Police have concluded an investigation into suspected fraud in the privatization of the Czech Republic’s largest coal mining company Mostecka Uhelna. Charges will be brought against seven people including four former managers. While the Czech police was unable to bring the case to court earlier, Swiss investigators assembled sufficient evidence against the company’s former managers to prosecute. They received prison sentences from 16 months to 4 years. The damage incurred to the Czech Republic has been estimated at around two billion crowns.
The lower house of Parliament will vote on a bill on the introduction of electronic cash registers, intended to fight tax fraud, on February 10th, in line with a motion approved by the coalition majority on Friday. The coalition parties thus moved to end long hours of filibustering by the opposition parties who are vehemently opposed to the bill saying it will only increase state bureaucracy and force the closure of many small businesses. The opposition parties say that if the governing coalition prematurely ends the debate and enforces a vote it will file a complaint with the Constitutional Court.
The foreigners police did not overstep its powers when officers checking an international train for migrants requested lawyer Zuzana Candigliota to produce an ID, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Friday. The court thus overturned an earlier verdict by the regional court in Brno which concluded that officers had overstepped their rights, since it was evident that Candigliota spoke Czech and was travelling light. The Supreme Administrative Court said officers doing their duty could not only be guided by subjective impressions. The lawyer refused to produce an ID and was taken to the police station where she spent two hours.
The Association of Producers and Importers of Spirits has also slammed the finance minister’s plan to lower VAT on draft beer as populist and unfair to producers of other alcoholic beverages. The head of the association, Jaroslav Burkart, said he hoped the plan would not win government consent since it would disadvantage spirits, wine and liquor producers. The head of the government’s National Anti-Drug Agency Jindřich Vobořil, also criticized the plan, saying it goes against the government’s plans to fight alcoholism.He told the dailz Pravo he waould resign if the proposal was approved.
Some four hundred people, among them politicians and close friends, attended the funeral of Communist Party MEP Miloslav Ransdorf on Friday. Among those present were Trade and Industry Minister Jan Mladek (Social Democrat), the leader of the Communist Party Vojtech Filip, and its deputy leader Jiri Dolejs, who said Mr. Ransdorf would be remembered as a great intellectual albeit a controversial figure. The MEP, who died at the age of 62 last weekend, was being investigated by the Swiss police on suspicion of fraud. His family has asked for an investigation into his death.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš’ proposal to lower the VAT on draft beer from 21 to 10 percent raised a storm of opposition in the lower house on Friday with opposition deputies calling it “blatant populism”. The finance minister’s plan, unveiled on Czech TV on Thursday, raised eyebrows even among his coalition partners with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka saying that if the price of draft beer were to go down then the Social Democrats would push for a tax reduction on basic groceries such as meat, milk, bread and butter.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says the Czech Republic needs more time to prepare for euro adoption. Speaking at a press briefing in Prague Mr. Sobotka said it would be wrong to set a target date for euro adoption before the country improved its public financing and raised Czech living standards. We still have a deficit in public finances, a high unemployment rate in some regions and a big difference in average income when compared to countries such as Germany or Austria, the prime minister noted. The Sobotka government has repeatedly declared that it would not set a target date for euro adoption during its term in office.
The expenditures linked to the adoption of the euro in the Czech Republic would amount to 0.5 percent of the GDP, State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza said at a press briefing in Prague on Friday. The country’s contribution to the European Stability Mechanism would be 34 billion crowns, the state secretary said. According to Mr. Prouza the Czech Republic has made significant progress in fulfilling the criteria for euro adoption and is now economically ready to join the Eurozone. He said it is one of the government’s priorities to launch a broad public debate on euro adoption in order for people to be better informed about the advantages joining the Eurozone.
The annual Three Kings Charity Collection brought in close to 100 million crowns this year and is likely to surpass that mark, according to the charity organization Charitas which organizes it. The money collected so far totals 95.9 million and more donations are still coming in to the organizations account. The money collected will be used to help elderly, ill and socially disadvantaged people. The money is annually collected by children dressed as the Three Kings who visit people’s homes and institutions. It traditionally marks the end of the Christmas holidays.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expects Turkey to be more active in protecting its western borders in order to stem the migrant flow heading for Greece and further to Western Europe, he said after meeting the Turkish ambassador to Prague, Ahmet Necati Bigali, on Thursday. The Prime Minister told the ambassador to resolutely intervene against people traffickers, reinforce the protection of its western coast and prevent the sale and departures of boats with illegal migrants. Over two million Syrian refugees are currently staying in Turkey, who may potentially set out for Europe.