The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu made a brief stop-over in
Prague on Wednesday to personally thank his Czech counterpart, Petr
for the Czech Republic’s vote at the UN General Assembly last week
against the upgrading of the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations.
The Czech Republic was one of only nine countries to vote against the
Palestinians becoming an observer state – and the only European Union
country to do so. At a press briefing in Prague the Israeli prime minister
said the Czech Republic had taken a brave, if not popular, stance. He
reiterated that he remained committed to a two-state solution with the
Palestinians, but stressed that Israel would not reverse its course in the
construction of new settlements nor would it sacrifice its vital interests
for the sake of obtaining the world's applause.
Analysts note that Mr. Netanyahu’s second visit to Prague this year reflects the two countries' above-standard relations. From Prague the Israeli prime minister will travel to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has confirmed that she is prepared to take over the defence ministry in a planned cabinet reshuffle. At a press briefing in Prague on Wednesday the deputy prime minister said that her party LIDEM was ready to swap ministerial posts with the Civic Democrats. The arrangement being debated is a merger of the transport ministry with that of industry and trade which would be header by the current trade minister Martin Kuba. In return for the loss of the transport ministry the smallest party in government would get the top post at the defence ministry which is about to be vacated by Civic Democrat Alexander Vondra.
The deputy to the supreme state attorney, Stanislav Mečl, has been dismissed from his post. He was removed from office by Justice Minister Pavel Blažek at the request of the Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman. Mr. Zeman’s spokesperson Helena Markusová said that due to several incidents in the recent past the supreme state attorney no longer trusted his deputy. No details were provided and neither Mr. Mečl nor Mr. Zeman have been available for comment.
Korean Air and Qatar Airlines have expressed interest in purchasing shares in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said at a press briefing in Prague on Wednesday. The government is offering to sell a 96 percent stake to a European buyer; other airlines could only purchase a less than 50 percent stake in order to ensure that ČSA remains a national carrier. Although it approached 50 airlines with the offer only Korean Air and Qatar Airlines have responded. The Czech government is expected to decide on the sale in March of next year. A previous attempt to sell off ČSA in 2009 was not successful.
Petr Poncar, the head of social security administration, has resigned in connection with a dubious tender. The news was confirmed on Wednesday by the new labour and social affairs minister, Ludmila Mullerová, who said the suspect tender concerned a planned purchase of printers worth 200 million crowns. The daily Lidové noviny notes that Petr Poncar, a former pension fund director at Allianz, had been handpicked for the post by the former deputy labour minister Vladimir Šiška who is now charged with corruption.
According to Transparency International’s 2012 corruption perception index the Czech Republic’s corruption rating has improved slightly moving it from 57th to 54th place on the ladder, alongside Latvia, Malaysia and Turkey. The Czech branch of TI says that despite the government’s proclaimed anti-corruption drive significant progress will not be made unless more people and more money are involved and the respective anti-corruption laws are in place. TI has repeatedly criticized the absence of a law on civil service, the financing of political parties and the fact that politicians are appointed to the boards of state-run companies.
The Supreme Court has upheld a 16-year-prison sentence for an American citizen who was found guilty of murdering a man on a night tram in Prague last February. The two men reportedly had an argument in a bar after which the victim departed. The American followed him onto a Prague tram shooting him in cold blood after it had emptied out. The 43-year-old man was later found dead by the tram driver.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a two-year suspended sentence and a seven year ban on driving for the notorious road pirate Ales Trpišovský. Trpišovský was accused of presenting a threat to public safety by his reckless and aggressive driving on the country’s D1 highway. According to eyewitnesses he repeatedly hit the brakes in front of slower vehicles as punishment for slowing him down. In one case the car behind him crashed as a result. Trpišovský’s case has become notorious in the Czech Republic, where aggressive driving is a serious problem.
A Christmas outdoor ice-skating rink opened on Prague’s Ovocný trh, in the city centre on Wednesday. The rink is open from 10 am till 10 pm daily for free and people can rent skates on the spot. The ice-rink has an eleven-year-tradition and is used by around 20,000 people every Christmas. It will remain open until January 6th.
The Czech Republic were beaten 5:4 by Latvia in their final group game at the World Floorball Championship in Switzerland on Tuesday night. At one stage the Czechs were leading 4:2, but their opponents made a spirited comeback to win the game and top their group. That result is potentially damaging to the Czech Republic’s chances of progress, as it means they will face current champions Finland in the quarterfinals.