Finance Minister Andrej Babis who is under fire over the suspect drawing of EU funds for his Stork’s Nest farm and conference centre said on Sunday that the application for EU funds was made by a previous owner whom he refused to name. He said he would write a letter of explanation to his coalition partners providing the details. The Social Democrats had said that if Mr. Babis failed to produce a satisfactory explanation by Wednesday they would support an opposition call for an extraordinary session of Parliament to be held on the matter. According to the news site Neovlivni.cz fines of 6.0 million crowns were imposed on the farm in the past. The circumstances of EU funds awarded to the project are now being investigated by EU anti-fraud authorities. The opposition has criticized the prime minister and Mr. Babiš’ coalition partners for acting as if the problem did not concern them.
All of the 18 Northern bald ibises which escaped from Prague Zoo at the start of the month have been recaptured, according to the zoo’s director Miroslav Bobek. The birds were captured in different parts of Prague and further afield with active help from the public. One of the birds died shortly after being brought back because it consumed a wide variety of objects including broken glass. One of the others will have to undergo an operation for the same reason. The ibises escaped after a bout of heavy snow damaged their aviary.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has criticized the decision of the Greek authorities who in the past weeks repeatedly refused the Czech liaison officer for migrants access to the hotspots where they are being registered. In a debate on Czech public television Mr. Chovanec said it was a petty reaction to past criticism from the Czech Republic, which pointed out that Greece was unable to handle the influx of migrants and meet its commitments to the EU. The minister said other countries’ officers had been granted access to the sites. He said this presented a serious problem since the Czech Republic was due to take in the first 20 migrants from Greece in the coming weeks. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek is to discuss the matter with his Greek counterpart at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels next week.
The gap in public finances in 2017 should be 60 billion crowns, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said in a debate on commercial TV Prima on Sunday. The minister indicated that meeting that target would not be easy, saying he expected to come under considerable pressure from individual cabinet members. Babis said he was counting on an increase in pensions, more funds for sports and emphasized the need for investment projects which he said would be given priority. The 2015 deficit in public finances was 62.8 billion, which is 37.2 billion less than projected.
Eighty Czechs joined in the Human Rights Tatoo project which its organizers brought to Prague within the One World film festival of human rights documentaries. Interest in the undertaking was huge and people queued up since 4am on Saturday to increase their chances of getting tattooed. The Human Rights Tattoo project held under the slogan “One centimetre of your skin for human rights” was conceived by artist Sander van Bussel. It aims to create awareness and underline the importance of Human Rights. The goal is to tattoo the complete Declaration of Universal Human Rights with the full 6773 characters on 6773 human beings around the world.
Polish President Andrzej Duda will pay a one-day state visit to the Czech Republic next week, his first since taking office. President Duda is to arrive on Monday afternoon and will meet for talks on Tuesday with President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. The talks are expected to focus on bilateral cooperation, cooperation within the Visegrad group and the migrant crisis.
The use of antidepressants in the Czech Republic has tripled in the past 15 years, the news site idnes.cz reported on Sunday. According to the head of the psychiatric department at Brno’s Teaching Hospital Richard Bartecek this is due to the fact that antidepressants have become more socially acceptable and are preferred by patients to alternative treatments like psychotherapy which require time and active engagement. Another contributing factor to this trend is the fact that psychiatrists have seven to twelve minutes per patient on average, Bartecek says.
Some 150 people gathered at Prague’s Klárov on Saturday to express support for President Miloš Zeman and call for the demise of the Sobotka government. Many of those present also signed a petition calling for the break-up of Czechoslovakia to be annulled. At one point the demonstrators got into a conflict with a Czech television crew reporting on the event. The police stepped in to prevent an incident.
Police have charged two employees of Prague Waterworks with endangering public health through negligence. The charges are linked to contamination of tap water in Prague’s Dejvice and Bubeneč districts last May. Over 4,000 people suffered health problems as a result, 33 of them had to be hospitalized. Hygiene officers ordered a blanket vaccination of children under 15 against Hepatitis A. The men reportedly caused the contamination by failing to adhere to regulations when reconnecting water pipes to the system following maintenance.
The Greek authorities have repeatedly refused the Czech liaison officer for migrants access to the hotspots where they are being registered, the news site Novinky.cz reported on Saturday. The news was confirmed by Interior Minister Milan Chovanec who said other countries’ officers had been granted access to the sites. He said this presented a serious problem since the Czech Republic was due to take in the first 20 migrants from Greece in the coming weeks. The country has agreed take in over 2,600 migrants from Greece and Italy in the course of this and next year. Novinky says the Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over this development as well and Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek is to discuss the matter with his Greek counterpart at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels next week.