Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec said Wednesday that he had signed a controversial reform of the police which includes the merger of key anti-mafia and corruption units. The minister said he did not believe the coalition agreement had been broken by such a move. And he accused the ANO party lead by Andrej Babiš of behaving hysterically over the proposed changes. Chovanec said he had consulted with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka about the move and said the police could not be paralysed. The smallest party on the coalition, the Christian Democrats said Chovanec would take responsibility for the move and its consequences. ANO has warned that the coalition agreement will be broken if the reforms are pushed through. Babiš said earlier Wednesday though that ANO might remain in the government even if the coalition agreement did not apply.
Czech president Miloš Zeman has warned that while the low crown regime of the Czech National Bank might have short term gains for exporters, there might also be a longer term cost. The low crown encouraged laziness, a lack of innovation, and improved productivity, Zeman warned. He added that the Czech Republic should not compete abroad on the basis of its low cost workforce but on their skills and education. He added that small countries could not afford to take the moral high ground when negotiating export contracts.
Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaorálek meets with his German counterpart Frank- Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Wednesday. The possible British exit from the EU will be one of the main themes of talks as well as the renewal of sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Zaorálek and Steinmeier later agreed that sanctions should continue. French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also took part in the discussions. Zaorálek will later speak at Berlin’s Humboldt University.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Wednesday that his Social Democrat party maintains its position that the reorganisation of the police force is a matter for the police and experts with the police president and Minister of Interior taking the lead. Sobotka said it refused to have the police made into a political issue and rejected what it described as pressure from the ANO party to threaten the collapse of the government coalition over the police shake-up. ANO leader Andrej Babiš has threatened to walk out of the coalition if the police reorganisation, including the merger of key anti-corruption and anti-mafia units, proceeds without a real debate about it.Andrej Babiš later said that withdrawing from the coalition agreement did not necessarily mean leaving the government. ANO could stay in the government but would not respect the commitments undertaken previously, he said.
Prague City Hall has rubber stamped an agreement for the massive 20 painting series by Czech artist Alfons Mucha, the Slav Epic, to go on show in China. The agreement over the loan and conditions calls for the payment of 2.7 million crowns by Chinese authorities. The paintings are also due to be exhibited in Japan as part of the Asian tour. The tour has been condemned by the grandson of the famous painter, John Mucha, who warns that they risk being damaged on such a tour and away from their usual protected environment.
The Czech government has appointed its nuclear energy coordinator whose main task over the next four years will be to oversee and coordinate moves aimed at constructing at least two new nuclear reactors in the country. The man appointed for the four year term is Jan Štuller, who until now headed the nuclear safety department at the State Office for Nuclear Safety and previously worked for the International Energy Authority. The country’s nuclear energy development plan calls for at least one reactor to be built at Dukovany by 2037 to take over from ageing reactors currently operating at the site.
The creditors committee of mining company OKD meets on Wednesday to discuss the situation surrounding the biggest hard coal miner in the country. The Czech state has a presence on the committee through an insurance company, a health insurer, and the transport company Advanced World Transport. OKD filed for insolvency in May with debts of around 17 billion crowns. Company managers said it is breaking even on current operations. Coal prices have climbed in recent weeks.
One of the central figures in the police reorganisation that has sparked a coalition crisis, the head of the special police force for combating organised crime, Robert Šlachta, has said he is willing to reconsider his decision to resign following the postponement of the police shake-up for a month. A meeting of the State Security Council on Tuesday evening agreed to delay implantation of the reform till the start of August. Šlachta complained earlier that he was barely consulted about the reform which would see his unit merged with a similar unit tasked with combating corruption. He announced his resignation at the end of last week.
The parking lot on Malostranské náměstí, one of the city’s historic squares, is to be abolished as of July 1st 2016, the ctk news agency reports. Prague City Hall is planning a major overhaul of the square situated in the Lesser Town. The local administration says it wants to make the square more people-friendly with seating arrangements, greenery and the possibility to hold farmers markets there. The plan has raised the ire of a number of MPs who used the parking lot on a daily basis.
Wednesday’s meeting of coalition leaders over a controversial police reform failed to avert the threat of a coalition break-up. According to Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek the situation is grave and ANO party leader Andrej Babiš made clear his intention to walk out of the coalition if the interior minister signs the proposed reform plan. Mr. Bělobrádek appealed on the Social Democratic Party to reconsider pushing the changes through by force, saying that he tended to agree with Mr. Babiš that a reform of the police force requires consensus within the ruling coalition. The Social Democratic Party has yet to comment on the latest developments.