into force and there has been drawn-out controversy over its proposed amendment.
Czech President Milos Zeman also met for talks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The debate covered among others the situation in Syria, Czech participation in military missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the Czech defence budget. Mr. Rasmussen praised the Czech Republic’s role in foreign missions and expressed the hope that the Czech government would not lower defence spending.
A state attorney has filed criminal charges against the head of the Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková, and nine other people, on suspicion of fraud in obtaining licenses for two solar power plants in north Bohemia in 2010 in view of upping the purchase price for solar power. The damage to the state is estimated at 1.9 billion crowns. The case is to be dealt with by the Brno regional court. Ms. Vitásková had previously accused her predecessors of having illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar power, producing an audit that the head of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association said was doctored and was intended to cover up her own illegal activities.
Former deputy prime minister Karolina Peake was questioned by the corruption police on Thursday in connection with the spying scandal that brought down the centre-right government of prime minister Petr Nečas. Mrs. Peake, said the questioning had largely focussed on her brief time in office as defence minister and reiterated that she had no knowledge of the fact that the then PM’s chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová had ordered the military intelligence service to shadow his wife. She confirmed Mrs. Nagyová’s seemingly unlimited influence at the time, by telling journalists that she herself had been sacked as defence minister after just eight days in office because she had failed to consult her decisions with the prime minister’s chief-of-staff.
The Czech Republic is in 52nd place on the Economic Freedom of the World Index published by the Canadian institute Fraser. The index, which was made public at a press conference on Thursday, is based on data from 2011 and monitored 152 countries. It is based on a number of indicators, among them the size of the public sector, the quality of legislation, foreign trade and overall regulation. Monetary issues and inflation are also taken into consideration.
The vast majority of parties who have a realistic chance of winning seats in the lower house in October’s general elections are not against the completion of the Temelín nuclear plant assuming that it is safe and affordable. Only the Greens and Senator Tomio Okamura’s Dawn of Direct Democracy party are against the plan to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelín, citing safety reasons and pointing out that the cost of building Temelín’s first two reactors was double the amount originally projected. A final decision on the plant’s completion is expected in late 2014 or early 2015.
The most trusted politician in the Czech Republic at present is outgoing, caretaker Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok. According to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM agency the prime minister is trusted by 50 percent of Czechs. Second place on the popularity ladder toes to Social Democrat Deputy chair Michal Hašek and Senator Tomio Okamura who both got a 46 percent trust rating. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka came fourth with 45 percent. Civic Democrat Deputy chair Jiří Pospíšil, who was the most trusted politician in the country ahead of the scandal that brought down the centre-right government has slipped to 7th place.
An increasing number of towns and cities are introducing a ban on drinking alcoholic beverages in public places, Czech Television reports. At the present time 300 towns and cities have placed restrictions on drinking alcohol, with a prohibition on public transport, some streets, parks and in the vicinity of schools and playgrounds. Prague councillors will soon meet to debate a proposal that would double the number of locations where alcohol is banned. The fine for violating this regulation is 1,000 crowns.
A 32-year-old woman from Bavaria is reported to have died after smuggling a large number of crystal methamphetamine capsules in her body. The woman bought the drug in the Czech Republic and swallowed the entire amount before heading home, where she was taken ill with severe stomach pains. Doctors were unable to save her life.