French president François Hollande met with Czech president Miloš Zeman and later met prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka on a visit to Prague on November 30. The talks with Zeman touched on the future of the EU, defense cooperation, terrorism, immigration, and high speed rail links. The two presidents agreed that a dispute over French moves to impose the French minimum wage on Czech lorry drivers passing through the country should be dealt with bilaterally by ministers of industry and trade. It is the first visit by a French president to the Czech Republic since Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, came in 2011 for the funeral of Václav Havel. Hollande had to cancel previous trips to Prague at the last minute. Sobotka urged Hollande to encourage French companies in the Czech Republic to increase the wages of their workers. He also agreed that the EU should not slip into a series of geographical blocs, a fear that has been expressed in the past in France with regard to the Visegrad Four grouping of Central European states.
The Czech upper house of parliament, the Senate, has distanced itself from a statement aimed at curbing Chinese anger over meetings between Czech politicians and the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. A resolution tabled by the opposition Civic Democrats and passed Wednesday, pointed out that Senate leader Milan Štěch was expressing his own personal opinion and not that of the Senate as a whole when he signed up to the declaration. It was also signed by the head of the lower house, the prime minister, and president. Štěch earlier said he did not regret the wording of the declaration but would have presented it differently if he had to again. The declaration was prepared by the foreign ministry after minister of culture Daniel Herman met with the Dalai Lama.
The number of new HIV cases in the Czech Republic this year to the end of November is already higher than the 266 total for the whole of 2015, the National Reference Laboratory announced on Wednesday. The final total for the month has not yet been released. To the end of October, the number of new cases so far this year stood at 257. The latest comments confirm the upward trend in new HIV cases seen since 2003. The head of the laboratory said it was a question whether the 300 total of new cases would be hit this year, adding though that the number of new cases usually slows at the end of the year.
Head of state president Miloš Zeman officially appointed Jan Chvojka as new minister for human rights and legislation and Miloslav Ludvík as the new minister of health. The appointments for the Social Democrat Party were already announced by prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka in a minor reshuffle of the cabinet. The two new ministers will be installed at their ministries today. Sobotka said his party needed new blood and faces ahead of parliamentary elections in a year’s time and following the disappointing performance in regional elections in October. Fellow coalition partners the Christian Democrats and ANO refused to make changes to their own ministerial teams.
A Prague court on Wednesday threw out an appeal by a former defence minister and confirmed that she must pay a fine of 16,000 crowns for releasing information about a corruption case. The court confirmed the fine on Vlasta Parkanová was imposed on her by the data protection agency after she released details of witness replies regarding a corruption case involving the purchase of CASA transport aircraft. The former minister said she had acted to protect herself in a highly publicized case.
A regional court in Ostrava was due Wednesday to deal with another application for insolvency regarding a company from the Vítkovice engineering group. The latest application focuses on Vítkovice Mechanika with the applicant, Wetag Invest, claiming it is owed 900,000 crowns. A court is already dealing with an insolvency application for one of the group’s flagship companies, Vítkovice Power Engineering. Around 500 creditors have already come forward claiming they are owed around 75 billion crowns. It faces major problems over a contract to build a power plant in Turkey.
Czech households’ borrowing from banks climbed by around 11 billion crowns in October from September according to the latest figures released by the Czech National Bank. Year on year the total household debt has risen by around 94 billion crowns to now total 1.4 trillion crowns. Company debts rose between September and October by around 7.0 billion crowns to total 1.22 trillion crowns.
Wealthy Czechs are increasingly investing in underground bunkers due to security fears, iDnes.cz reported. Dozens of people have this year paid to have shelters built beneath their homes against natural disasters, industrial accidents and nuclear or chemical weapons, the news website said. A representative of a firm specialising in the area said it had just completed its 28th bunker, with two-thirds of them having been installed in the Prague area.
The Czech state is to begin funding schools according to the number of hours taught rather than number of pupils. The provision is included in an amendment to the law on education approved by the lower house that will take effect in 2018. The bill also includes measures aimed at protecting teachers and pupils from attack in the classroom. The government rejected calls to reduce the amount the state contributes to private and religious schools.