The new Prime Minister and Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek told reporters on Wednesday that Social Democrat head and former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek wants to discredit him over the case of the VAE company to regain power with his Social Democrats. At a special news conference, Mr Topolanek said that he had never been asked to meet commitments towards the creditors of the VAE company whose shareholder he had been and that he had never committed a credit fraud. Mr Topolanek added that police had investigated the case and had not found him guilty. He stressed that the Social Democrats were politicising the whole case to discredit him before the approaching October Senate and local elections and the Civic Democrat party congress. The police anti-corruption squad are investigating the suspicion that Mr Topolanek and his former partners in the VAE company gained a bank loan fraudulently in the late 1990s.
The head of the Czech counter-intelligence (BIS) Jiri Lang has been charged by the government to coordinate the fight against terrorism in the Czech Republic. The BIS counter-intelligence service is now going to collect the information obtained by intelligence services and the police. The new government of Mirek Topolanek intends to better coordinate the activities of intelligence services and the police in the fight against international terrorism and intends to carry out a thorough reorganisation of the services.
The government of Mirek Topolanek has recommended to the lower house to pass a Senate-proposed bill that would simplify the path to early elections. The proposed constitutional amendment is supposed to enable the President to dissolve the lower house of parliament after the cabinet has resigned and the lower house has approved its dissolution. The Civic Democrat minority government wants to lead the country to early elections next year in order to solve the political stalemate produced by the June general elections. The Constitution now offers four methods to reach early elections but all of them require lengthy procedures.
The European Commission expressed regret on Wednesday for a postponement in the opening of its internal borders to new member states, saying it will seek to minimise the delay. The EU had originally planned to allow the ten states which joined the bloc two years ago into its border-free "Schengen" area in October 2007. But technical and legal problems in building a new central police database look set to delay the expansion of the borderless area for at least a year, which prompted harsh criticism from the newcomers led by the Czech Republic. A spokesman said the European Commission is aware of the frustration of the citizens of new member states. He responded to a statement from the Czech Foreign Ministry, which said the delay meant Czech citizens could not take full advantage of free movement, one of the EU's fundamental freedoms.
The government has recommended to the lower house to discuss and pass an amendment to the law on road traffic submitted earlier by a group of Civic Democrat MPs. A new law on road traffic that came into force in July introduced a penalty point system for drivers. The Civic Democrats say it is too strict and encourages corruption and harassment. In their draft amendment, the Civic Democrat deputies proposed to increase the maximum point level for suspending a driving licence from the current 12 to 18 points. The chamber might debate the amendment at one of its autumn sessions.
Czech defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, last season's top scoring defender for Stanley Cup champion Carolina, will be sidelined for at least four months after undergoing shoulder surgery. The National Hockey League club announced Monday that Kaberle will not return until January at the earliest. Kaberle, 32, scored six goals and a career-best 38 assists in 77 games and was crucial to the Hurricanes' title run, scoring four goals and adding nine assists in 25 playoff games.
The government has agreed with the establishment of an institute that would be responsible for administering and publishing documents concerning the communist era. The foundation of a National Memory Institute was proposed by the Senate at the instigation of the senators for the Civic Democratic Party. Similar institutions exist in Slovakia, Poland and Germany. The institute would among other things store the lists of collaborators of the former Communist secret police StB. Unlike its Slovak counterpart, the Czech institute is not to be authorised to conduct investigation. The costs of the institute are being put at tens of millions of crowns annually.
Cigarette prices should rise less steeply than previously expected, after the new finance minister ordered a proposed sales tax increase to be reviewed. According to the original budget proposal cigarette prices were to go up by 12 to 15 crowns a pack. If the new government does not raise the sales tax more than the EU requires, the price will only go up by 8 to 12 crowns a pack. Finance Minister Tlusty has said that the tax rate should correspond to the lowest level set by the EU.
Prague Zoo has announced that it expects the birth of another baby gorilla early next year. It will be the second gorilla born in captivity in the Czech Republic. The first arrived in 2004 shortly after the gorillas were moved to a spacious new enclosure. The mother to be is thirty-four-year old Kamba, one of the last remaining gorillas in captivity who was born in the wild. She spent most of her life at a zoo in Leipzig and has never bred in captivity.
The Constitutional Court has invalidated the dismissal of Iva Brozova as head of the Supreme Court by President Vaclav Klaus in February of this year. The Court ruled that the dismissal was in violation of the Constitution and was not properly justified. President Klaus dismissed Ms Brozova at the request of then- justice minister Pavel Nemec who said the Supreme Court needed stronger and more authoritative leadership. President Klaus who was not present at the hearing, said the court's ruling was wrong and set a dangerous precedent.