The opposition Social Democrats and Communists would get 138 seats in the 200-member Czech lower house, gaining a constitutional majority, according to a new poll by the STEM agency released on Wednesday. The Social Democrats top the list with 26.1 percent of the vote, which means 92 seats, whereas the Communists in second place would receive 14.6 percent and 46 seats. The ruling Civic Democrats in third place fell just below 12 percent of the vote, and 42 MPs while another coalition TOP 09 party, with 6.8 percent, would get 20 seats on the lower house. No other party would cross the five-percent threshold to enter the Chamber of Deputies.
The Czech Republic will adopt the euro no earlier than in some eight to ten years’ time, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday during a debate on the new rescue package for the eurozone. Arguing that a Czech approval with the plan will not automatically bring additional costs, Mr Nečas said that future governments will have to discuss such guarantees at a time when they decide to join the eurozone. The Czech Republic is technically bound to join the eurozone by its 2004 accession treaty to the EU. However, no official date for joining the common currency zone has been set yet.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday overrode a presidential veto and approved a bill on subsidized energy sources. The legislation introduces subsidies for renewable sources of energy along with secondary sources as well as combined production of electricity from heat and renewables. President Václav Klaus argued the legislation would lead to an unpredictable rise in energy prices; however, Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said energy subsidies would be much higher if existing legislation was not amended. The bill is part of the government’s efforts to reach its goal of covering 13.5 percent of the country’s electricity consumption with energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The Czech government on Wednesday adopted an ethical code for public employees. The code requires public employees to report any suspicion on corruption while it also protects whistleblowers from losing their jobs as a result of their action. However, critics pointed out it would be impossible to enforce the regulations due to missing legislation. The Czech branch of anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, welcomed the code as a way of protecting those who report corruption but said the government should follow up with a public service act.
The government on Wednesday again postponed debate on new gambling legislation. The bill would allow foreign firms to invest in all types of lotteries and betting games in the Czech Republic; under the current legislation, only companies which are registered in the country and which require physical registration of players in their offices are allowed to run lotteries. The bill would also give municipalities more authority in regulating gambling. At a news conference after the government’s meeting, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said further consultations with the European Commission were needed to make sure the proposed bill did not breach EU law.
Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf met with Czech President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Wednesday during his three-day visit to the Czech Republic. The monarch heads a delegation of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences with representatives of the Swedish industry and universities. The officials discussed cooperation between the two countries in information technologies, medicine and other fields.
The Czech Ministry of Culture has slashed financial support for new film projects as it ran out of funds earmarked for that purpose, a spokeswoman for the ministry said on Wednesday. The State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography, which is part of the ministry, has only ten million crowns to distribute among new film projects; this is a consequence of new legislation, which discontinued funding from advertising on state-run Czech TV, while private broadcasters will not start contributing to the fund until next year. The fund will this year therefore only provide symbolic support for new Czech films, hoping the situation will improve next year.
The Slav Epic, a series of 20 large canvasses chronicling Slavic history by the Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, will go on display in Prague’s Veletržní Palác on Thursday. The exhibition, which was delayed by several months due to technical issues, is the subject of a long-lasting controversy between the Czech capital and the South Moravian town Moravský Krumlov where the epic was moved after the end of World War II. Officials from the South Moravian town vehemently opposed the relocation of Mucha’s Slav Epic to Prague on grounds that it was the painter’s wish for the work to be displayed in a specially constructed pavilion which the capital has failed to build.
Czechs spent some 92 million crowns, or more than 4.7 million US dollars, on fair-trade products in 2011, which is 15 percent more than in the previous year, according to the Czech Association for Fair Trade. Coffee is by far best selling product, accounting for 63 percent of the fair-trade market, up from 40 percent in 2010. The association said the surge was related to the fact that many cafés offer fair-trade coffee. Other popular products in this sector include chocolate, cocoa and sweets, followed by tea and cane sugar.
Five police officers from Prague and Liberec, who were arrested last week on charges of abuse of power, allegedly provided information from police database to private detectives and debt collectors, a spokeswoman for the Czech police said on Wednesday. The information was used for blackmailing a businessman into a fuel deal. 11 people were charged in the case four of whom remain in custody. If convicted, they face up to 12 years in prison.