The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX has appointed Jaroslava Novotná as its new Chief Prosecutor. Novotná has worked as a prosecutor for more than thirty years both at home and abroad, most recently working in the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in the Czech Republic. She has particular expertise in dealing with cases related to drugs trafficking and organised crime. EULEX was established in 2008 with the aim of helping to secure the rule of law in Kosovo. It includes a team of prosecutors from EU countries who cooperate with their local opposite numbers in the prosecution of organised crime, war crimes, terrorism, ethnic violence and corruption. There are currently two other Czech prosecutors working in Kosovo.
The Prague branch of the Civic Democratic Party elected Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda its chairman on Monday. A total of 68 out of 95 delegates supported Mr. Svoboda, who had only one contender, former City Hall councillor Jiří Janeček. The newly elected chairman announced that the Civic Democrats should strive to renew their dominant position in Prague. Mr. Svoboda replaces Boris Šťastný, who submitted his resignation on the same day. Mr. Svoboda, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, joined the Civic Democrats in September 2011. The head of the Civic Democratic Party, Prime Minister Petr Nečas welcomed the outcome of the vote on Tuesday and expressed the hope that Mr. Svoboda would help the Prague Civic Democrats regain public trust.
Over 4 500 people are expected to join Thursday’s protest march against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement signed in Tokio last week. The protest is organized by the Czech Pirate Party which says it will seek ways to boycott the treaty which the Czech Republic signed up to. The agreement aims to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcements. Within hours of its signing last Thursday hackers attacked the websites of the Czech government and that of OSA, a Czech copyrights holders association. The march is to set out from Klarov at 2pm on Thursday and lead to Prague Castle and back by the same route.
Two trains were in danger of colliding on Tuesday morning after running opposite each other on the same track. The passenger train was reportedly travelling on its regular Pardubice –Rosice route east of Prague when the express train was guided onto the same track some distance away. The trains were stopped at a safe distance from each other. A team of railway inspectors is investigation the case.
Prague councillors on Tuesday voted to clear Prague’s Wenceslas Square of stands to pave the ground for a face lift that is expected to start in the near future. The plan envisages installing 6 unified stands which would sell only newspapers, flowers and possibly fresh pastries. Whether or not any of the traditional items –such as hot sausages - will be allowed back remains open to debate. A previous attempt to ban them from the square failed amidst loud protests from both locals and tourists.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas, upon his arrival at an EU summit in
Brussels on Monday, said that the current draft of the fiscal compact was
unsatisfactory for the Czech Republic. If the Czech Republic was to sign
the compact and contribute funds to the IMF, it should be treated as a
full-fledged partner, he said. Mr. Nečas added that without full Czech
participation in eurozone summits, the pact would not be acceptable.
EU leaders are expected to sign off on the final text of the fiscal compact, aimed at establishing tighter fiscal discipline across the eurozone, on Monday. Another point on the agenda is a treaty creating the European Stability Mechanism.
Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra will be presenting a proposal for the Czech mandate in Afghanistan up until the year 2014 in the spring. Mr. Vondra told press on Monday that Czech troops would continue taking part in the peace-keeping mission ISAF but that the contingent would gradually be reduced. NATO members had entered the mission together and should finish it together as well, he said. He added that he would be discussing the Czech mandate with the opposition and that he wanted to ensure the soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan would be informed of the details of a possible future deployment by the end of this year, when their current deployment ends. Mr. Vondra will also be discussing the ISAF mission in Brussels at the end of this week, as well as at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May. Some 600 Czech soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan.
The Czech construction company Metrostav has signed a cooperation
agreement with the US firm Westinghouse, which has applied for a tender to
complete the Temelín nuclear power plant. The contract, signed on Monday,
concerns the construction of two new reactors at the plant, which should
amount to some 30 percent of the total price of the tender. Metrostav’s
general director said that while other bidders for the Temelín tender had
approached his company, he believed Westinghouse had a strong chance of
winning it. In December, Westinghouse signed a cooperation agreement with
the Czech engineering company Vítkovice with a view to supplying
components for the two planned blocks at the Temelín nuclear power plant.
Westinghouse is one of three bidders in a multi-billion tender to build new reactors at the Temelín plant, along with France’s Areva and the Russian state enterprise Atomstroiexport. The total cost of the two new reactors for Temelín is estimated to reach roughly 150 billion Czech crowns.
A bugging device was uncovered in the car of Transport Minister and Public
Affairs party member Pavel Dobeš last autumn, the Czech daily Mladá
fronta Dnes reports. Technicians allegedly found the listening device
during a technical check. At the time, Mr Dobeš’s chauffeur was Tomáš
Jánský, the paper said, describing him as an aide to the party’s de
facto leader Vít Bárta and to the ABL security agency that Mr Bárta
owned before entering high politics.
Last autumn, no one reported the uncovered bug in the transport minister’s car to the police, who learned about it only in connection with a different investigation. According to the newspaper, Tomáš Jánský figured in a police file concerning Vít Bárta’s alleged attempt to bribe then-fellow Public Affairs MPs Kristýna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka. Mr Bárta was himself transport minister from mid-2010 to April 2011 when he resigned over suspected corruption.
The European Commission has slammed the Czech Education Ministry for two
of its projects financed with EU funds, OKNO and SPORT. Both projects were
of dubious quality and their effects questionable, the commission writes
its letter to Education Minister Josef Dobeš. The EC has voiced harsh
criticism over the fact that the projects, with a combined budget of 1.2
billion Czech crowns, did not have a sound financing plan. In addition,
more than half of the funds spent under the SPORT initiative went to
analyses and TV commercials, which was simply unacceptable. EU funds for
education are meant to go to individuals, not PR agencies, the commission
writes in its letter. It notes that the ministry’s use of EU funds casts
doubt on whether the money is being used to make the systematic changes
needed to modernize the country’s education system. Prime Minister Petr
Nečas is set to discuss the matter with Mr. Dobeš.
This is not the first time Mr. Dobeš’s ministry has come under fire from the European Commission. Previously, Brussels auditors had uncovered irregularities in EU-funded projects and ordered that all further payments from the Education for Competitiveness Operational Program be frozen until the matter was investigated and fully explained.