Lawmakers in the Chamber of Chamber of Deputies passed the draft state budget for 2017 which will have a 60 billion crown deficit, 10 billion crowns fewer than the budget this year. MPs passed the proposal as put forward by Andrej Babiš, and downed proposals put forward by the opposition, which criticized the bill for the deficit at a time of economic prosperity. The bill counts on increases in social benefits, pay rises for academics and researchers and, for example, monument restoration. Expected next year are revenues of 1249.3 billion crowns and budget expenses of 1309.3 billion crowns.
Former president Václav Klaus has published stinging criticism on his website attacking the manner in which the head of protocol at Prague Castle, Jindřich Forejt, had – in his view – been targeted. The response came a day after the release of incriminating material which allegedly showed Mr Forejt snorting an illicit substance. Mr Klaus defended the official, whom he worked with for 10 years, by saying steps taken against him were “undeserved”. He also praised Mr Forejt's knowledge of protocol and suggested a replacement would not be found easily.
The State Prosecutors Office should investigate whether incriminating material (allegedly showing the head of protocol at Prague Castle, Jindřich Forejt, snorting an unidentified substance) could have been used to try and blackmail the official, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has said. According to the minister, the video should also be investigated by the National Security Authority. The minister stressed that key questions remained over whether the video was created for the purposes of blackmailing Mr Forejt or others in his circle, or for other criminal purposes. He added that the method by which the material had been offered for sale to media sites was also unusual. Following the publication of screenshots from the video online, Mr Forejt tendered his resignation, citing personal and health reasons.
In October, the Czech National Bank (ČNB) carried out its second biggest intervention on the currency markets since launching a policy to keep the Czech crown weak against the euro in November 2013. The central bank put some 107 billion crowns (around 6.3 billion euros) into ensuring the crown remained at around 27 to the common European currency, officials revealed. The Czech National Bank board has signalled that it will not abandon the policy, which benefits exporters, before the middle of 2017.
On Tuesday, France, represented by French Ambassador to the Czech Republic Charles Malinas, bestowed former prime minister Vladimír Špidla with the Legion of Honour, the country’s highest distinction. Mr Špidla received the honour for his role in furthering Czech-French relations and for his long support of European integration. Vladimír Špidla headed the Czech government at the time of the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union, in May 2004. He later served as European Commissioner for Employment, Social affairs and Equal Opportunities. He is currently a chief aide to Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
The outgoing head of protocol at Prague Castle, Jindřich Forejt, who asked to leave his post citing personal and health reasons on Tuesday after images were released by a news website allegedly showed him snorting an unidentified white substance, would be the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the Vatican, if it were up to the head of the state. President Miloš Zeman told reporters it was his “personal wish” that Mr Forejt, who he praised for his past work, to hold the post, but made clear that would depend on the Czech Foreign Ministry and whether Forejt received an agrément. The president said he had not spoken with Mr Forejt, who is currently on sick-leave. The head of protocol is to step down on December 31 of this year.
Addressing lawmakers in the lower house on Wednesday, President Miloš Zeman said that in the time of economic growth the state budget should see a surplus. He made the statement ahead of the debate on the government’s draft budget for 2017, which is counting on a deficit of 60 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 2.22 billion euros). The head of state has backed the proposal and had praise for the handling of the budget this year; he suggested the government look for additional cost-saving measures in the areas of subsidies for renewables and some social benefits.
Organisers this week added a second Prague date – May 29, 2017 – for the legendary German industrial band Rammstein, after a first concert to be held a day earlier at the city’s Eden Stadium quickly sold out. The last time the band performed in the capital was in 2011. Czech Radio reported that prices by re-sellers online had risen as high as 26,700 crowns (the equivalent of almost 1,000 euros). Official distributors Ticketpro and Ticketportal have warned buyers not to purchase from third parties, at the risk of buying forged, and therefore useless, tickets.
Barrister Petr Kočí has won an appeal against a fine he received for suggesting a court expert was biased because of his alleged Jewish background in a case in which Mr. Kočí was defending a far-right extremist, Lidovky.cz reported. The appeal court has not yet published the reasons for its decision. The barrister received a fine of CZK 100,000 from the Czech Bar Chamber. Mr. Kočí was representing a member of the Workers’ Party of Social Justice on trial for promoting Nazism and anti-Semitism at a public meeting.