Prime Minister Petr Nečas says the decision on whether to aid the eurozone via the IMF will be made by the government, rather than the Czech National Bank. For his own part, the prime minister said he is opposed to participating. The government is set to discuss the matter on Wednesday, though it is not certain that a vote will be taken. Mr Nečas said he is aware of the complicated political situation caused by the Czech Republic’s reticence, but emphasised that he would not offer a stronger statement because clear conditions for an agreement between European leaders have not been given. Eurozone representatives last week agreed to give the IMF a 200 billion euro loan, which would then be lent to the EU states in economic crisis. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has voiced his support for providing 90 billion crowns towards the agreement.
The TOP 09 party has put forward MP Alena Hanáková for the post of Minister of Culture. Ms Hanáková is a member of the Mayors and Independents Party which is associated with TOP 09. A movement by some Czech artists to appoint arts academy chancellor Ivo Mathé was heard by the TOP 09 party, but unravelled after Mr Mathé failed to reach an agreement with party chairman Karel Schwarzenberg. President Klaus will accept the resignation of outgoing culture minister Jiří Besseron Friday. His departure from the cabinet was compelled by the fact that he had failed to report property and business interests in the United States in his property statement. The Mayors and Independents Party has said he will stay on as deputy chairman as he was not guilty of any legal wrongdoing.
The US Senate on Monday confirmed Norman Eisen in the post of US ambassador to Prague overcoming opposition by Republican Senator Charles Grassley. Senator Grassley successfully blocked Mr. Eisen’s nomination to the post a year ago, prompting President Obama to by-pass the regular confirmation process during a Senate recess and name him to a temporary one-year term, due to expire in January. Senator Grassley’s claim that in 2009 Mr. Eisen violated the law by the manner of his dismissal of a high-ranking employee, was dismissed by Republican senators who pointed out that a court had exonerated Mr. Eisen from the allegations of improper conduct. The acting ambassador was confirmed in office by a 70-16 majority.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said the government will take advantage of some of the proposals made by its economic council, NERV, to help the country overcome the crisis in Europe. He did not specify which proposals, saying that he could only do so if he were certain about developments in 2012. NERV’s package of 40 measures should be adopted if there is danger of the GDP dropping by more than 2 percent. The measures include a single VAT rate of 20 percent, a freezing of pensions, layoffs of police officers, higher bank taxes and shorter university studies, among others. The Finance Ministry is expected to present a concrete plan of action in January 2012, when a more precise forecast of the Czech Republic´s economic development will be made available.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that former trade minister Martin Kocourek sent five million crowns to the company Key Investments in 2002. Mr Kocourek resigned last month over corruption allegations when it emerged that he had used the controversial company to divert 16 million crowns from his divorce settlement in 2008. According to Mladá fronta, more than eight million crowns went through Mr Kocourek’s account at Key Investments between 2002 and 2006 before being moved to a sister company in Slovakia. Key Investments is a brokerage firm under investigation by the central bank for its involvement in numerous dubious dealings.
The new R35 motorway from Liberec to Hradec Králové will be run through the Bohemian Paradise area of Northern Bohemia, according to zoning documentation that was passed on Tuesday be the regional council. Opponents of the idea sent a letter to the council stating that they would use all legal means possible to avert the construction of the motorway through the oldest protected area in the country. The four-lane motorway is intended to improve access between the regions while avoiding communities and has been a priority for the regions for several years.
Prague City Hall introduced a “click through budget” programme on Tuesday that allows viewers to check on the details of the city’s budget and search through the earnings and expenditures of individual sectors of town hall. The system allows for example for those interested to browse the police income from the city coffers and see what the money is used for, and how much is devoted to what purposes. In presenting the application, Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda noted that the programme was not mandated by any regulation and was the city’s own initiative for combating corruption. NERV, which proposed the idea, has according to the mayor also recommended the clickable budget for the state level.
Employment bureaus may begin issuing welfare cards between March and April, 2012, provided a contract is concluded with the bank Česká Spořitelna, which is to manage the cards. The Labour Ministry is still in negotiations with the bank. The cards are intended for the payment of most welfare benefits from the employment bureaus. The Labour Ministry expects to save a billion crowns in operational costs once they are introduced.
Trade unions want to limit the opening hours of supermarkets over the Christmas and state holidays. They have also prepared a bill to prohibit or regulate the opening hours of store chains on holidays. Chairman of the store workers’ union Petr Voslař told journalists on Tuesday that the unions are looking for a legislator to bring the bill to Parliament. The bill entails that supermarkets would be able to be open until 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and would have to remain closed over the Christmas holidays. They also want large shops to remain closed on Easter and November 17th.
Prague police have arrested a 22-year-old serial arsonist who has so far confessed to 51 fires. At least 25 of the acts, which caused more than 2.5 million in damages, have been certified by the police. The man set the fires primarily around the Prague district of Jižní město and “specialised” in parked cars, according to Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrášek. He has been placed in psychiatric care to avoid hurting others. He was caught while in the midst of an attack, heavily intoxicated. Police suspect he may have been responsible for 80 to 100 fires.