The lower house has approved the government’s pension reform, overriding the Senate’s veto of the bill. The legislation, which should take effect next year, introduces a so-called “second pillar” of the pension system which will open the way for transfers of money from the state pension system to individual accounts in private insurance companies. People will also be able to transfer three percent of their social security insurance to private pension companies on the condition that they add two percent on their own. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the second pillar for serving only a select group of rich clients. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka has said his party would scrap the second pillar when it came to power.
The Pirate party, right-of-centre TOP 09 and the extremist Workers´ Party of Social Justice would win the Czech regional elections if it were up to secondary school students. Nearly 22,000 students from 170 secondary schools across the country took part in the mock elections, organised by the NGO People in Need. In the student vote, the Pirate party won 20 percent, TOP 09 received 15 percent, and the extremist Workers´ Party of Social Justice received 10 percent. Analysts say the vote reflects a strong anti-establishment sentiment.
The Prague High Court on Friday upheld a three-year prison sentence for businessman Tomas Pitr for tax evasion and an illegal transfer of shares. Pitr appealed the length of the sentence despite the fact that he will only have to serve 12 months, having already spent two years in custody. Pitr was found guilty in 2010 of having damaged the Agrocredit company, robbing them of shares worth 700 million crowns.
The lower house of Parliament has voted to give up MP David Rath for criminal prosecution in another case of suspected corruption. This case relates to manipulated tenders and dubious purchases at a number of central Bohemian hospitals. The motion was supported by 174 out of 185 deputies present. The former central Bohemian governor who is in custody facing corruption charges in connection with an alleged seven million crown bribe asked to be given up saying he wanted to clear his name in court. He has accused the centre-right government of organizing a well-orchestrated smear campaign ahead of the autumn elections.
A Czech soldier serving in Afghanistan is reported to have been seriously injured in Friday’s missile attack on the Shank operating base in Logar province. The soldier, who is on the provincial reconstruction team, was airlifted to a military hospital in Kabul where he is in the care of Czech physicians. There are currently some 300 Czech soldiers and civilian experts working at the base.
The London Booster, a 1957 red double-decker bus fitted with giant hydraulic arms, which attracted crowds doing push-ups in front of the Czech Olympic House in Islington has arrived on Prague’s Old Town Square. The work of Czech artist David Cerny is to be part of a weekend happening celebrating the country’s Olympic achievements. After that it will be dismantled and reassembled on the premises of Agrofert Holding the firm which bought the Olympic artefact. The public will be able to view it again on the firm’s premises in late October.
The mayor of Ostrava, one of the most polluted cities in the country, has called on the EU’s environment commissioner for help in resolving the situation. Mayor Petr Kaynar says the town is prepared to invest in a long-term strategy to improve the environment, particularly the quality of air, but would like the problem to be addressed on a broader scale. The mayor says that according to several independent studies most of the air pollution plaguing the town originates in neighbouring Poland. Health statistics show that the air pollution in the eastern part of the country, particularly Ostrava, has resulted in a growing incidence of asthma and allergy problems.
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.
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.
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