The newly appointed Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats, says that when appointed his government will examine some personnel decisions taken by the current interim cabinet headed by Jiří Rusnok. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Mr. Sobotka said his government would look at whether changes in senior positions had been made on the basis of clientelism rather than expertise. He said in future personnel matters should be the remit of an Office of the Government panel rather than individual ministers. Mr. Rusnok’s cabinet have been criticised for making a high number of changes at ministries and other state bodies since being installed in July.
Prime minister in resignation Jiří Rusnok, who will continue to lead the country until a new government is appointed, says his interim cabinet will definitely hand the country over in better condition than they found it in. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, he said he could point to several ways he and his ministers had improved the country, including economic growth, the fiscal situation and accessing available European Union funding. Mr. Rusnok also said that keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product would be one of the biggest challenges for the incoming government.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior are setting up a special group to combat tax evasion, Czech Television reported. The permanent team should be capable of taking swift action, particularly with regard to VAT and consumer tax evasion, the station said. The group, which has the working title National Tax Criminal Agency, will act on information received from a Ministry of Finance analytical unit and would consist of financial administration, police and customs officials.
Two people were killed on the Czech Republic’s rail network on Saturday. A spokesperson for the railways inspection authority said the deaths had occurred at Bohumín in the east of the country and near Poděbrady in Central Bohemia. Another man was seriously injured when he was struck by a train travelling between Kolín and Nymburk, also in Central Bohemia. All three accidents occurred at spots where walkers are banned. In the first 18 days of 2014, 12 people died on the country’s railways, while six were injured, TV Nova reported.
Police in the Central Bohemian town of Slaný have arrested a 64-year-old man who sold five fake gold bars to a pawnshop. The owner of the pawnbrokers had paid more than CZK 500,000 for the bars, which it later turned out were made of iron. A police spokesperson said it could not be ruled out that the perpetrator had committed similar swindles elsewhere in the Czech Republic.
Temperature records were broken at a dozen Czech weather stations keeping records for over half a century, primarily in eastern Moravia, on Sunday. The warmest place was Holešov, where a temperature of 15.1 degrees Celsius was registered, 2.2 degrees higher than the previous record high for January 19.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Berdych made it into the last eight in Melbourne for the fourth time in a row with a comfortable 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Kevin Anderson of South Africa on Sunday. He now faces Spaniard David Ferrer for a place in the semi-finals at the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.
The Civic Democrats elected Petr Fiala party chairman at a congress in the eastern city of Olomouc on Saturday. The post had been occupied in a caretaker capacity by Martin Kuba following the resignation of former prime minister Petr Nečas in the wake of a scandal that brought down the last elected government. A political scientist, Mr. Fiala only joined the Civic Democrats in November but was previously the party’s appointment as education minister.
Petr Fiala told delegates at the Civic Democrats conference that he regarded his election as a huge commitment. He said a lot of work lay ahead for the party, which dominated the Czech right for the best part of two decades but only received 7.7 percent of the vote in general elections in October. Mr. Fiala said the revival of the Civic Democrats had begun on Saturday and that it would see a “new culture”.
MEP Jan Zahradil was elected first deputy chairperson of the Civic Democrats at the party congress in Olomouc on Saturday. Mr. Zahradil, a prominent member of the party since the 1990s, received 294 votes, compared to 193 for his rival Jiří Pospíšil. He chairs the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament but said on Saturday he would not stand for reelection as an MEP in view of his new position.