President Václav Klaus confirmed former senator Ludmila Müllerová, of TOP 09, as the new Labour and Social Affairs Minister. She replaces Jaromír Drábek, who resigned from his post at the end of October. Mr Drábek stepped down after corruption charges were brought against his former first deputy. At her appointing on Friday, Mr Klaus stressed that stability was needed at the ministry; the naming of a successor to Mr Drábek was originally delayed by regional and Senate elections, as well as an inner-government dispute over raising taxes.
In related news, it is not yet clear who will replace outgoing Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš. Dobeš’ party LIDEM, which pressured him this week to step down over a number of problems, including a faulty electronic vehicle registration system, nominated Robert Vacek in his stead. But Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced on Thursday night that he would not support the nomination and is expecting LIDEM leader Karolína Peake to submit another candidate from her party. Mr Nečas said that Mr Vacek did not have the proper qualifications. He followed up with a stronger statement on Friday morning saying that the former security chief for Vít Barta would never be in his government. Mrs Peake has said no other candidate is being considered and made clear LIDEM will review the situation – including the viability of remaining in the centre-right government – next week.
President Václav Klaus has cancelled a four-day visit to Israel scheduled to have begun on Sunday, spokesman Radim Ochvat told the Czech news agency on Thursday evening. No details were added. The president announced his visit to Israel back in August. With the trip, he reportedly wanted to reciprocate Israeli President Shimon Peres's visit to Prague two years ago. But this week Israel started retaliatory air and artillery operations in the territory of Gaza from where Palestinian militants had renewed missile attacks on Israel. The Czech ambassador to Israel Tomáš Pojar told ČTK that Prague and Tel Aviv had agreed on the postponement of the trip after mutual talks, taking into account the tense situation in the country.
Over the course of 2012, 223 Czechs were given the status of freedom fighters who had fought against the former Communist regime, making them eligible for compensation equaling a total of 15.2 million crowns, with surviving relatives getting a total of 900,000. It has been a year since legislation recognising those who fought against totalitarian rule went into place. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Friday that the ministry had received 3,714 requests for recognition of which 424 so far had been rejected. The minister said that those who risked their lives and their health to fight against the regime, deserved the gratitude of many. Freedom fighters, active largely following the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia took numerous anti-regime steps including the publication and distribution of illegal pamphlets, magazines, and literature known as samizdat.
The Albanian division of the Czech energy giant ČEZ has begun to disconnect electricity supplies to Albania's state-owned water utilities that failed until now to settle long-term debts, ČEZ spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová has revealed on the company's website. The total sum of receivables from such companies has reached the equivalent of 971 million crowns (the equivalent of 37 million euros) the spokeswoman revealed. ČEZ has moved to cut off the water utilities from electricity after a series of negotiations with Albanian representatives failed. The Czech supplier said it had repeatedly invited the water utilities to settle their debt and had repeatedly postponed settlement deadlines – an apparent attempt to avoid the current situation.
Social Democrats in the region of Central Bohemia have reached an agreement on forming a regional government with representatives of the Communist Party. The former, who dominated in recent local elections, will have seven representatives, including the post of governor and five deputies, while the Communist Party will hold four seats and have one deputy leader. Social Democrat Miloš Petera made the announcement on Friday.
Two Czechs being held on spying charges in Greece have been denied bail by a Greek court, the suspects’ parents have told journalists. Martin Pezlar, 28, and Ivan Buchta, 33, were arrested on September 9 on the island of Limnos for allegedly photographing a local military site. Both men, who work for a Czech software company, have denied any wrongdoing. According to their families, others at the prison on Chios where the Czechs are being held had to translate the decision, dated October 25, from Greek. If Mr Pezlar and Mr Buchta are found guilty in the case they could face up to 20 years in jail.
A regional court in South Moravia has ordered the emergency health service to issue a written apology as well as pay 100,000 crowns in damages for steps taken in a home birth in 2010. Shortly after the birth of the baby, a doctor pressured the mother to head to a hospital with her child; the court found no reason for the mother and her newborn to have taken the step: information that the baby was not in good health shortly after birth, as the service claimed, was not confirmed.
The Austrian daily Der Standard has reported that an interview with President Václav Klaus during the Czech head-of-state’s visit to Vienna this week went differently than planned – with Mr Klaus allegedly cutting things short after just a few minutes. The newspaper maintains that even though the interview was agreed to in advance, the president allowed only four questions. The reporter asked about the president's views on further EU integration and nationalism before time ran out. Spokesman Radim Ochvat denied the interview had been planned and suggested it was impromptu on the heels of a book presentation and signing. He also said it was also not an exclusive interview but that other journalists were present. Der Standard noted that the Czech president left without a saying a word.
The Davis Cup final will be decided in Prague this weekend, pitting the Czech national squad against Spain’s: Radek Štěpánek began the opening match against David Ferrer on Friday afternoon; fellow Czech player Tomáš Berdych will play Nicolás Almagro. Spain, without Rafael Nadal who is injured, are the defending champions as well as the favourites; but the Czechs – playing at home – will be hoping for an upset. When the teams faced off on clay in Barcelona in 2009, the Czechs lost 5:0.
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