The three parties of the emerging centre-left coalition have reached agreement on the future government’s policy programme. The Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats met on Thursday to give the document final approval in the wake of several changes. The policy programme, which includes proposed tax changes as of 2015, a hike in the minimum wage and scraps direct payments for medical care, will be released to the press on Friday. Social Democrat leader and the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka is to brief President Milos Zeman on the outcome of the talks on Thursday evening.
Petr Gazdík from TOP 09 was elected deputy chair of the lower house on Thursday, completing the ranks of the chamber’s newly elected leadership. Mr. Gazdík, who failed to win enough support in a previous vote, was elected following an agreement between the emerging coalition parties. He was the only candidate after Tomio Okamura from the Dawn party withdrew his candidacy. The three other deputy chairs are Jaroslava Jermanová from ANO, Communist party MP Vojtěch Filip and Christian Democrat leader Pavel Belobrádek. The Speaker of the Lower House is Jan Hamáček of the Social Democrats who won October’s general elections.
The Czech Food Inspection Office has warned there is still unlicensed and potentially dangerous alcohol on the market. In the third quarter inspectors checked out over 1,000 sales outlets and came across three which had alcohol without license stamps on stock. The warning comes ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations when the sale of alcoholic beverages skyrockets. Police say that in the wake of the methanol scandal which killed close to 40 people in the Czech Republic there could still be thousands of liters of dangerous, methanol-laced spirits on the market.
A stretch of the A-line of Prague’s metro had to be closed down for several hours on Thursday after a burst pipe flooded the lobby of Dejvická metro station. Although the line was re-opened in the afternoon hours emergency crews are still busy with clean-up work. The extent of the damage has yet to be estimated. Several buildings, including army headquarters in the vicinity of the metro station were left without water.
President Milos Zeman met with Interior Minister Martin Pecina on Thursday to discuss the situation in the police force in the wake of a development that has left the country with two police presidents. The former head of the force Petr Lessy was reinstated by the interior minister earlier this month after being cleared of criminal charges while the man who succeeded him in office, Martin Cervicek, refuses to give up his post. Minister Pecina, who has been criticized for not leaving the decision in the hands of the country’s next cabinet, said he would proceed within the bounds of the law to resolve the matter.
Police wiretappings between the former prime minister Petr Nečas and his then chief-of-staff Jana Nagyova reveal that Mr. Nečas bartered his signature on then-president Vaclav Klaus’ controversial amnesty in return for the president’s approval of the government’s austerity package. The former prime minister countersigned the amnesty which he knew to be highly controversial without discussing the matter with his government. He denied this in the past, saying that his signature on the presidential amnesty had been a mere formality.
A gas explosion in Plzen, west Bohemia, has left five people seriously injured, with one of them reported to be in critical condition. Two others suffered lighter injuries. The accident occurred after 11 pm on Wednesday night during emergency repair-work on the gas circuit. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The population of the Czech Republic dropped by 2,300 to just over 10.5 million year on year, the Czech statistics office reported on Thursday. The number of new-borns was lower and the number of deaths higher than in the previous year, and the number of people who left the country surpassed the number of immigrants, the report said.
As of next year Czech women will have more freedom in choosing how they wish to give birth. Although doctors are still strictly against home births which they consider potentially extremely risky, a change of legislation will allow women to give birth in hospitals with only a midwife present. Under such circumstances the midwife’s fee would be covered by health insurance. Women who have given birth will also be able to ask to be released from hospital within hours. At present they remain hospitalized for three days in order to rule out post-natal complications to mother and child.
The famous Dancing House in Prague has been sold to the real estate company Pražská správa nemovitostí, owned by the businessman Václav Skala. The building, which was designed by the Canadian-American architect Franck Gehry and the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić, has been on sale for several months. The amount for which it was purchased has not been released, but according to the financial daily E15, it was more than a quarter of a billion crowns. Currently the building is being used for office space, and houses a café and restaurant.