President Miloš Zeman will begin meeting with individual ministerial nominees after he has appointed Social Democrat leader Bouhuslav Sobotka prime minister, the president’s spokesman Jiri Ovčáček announced on Monday. Mr. Ovčáček said that since Mr. Sobotka is due to be appointed PM on Friday the series of talks with nominated ministers could start over the weekend. In a televised interview on Sunday Mr. Zeman said he had not taken a definitive opinion on whether he should approve certain ministers in the nascent coalition government or not and would decide only after having one on one meetings with them. The president detailed specific objections to three proposed ministers, without naming them, in a press conference on Friday, adding that the head of state had the right to refuse Cabinet suggestions.
The newly-elected lower house is to meet on Tuesday, January 21st to debate a draft civil service law which is crucial to the establishment of a new government. The proposed legislation should stipulate new conditions for civil service employees, replacing the screening law which came into force after the fall of communism. Two ministerial nominees have not produced clean screening certificates and the president would not be able to appoint them to their posts without a change of legislation in the pipeline. Lawmakers approved a civil service law back in 2002 but it has never come into force, having been put on hold five times. The bill is likewise essential to the drawing of EU funds and the country has been under growing pressure from Brussels to speed up its approval.
The European Commission has stopped around 100 billion crowns in funding reaching the Czech Republic because of worries about the way two programmes have been managed, the daily Dnes reported on Monday. One of the programmes is a nationwide initiative to help companies introduce new innovations. The second, is focused on the Central Bohemian region and persistent worries about corruption and flawed management that have not been cleared up since payment of funds was frozen in mid 2012, the paper said.
The Vítkovice Steelworks is back in operation after more than a month-long enforced break. The steelworks ceased production completely at the start of December due to a lack of demand. The firm’s management issued a brief statement saying production had been fully renewed but refused to comment on the fall-out or the firm’s immediate prospects. Vítkovice is the biggest steelworks in the country with over 1,000 employees.
The Czech National Bank posted a 73.2 billion crown profit last year, against a profit of 2.9 billion the preceding year, the bank reported on Monday, citing the forex interventions launched in November as the main cause of the increase. Revenue from foreign exchange reserves management account for one third of the profit figure. Two thirds are exchange rate effects arising from the market appraisal of the central bank´s forex reserves, according to spokesman Marek Petrus. As previously the central bank will use the profit to cut accumulated losses of 123.6 billion crowns from previous years.
Firefighters were called to deal with a liquid ammonia leak from a refrigeration unit at a plant producing frozen pastry in the town of Medlov, in the Olomouc region. Some 200 litres of the substance reportedly leaked within the plant but only a small amount escaped into the surrounding environment. Two firefighters were injured in the operation. The village of 1,500 inhabitants did not have to be evacuated. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Police in Kyov, south Moravia, have uncovered an illegal drugs lab and arrested a five member gang. The suspects allegedly produced crystal methamphetamine which they sold in casinos or to addicts in the region. According to a police spokesman the 28-year-old organizer made an estimated 100,000 crowns a week from the business but was actually deep in debt since he is a compulsive gambler. If convicted he could face up to ten years in jail. His accomplices, some of whom are addicts, face a maximum penalty of five years.
Parliament deputy and head of the Dawn party Tomio Okamura is perceived as the most trustworthy politician in the country, according to the results of a poll conducted by the CVVM agency at the end of December. Mr. Okamura tops the ladder with 47 percent trust rating, followed by ANO head Andrej Babiš and Martin Stropnický from the same party, who each got 45 percent. The man slated to become the country’s next prime minister, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka placed fourth with a 42 percent trust rating.
Petr Hlaváček, one of the greatest Czech shoe experts and a lecturer at Tomas Bata University in Zlin, has died at the age of 83, the ctk news agency reported. Hlavacek studied the shoes of the warriors of the famous Terracota Army or of Otzi the Iceman, the well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived 5,000 years ago, later making replicas of both types. But his main field of work were shoes for children and diabetics. In 2005, Hlaváček received a prestigious award from the International Union of Shoe Industry Technicians for his contribution to the development of the shoe industry.
In tennis, seventh men’s singles seed Tomáš Berdych has eased through the first round of the Australian Open with a straight sets 6:3, 6:4, 6:3 first round win against Kazakh Aleksandr Nedovjesov. There were also wins for Czechs Karolína Plíšková and Lucie Hradecká in the women’s event at the year’s first Grand Slam.