The Czech Republic does not support the Palestinian Authority's bid to upgrade its status at the UN to a non-member observer state, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the news website lidovky.cz on Thursday. In the upcoming vote at the UN General Assembly, the Czech delegate will vote against a resolution requesting the upragrade, Mr Schwarzenberg said, arguing such position was in line with the Czech Republic's long standing policy on the issue. According to media reports, some two thirds of UN member states, including China, Russia, France, Austria, and others, pledged their support for the bid.
The opposition Social Democrats have again vowed to abolish the government’s overhaul of the pension system as soon as they come to power. Speaking at a conference in Prague on Thursday, the party’s economic expert, Jan Mládek said they would abolish individual pension accounts managed by private funds as introduced by the reform. Mr Mládek said a Social Democrat cabinet would look for inspiration to Hungary where private pension savings were nationalized in 2010.
President Václav Klaus on Thursday formally received the resignation of Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš, of the LIDEM party, who had earlier announced he would step down on Monday. Mr Dobeš joined the cabinet in July 2011 but found himself under pressure to step down from within his own party over problems of a new system of central vehicle registry. The coalition parties are yet to reach agreement on the new transport minister.
The mandate and immunity committee of the Czech lower house has issued a recommendation that deputies lift the immunity of MP Roman Pekárek. The committee reached a unanimous decision on the matter, chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters on Thursday. Mr. Pekárek was in the process of appealing a six-year jail term for corruption when he gained a seat in the Chamber of Deputies due to the resignation of a party colleague from the Civic Democrats. He has rejected calls for him to quit the lower house. It will vote on his fate in its next session, which starts on Tuesday.
Czech university student Radim Tobolka, who was earlier this month detained in Togo on espionage allegations, has been allowed to return home, a spokesman for the University of Hradec Králové said on Thursday. Mr Tobolka, who attends a postgraduate programme in political science at the university, was researching the political systems in Togo and Burundi. He was arrested on November 10 but the police raised no charges against him. On Thursday, the authorities returned his passport and said he would be able to leave the country as soon as he obtains a visa, the university said.
A court in Prague on Thursday sentenced the former head of the city’s municipal police, Vladimír Kotrouš, to six years in jail for accepting a bribe and abuse of power. Mr Kotrouš was convicted of taking a bribe of 350,000 crowns from an auto repair service in exchange for a promise a contract with the firm will be extended. Mr Kotrouš confessed to the charge but said he only accepted part of the money. The court also banned him from joining the police for a period of 10 years.
In related news, Prague City Council on Thursday approved Eduard Šuster as the new head of the municipal police. Mr Šuster, who joined the state police in 1994, most recently served as commander of an emergency response unit of the force. His predecessor in the post, Vladimír Kotrouš was arrested last November on corruption charges. Mr Šuster told the city council he would try to improve the reputation of the Prague municipal police.
Fuel prices in the Czech Republic have continued to fall this week, according to figures by the CCS monitoring firm released on Thursday. The price of the most popular petrol, Natural 95, decreased by 0.24 crowns to an average of 35.6 crowns per litre while the average price of diesel dropped by 0.008 crowns to 36.1 crowns per litre. The highest prices have been registered at gas stations in the capital; the lowest were recorded in the Plzeň and Ústí regions. Analysts say the strengthening Czech crown and lower margins are behind the continued drop in fuel prices.
The Czech state-owned railway transporter, ČD Cargo, will post a loss of nearly two billion crowns, or around 100 million US dollars, for the year 2012, the opposition Social Democrat shadow transport minister Milan Chovanec said. Mr Chovanec blamed the loss on the firm’s management which has not compensated decreasing numbers of cargo trains by single wagon shipments. Mr Chovanec also said the state-owned company was going to cut some 450 jobs by the end of the year, and another 2,000 jobs in 2013. The company refused comment, and said it would reveal its strategy before the end of the year. ČD Cargo employs around 9,500 workers. Last year, the firm posted a lost of 60 million crowns, down from over 850 million crowns in the previous year.
The mayor of the north-eastern town Frýdek Místek, Social Democrat Petr Cvik on Thursday said he would officially resign as of December 3. Mr Cvik has been on leave since May when several town hall officials, including deputy mayor, were accused of manipulating public procurement tenders. Frýdek Místek town hall is set to elect the new mayor next week.