The government has again approved a stabilisation package rejected by the
Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, where several rebel MPs were
in its blocking. The coalition government needed 101 votes but six Civic
Democrats– opposed to the idea of further raising the two-tier VAT rate
– voted against. The bill is being pushed to help lower the deficit. The
centre-right government led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas is staking its
future on the bill by tying it to a vote of confidence.
The prime minister suggested on Thursday that the next few weeks would reveal rebel MPs’ ‘true intentions’, that is, whether they were purposely trying to damage the government or individual politicians, or were honestly concerned about programme issues.
In related news, lawmaker Petr Tluchoř has revealed that he and other MPs opposed to the government’s tax package will take part in talks next week after the session in the Chamber of Deputies. The MP stressed in a statement for the Czech news agency that he would not outline specific demands prior to sitting down with the prime minister. He revealed that the six deputies, however, were ready to support the package in a first reading when the government submitted it again and that they would support the shortening of deadlines in the legislative procedure. In the final reading of the bill, Mr Tluchoř said, he and the others would only vote for it if changes had been made.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved an amendment aiming to reduce overcrowding in prisons. The bill, rejected earlier by the Senate, emphasises alternative sentences such as home detention or parole. Under the bill, the minimal period to be eligible for parole would be shortened – a key factor senators rejected. The bill passed in the lower house on Thursday with 102 votes. The justice minister, Pavel Blažek, has called the amendment “essential”. According to available data, the country’s jails in August held 23,200 inmates – 2,500 over the limit. Some jails are overcrowded by as much as 30 percent.
The central satellite navigation centre of the European space agency’s Galileo program began full operation on Thursday in Prague’s Holešovice district. The Galileo system or GSA, is the European answer to the American GPS navigation system, and should be launched sometime in 2014 or 2015. The European space agency already has two out of the necessary 18 satellites in orbit and two more should be launched in early October. The Czech Republic was selected out of 12 EU countries to host it. Among those who spoke at the launch on Thursday were Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, GSA head Carlos Des Dorides, and Czech Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš.
The Senior Citizens Council has petitioned President Václav Klaus to not sign into law a government bill slowing down the growth of old age pensions. The amendment on pensions – part of a broader austerity package aimed at reducing the gap in public spending – was passed in the lower house on Wednesday. According to the bill, which was rejected earlier by the Senate, pensions will be adjusted yearly by a third of the increase in prices and in real wages. The previous system had pensions adjusted by the full amount of price and wage increases. The Senior Citizens Council is some 320,000 members strong; 1.7 million people in the Czech Republic are over the age of 65 and average monthly pensions amount to 10,740 crowns.
Education Minister Petr Fiala told university chancellors on Wednesday that next year Czech universities will operate on a budget of 21.8 billion crowns – roughly 700 million crowns more than in 2012. The minister made the statement at a meeting of the Czech Rectors Conference in České Budějovice. The amount was confirmed by the head of the Czech Rectors Conference Václav Hampl.
Police have charged the mayor of České Budějovice Juraj Thoma and a former official at city hall with clerical misprision and breach of trust. Mr Thoma is under suspicion of having signed a contractual addendum on the purchase of computers without approval from the town council. In doing so, he allegedly ignored a limit on deals that can be approved without a public tender; if found guilty of the charges the mayor could face up to ten years in jail.
A woman allegedly victimised by prominent physician Jaroslav Barták, who is on trial on charges of sexual abuse, was unable to testify against the defendant on Thursday for health reasons. The witness, said to be deeply traumatised by her ordeal, developed psychiatric problems which prevented her from taking the stand. After leaving Mr Barták’s employ, she had received treatment and was hospitalised. Several others in the case who were also allegedly brutalised developed similar problems. The judge overseeing the case said on Thursday that expert witnesses would assess the woman’s condition and would determine her ability to appear in court in the future.
Sixth-seed Tomáš Berdych beat the favoured Roger Federer Wednesday night in a quarterfinal match at the US Open tennis tournament. It took four sets for the highest ranking Czech tennis player to beat the 17-time Grand Slam winner and this year’s Wimbledon champion. The final score was 7:6 (1), 6:4, 3:6, 6:3. Berdych will face Andy Murray in the semi-final on Saturday.