Outgoing deputy chair of the Constitutional Court Eliška Wagnerová has harshly criticised government reforms as insane and socially insensitive. In an interview for the daily Právo Judge Wagnerová went on to say that she did not want to live in such a country. Prime Minister Petr Nečas responded to the comments severely, saying the judge’s last day on March 21 would be a holiday for Czech democracy, adding that the Constitutional Court is not meant to be another chamber of Parliament. The Constitutional Court is currently adjudicating on some of the government’s reform laws at the behest of the opposition Social Democratic Party.
The detective agency ABL, which has been linked to the troubled Public Affairs party, has changed its name to Mark2 Corporation. The move comes a few days after the company featured prominently in the corruption trial of its founder, Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta. Mr Bárta sold the company to his brother Matěj upon the party’s election to Parliament in 2010. The website Lidovky.cz reports that Matěj Bárta has stepped down, informing employees that he will now head the company’s supervisory board. In addition to drawing negative attention for numerous personnel connections with the junior coalition party, ABL also came under fire last year for conducting surveillance of certain Prague politicians.
The number of births in the Czech Republic decreased in 2011 while the number of deaths remained the same, leading statisticians to speak of a gradual dying out of the native population. Compared to the census results of 2010, the population of the Czech Republic shrank last year by roughly 30,000. The comparison also marks a definitive end of the baby boom of the last decade, which peaked in 2008. Last year´s decline in the number of newborn children was markedly higher than in the previous two years together. Immigration, mostly from Slovakia, Russia and Ukraine, made up 90 percent of the overall population growth in 2011.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg met with his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh, in Prague on Tuesday. The two discussed the situation in Syria, with the Jordanian minister demanding the violence be stopped and humanitarian aid provided the citizens. Mr Schwarzenberg holds the position that Syrians should be protected from the regime, but the international community should not enter the conflict militarily. Mr Schwarzenberg also praised reform measures that the Jordanian government is undertaking, while Mr Judeh mentioned the importance of the late president Václav Havel. Nasser Judeh is also set to meet with President Klaus on Tuesday .
Bratislava has overtaken Prague as the richest region of the post-Soviet EU countries. According to the latest statistics from Brussels, Bratislava rose four places in 2009 to fifth place on the EU-wide list, while Prague dropped to seventh place. Eurostat shows central London as being by far the most wealthy region of the EU, with per capita GDP of 332% of the EU average. The poorest regions were in the Balkans and in Poland.
A majority of Czechs have confidence in the country’s high court institutions, according to a poll by the STEM agency. The Supreme Court enjoys the highest trust, at 64%, followed closely by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. The results nonetheless mark a significant fall of about 10 points from 2005. Meanwhile previous surveys by STEM have suggested that only about a third of people in the Czech Republic trust the objectivity of judges in general, and a majority have indicated they are unsatisfied with the performance of lower-instance courts.
Opposition Social Democrats have proposed a bill to restrict presidential pardons. Responding to a series of questionable pardons in recent months, the proposed constitutional amendment requires that the president receive the countersignature of the prime minister or other cabinet member in order to mitigate a punishment. The bill will now be reviewed by the government. The Social Democrats made an unsuccessful push for such countersignatures in the amendment on direct presidential elections. The party has asked the president’s office for explanations of a number of controversial pardons, particularly regarding two recent ones that are being investigated by the police.
The centre-right government will press ahead with reforms aimed at reducing the deficit in public spending, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said in an address to the annual Žofín economics forum in Prague. In the years 2013-2014 the government aims to bring the deficit in public spending under 3 percent of GDP and, if the economy grows, the country could achieve a balanced budget by 2016. Mr. Nečas said that pushing through austerity measures to achieve this was a thankless task which undermined the cabinet’s popularity with the public, but he said he was determined to see it through. The 129th Žofín Forum is focussing on the state of the Czech economy, the government-proposed reforms for the coming years and their possible impact.
Likewise speaking at the Žofín forum the governor of the Czech National Bank Miroslav Singer said that in his view the Czech Republic would not be ready to adopt the euro before 2017. He said that a serious debate on euro adoption could start in 2014 or 2015 once the country had got its own finances in order and expected negotiations to last for approximately two years. Although the Czech Republic has not set a target date for euro adoption Prime Minister Necas said euro adoption was still on the agenda.
A week of events marking the 35th anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto has kicked off in Prague. The series of special events organized by former dissidents and Charter 77 signatories includes exhibitions, seminars and a series of special performances of the late Vaclav Havel´s plays. A photo exhibition at the plaza of the National Theatre is called “Prague through the lens of the secret service” and is a compilation of photographs the communist secret police made in the process of spying on and following dissidents. Charter 77 week is also intended to honour the memory of philosopher and Charter 77 spokesman Jan Patočka who became the first victim of the communist backlash against the Charter 77 manifesto. He was arrested and died of a stroke shortly after undergoing an 11-hour interrogation by the communist secret police.