Ceremony marks opening of last stretch of D8 motorway, traffic restrictions in place The 16-kilometre missing link of the D8 motorway between Prague and the German border towards Dresden was officially opened Saturday with the project still mired in controversy. Only one lane will be open at one stretch of the motorway due to continued concern about the geological stability of the land there. The stretch was subject to a landslide previously. The minister of transport has given assurances that the two-kilometre stretch is stable but it is unclear how long the lane limit will last. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who did not attend the opening ceremony, has said the saga of the D8, which has taken 32 years to complete since the first plans were drawn up, should be broached in Cabinet on Monday. He added that the problem stretch of motorway might be closed altogether.
Leaders of the Christian Democrat party have been cleared to launch cooperation talks with the Mayors and Independents party (STAN) over elections to the lower house of parliament next year. The go ahead was given by a national meeting of party representatives with a target for finalising details of the cooperation by the end of February next year. STAN was in the past allied to the TOP 09 party but those links have now been cut. Calls have been made for a realignment of the centre and right of Czech politics to create a more coherent opposition to the Social Democrats and in particular the high riding ANO party.
Czech ministries will hand out record bonuses of around 350 million crowns in the second half of the year, around 70 million crowns than in the same period in 2015, according to a survey conducted by Czech Radio. The Ministry of Transport turns out to be the most generous with officials on average receiving 66,000 crowns in a total handout of around 27 million crowns. The average bonus is around a third as high again as that of the next most generous ministry, health. Lowest bonuses were given out by the Ministry of Culture. The transport ministry has been under fire from prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka for its functioning in recent weeks.
A poll by the Median agency has put the ANO party in the lead with 27 percent of preferences followed by the Social Democrats on 18 percent. The nine percentage point difference is the highest since elections to the lower house were held in October 2013. Four other parties, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), Civic Democrats (ODS), Christian Democrats, and TOP 09 would also make it past the five percent support level and into parliament, the poll suggests.
A move to introduce new rules governing the coloured signs and directions for touristic paths across the country looks like it will be defeated in Cabinet. The introduction of new rules, making the Club of Czech Tourists and the Mountain Services the legal owners of the signs and direction markers and setting a fine of up to 5,000 crowns for damaging them, has been backed by the Christian Democrats. But other parties say the proposal is full of flaws and erodes the rights of property owners. The chances of the proposal being backed in Cabinet on Monday are viewed as slim. An army of association volunteers with paint brushes renew the markets on a continual basis.
In ice hockey, the Czech national team ran out 1:5 losers against Russia in the Channel One Cup match on Friday night. The Russians were already 3:0 up in the first period. Trainer Josef Jandač’s team are without any points following the previous loss on Thursday night against Finland. They face Sweden in the last encounter of the tournament on Sunday night.
The D8 motorway linking Prague and Germany in the direction of Dresden has been completed. The 16-kilometre missing link between Lovosice and Řehlovice should be opened up on Saturday and drivers will be able to use the full stretch of the motorway after 6pm that day. The final stretch of the motorway took ten years to complete due to protests by environmentalists against the chosen route through a protected landscape area and nature reserve. Work was also delayed by a major landslide in 2013 which buried part of the motorway under construction.
Friday’s negotiations between government representatives, Czech Post management and trade unions failed to resolve a dispute over salaries that could lead to a two-hour strike on Monday. Trade unions have been pushing for a wage increase for postal workers by 2,500 crowns a month which Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, under whose administration the state owned company is, described as unrealistic. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Andrej Babis has criticized Czech Post, saying employees’ demands for higher wages are legitimate and criticizing the company for intransparent management and excessive bonuses for managers.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called on Social Democratic Party members being investigated in connection with suspected abuse of EU funds in the North-West regional programme to resign from their posts and leave the party. Among the 24 suspects are several senior party officials including a former regional governor of the Ustí region, Jana Vanhová, and Karlovy Vary regional leader and Cheb mayor Petr Navrátil. The prime minister stressed that the case is eight years old and does not concern his government, but said the suspects should act responsibly and not damage the party’s reputation. Finance Minister and ANO leader Andrej Babis countered that Mr. Sobotka served as deputy party leader at the time and should be held accountable for the actions of party members.