The lower house has approved a bill on the restitution of church property.
The bill was pushed through by coalition deputies in spite of heated
protests from the opposition parties who have repeatedly challenged the
volume of property being returned and the financial compensation to be
out for the rest arguing that the country’s public finances are in no
state to carry such a burden.
Under the draft legislation, the Czech state would return some 56 percent of the physical property worth around 75 billion crowns; for the rest, Czech churches and religious societies would receive some 60 billion crowns in compensation over a period of 30 years.
The bill will now go to the opposition-controlled Senate where it faces almost certain rejection before returning to the lower house for another vote in the autumn. The opposition claims that with the majority of Czechs opposing church restitutions it will be harder for the ruling parties to give it a final seal of approval ahead of the senate and regional elections in the fall. However Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday night he was confident the coalition would have the 101 votes needed to overturn the Senate’s veto.
The head of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg,has said the party would not remain in government without its founding father Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. Mr. Schwarzenberg made the statement on Czech Television in response to calls for Mr. Kalousek’s dismissal from office on the grounds that he had allegedly tried to influence a police investigation into the purchase of military planes for the Czech army. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who pointed out that he has yet to see the evidence behind the accusations, said the finance minister was not only the founding father of TOP 09 but the “heart and brains” behind the government’s reform programme and he could not imagine carrying on without him.
The lower house is to take a vote of no-confidence in the centre-right government next Wednesday, July 18. The session was called by lower house speaker Miroslava Němcová at the initiative of the opposition Social Democrats. The house will also debate a proposal to set up a parliamentary committee to look into alleged political interventions into the police investigation of the dubious purchase of CASA military aircraft for the Czech army. The opposition, which has called for the dismissal of Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, over his alleged role in the affair, has tabled a vote of no-confidence despite the fact that to all accounts it does not have the 101 votes needed to bring down the government.
The month-old baby girl who was kidnapped and abducted to Germany is on her way home. Baby Michaela who was forcibly taken from her mother in the street when she was just 18-days old has been identified and handed over to her mother. The child was found by German police a week after her abduction thanks to cameras which registered the number of the kidnappers’ rented vehicle. Four people have been arrested in connection with the case. The motive of the crime is still not clear.
The health ministry has tabled a proposed amendment to the law on advertising which is to prevent funeral services from insensitive advertising, the internet daily idnes reported on Saturday. The paper says that in an effort to sell their services some funeral companies cross the border of good taste placing ads in the close vicinity of hospitals and drugstores. In other cases hospital staff distributed such leaflets to the families of diseased patients. The proposed amendment which to be put to the cabinet, places clear restrictions on where funeral services may advertise.
A twenty-six-year old man is reported to have died at the Masters of Rock festival underway in the town of Vizovice, in eastern Moravia. The man is reported to have gone to sleep very drunk and most likely died of heart failure in his sleep. An autopsy is being performed to ascertain the precise cause of death.
Ten people are reported to have been injured in a serious accident in Březnice, southern Bohemia. Two cars, each carrying five passengers, collided head on in the early morning hours of Saturday. All ten passengers were injured, five of them seriously. One of the cars was carrying a family with three children aged 2,10 and 16. The ten-year old boy suffered serious chest and stomach injuries and was airlifted to hospital as was his mum who suffered a spinal injury. The five young women from the other vehicle were also rushed to nearby hospitals. The injuries of the others were light to serious. It is not clear what caused one of the cars to swerve into the opposite lane.
The lower house on Friday approved the government’s tax reform. The bill, which was passed in its third reading, envisages a one percent hike in Value Added Tax to 15 and 21 percent respectively, fewer tax reliefs for entrepreneurs and the introduction of a 7-percent “solidarity tax” for people with monthly salaries over 100,000 crowns. The tax reform is part of an austerity package aimed at bringing the deficit in public finances under 3 percent of GDP. The proposed tax hikes, which will now be debated in the Senate came under fire from some deputies within the prime ministers Civic Democratic Party who say they will undercut growth.
Finance Minister Miloslav Kalousek went before Parliament’s security committee on Friday to defend himself against allegations that he had lobbied and even threatened the police president in connection with the investigation of the dubious purchase of CASA planes for the Czech army. Addressing the committee, Mr. Kalousek admitted that he had made three phone calls to the police president on July 4th but claimed that had all been related to the purchase of a new fleet of cars for the police. He firmly denied having put pressure on the police president in connection with the CASA investigation which concerns a close party colleague of his, Vlasta Parkanová.
Meanwhile the police president, Petr Lessy, who told the same committee on Thursday that the finance minister called him personally three times in one day to complain about the police investigation in the purchase of CASA planes for the army is standing by his story and says he is ready to take a lie detector test to prove it. He claims that Mr. Kalousek first threatened him and the whole team working on the case and later called again to tone down his remarks and apologize.