On a working visit to Prague, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski defended the controversial new law on public media introduced by the new conservative government in Poland, saying it would open the media to all political parties.At a joint press briefing with his Polish counterpart Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said he believed freedom of speech would be preserved in Poland.The Czech-Polish talks focussed on bilateral ties, cooperation within the Visegrad group states, the migrant crisis and the fight against terrorism. In connection with the visit the Czech media have speculated on the possible impact of the new Polish government on cooperation within the Visegrad group states and its relations with the EU.
EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, who is on a working visit to Prague has said she appreciates the Czech Republic’s constructive and balanced position on the migrant crisis, particularly the country’s focus on the need for EU unity. Her talks with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Monday were dominated by the migrant crisis and EU efforts to deal with the problem. At a press briefing following the talks, Foreign Minister Zaorálek said the most important thing at present was to secure the EU’s outer borders and well-functioning hotspots to register all incoming refugees. He said the attacks in Cologne showed the need to apply strict rules in taking in refugees which would ensure law and order. Later the EU foreign affairs chief met with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. The Czech head of government said the EU must put pressure on Turkey for the country to fulfill its commitments in moderating the flow of migrants to Europe. He also reiterated Czech readiness to assist in the creation of a joint European border and coast guard.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has asked for a security audit at the Office of the Government. The move comes in the wake of two hacking incidents in which hackers attacked the PMs private email and Twitter accounts and claimed that his mail had contained confidential documents. A government spokesman strictly ruled out such a possibility on Monday, saying that confidential files were only leant to Cabinet members counter a signature. He also issued a statement saying that the Czech government fully adheres to the security norms governing work with confidential documents.
A full 80 percent of Czechs perceive the threat of terrorism –both from groups and individuals -as the greatest security threat to the country at present, a 19 percent increase on the previous year, according to the outcome of a December poll conducted by the CVVM agency. Fear of refugees has doubled, going from 32 to 65 percent and more Czechs –over 50 percent – say they fear a global conflict, up from 29 percent the previous year. On the other hand fear of natural disasters, epidemics or a recession has dropped. Russia is also perceived as a smaller threat than it was in previous years.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova is proposing an amendment to the law which would enable fathers to go on a short paternity leave in the first six weeks following their childs birth. The minister proposes a seven day paternity leave during which the state would pay out 70 percent of the fathers salary. The government is to debate the proposal in early February.
Servicing of cars of the Volkswagen group affected by the emission cheating scandal will most likely be non-mandatory in the Czech Republic and the other Višegrad Four (V4) countries, Czech Transport Minister Dan Ťok said after talks with V4 representatives on Monday. According to the transport minister it is up to VW, Skoda Auto and other subsidiaries of the VW group to decide on what approach they will choose in inviting drivers to service stations. The VW group should nevertheless try to get at least 80 percent of owners of the affected cars to visit car service stations and have their cars repaired, possibly by offering some form of compensation, the minister said. Most of the checks are to take place in the second half of this year. In the Czech Republic, the affairs concerns over 150,000 cars produced between 2009 and early 2015.
The first unit of the Temelín nuclear power plant in South Bohemia is back in operation following a scheduled one-day break for maintenance. According to Temelín spokesman Marek Sviták the break was necessitated by the need to replace one of the sensors measuring the shift between the high and low pressure rotors of the turbine in the non-nuclear part of the plant. The work was successfully completed and the unit was reconnected to the grid at 2.30 am on Monday. The power plant is currently the biggest source of electricity produced in the Czech Republic. It covers a fifth of domestic power consumption. In 2015 the power plant produced 14.23 million MWh of electricity.
The Prague Municipal Court has opened the case of suspected fraud and manipulation of public tenders at Prague’s Homolka Hospital. Five people, including the hospital’s former top officials are standing trial. They are suspected of having manipulated a tender for the purchase of a Leksell Gamma Knife which the hospital acquired for 140 million and a tender for a system for the digitalization of the hospitals records which cost 146 million. Both are believed to be severely overpriced .The former head of the hospital Vladimir Dbalý is believed to have pocketed 27 million crowns in bribe money. He and his former deputy, who is also charged, could face up to 12 years in jail for large-scale fraud.
The Interior Ministry reports a rise in the number of people requesting Czech citizenship. According to the ministry over 3,000 people filed for Czech citizenship in 2015, which is a thousand more than in the previous year. The rise is partially attributed to a 2013 law which introduced the concept of dual citizenship. The applicants for Czech citizenship are largely from Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia and Vietnam. According to Czech Television the Interior Ministry has not ruled out tightening the legislation on citizenship in view of the migrant crisis.
The Supreme Audit Office has found irregularities in the financing of regional police directorates. In a press report published on Monday the Office said that the Prague and Ostrava directorates had bought police cars they did not need and the Prague directorate had moreover violated the law on public tenders by addressing a single supplier and requesting specific vehicles. Similar irregularities were found in the purchase of mobile phones for Ostrava police headquarters.