The Civic Democrats have rejected the ultimatum issued by their coalition partner TOP 09. The second largest coalition partner announced on Tuesday that it will not sign the new coalition contract unless it includes a commitment to join the EU’s Fiscal Compact by the end of the year. The head of the Civic Democrats’ deputies' group, Marek Benda, said that his party will not comply with the demand. At a meeting on Thursday morning, the Civic Democratic leadership agreed that there is no reason for the Czech Republic to join the fiscal pact just yet. The Czech Republic and the UK are the only two EU countries that have not signed the Fiscal Compact, which is mandatory for Eurozone member states.
The Ostrava State Attorney’s office has filed a lawsuit against the former Defense Minister Martin Barták and the arms dealer Michal Smrž. Both men are being accused of soliciting bribes from the truck maker Tatra in exchange for a defense contract deal in 2008. The two men will be tried separately. The anti-corruption police filed charges against them last November.
The Czech Finance Ministry has worsened its economic prognosis for the upcoming years in a new micro-economic analysis released on Thursday. According to the new estimates, the Czech GDP will grow only by 0.1%, compared to the 0.7% that was estimated in October. The Czech National Bank has previously placed the estimate at 0.2%. The Finance Ministry has dampened its prognosis because of the anticipated slowing down of growth in the Eurozone countries, which will influence Czech exports. The analysis predicts that the economic growth will pick up in 2014, when the economy should grow by 1.4%.
President-elect Miloš Zeman has asked the Czech police to place a protective detail on his nineteen-year-old daughter Kateřina. She was a highly visible member of Mr Zeman’s campaign, which is why police president’s deputy has said that giving Ms Zemanová police protection is warranted. The final decision will be made by the Interior Minister Jan Kubice, once the proposal is assessed. Mr Zeman was given a state security detail already on Saturday after being confirmed as the winner in the presidential elections, but has so far also commissioned a private security company to protect him.
The Czech Medical Chamber is calling on doctors with private practices to organize protests against new regulations from the Health Ministry that could drastically lower doctors’ incomes. The chamber is warning that doctors’ real wages could decrease by as much as 20% this year, and some may be forced to cover parts of patient treatments that the public insurance companies will no longer cover. There is also a possibility that insurance companies will be re-evaluating all private practitioners’ contracts, as they did with hospitals last year. The Health Ministry says that private doctors have always been favored by the public insurance system and the effects of austerity measures will logically affect them more than hospitals.
According to the results of a study released by the Center for Public Opinion Research (CVVM), some 70% of Czechs are worried about being financially secure after retirement. A little over 80% of the respondents said that the government pension will not be sufficient for maintaining a good quality of life. But only 56% currently have private savings or investments. The most concerned are people with lower quality of life and voters of left-wing parties.
The fast increase in temperatures, melting of snow and rain in the past few days has caused a number of rivers around the Czech Republic to rise. Flood warnings are in effect from Thursday morning in the Plzeň, Ústí nad Labem and South Bohemian regions. Authorities in Prague, Central Bohemia, Pardubice, Hradec Králové and Vysočina regions have asked residents to be mindful of potential flooding. Nine rivers in southern Bohemia have risen beyond the first flood level. Some rivers in the north of Bohemia passed the highest – third – flood level on Wednesday night, but by Thursday morning were down below dangerous levels.
The traditional nation-wide Three Kings collection drive organized by the non-profit organization Charita Czech Republic, brought in a record amount of donations this year. The drive that is held annually on the occasion of the Christian holiday of the Magi, or the Three Kings in Czech, celebrated on January 6, brought in almost 77 million crowns, which is 1.6 million more than last year. Around 50,000 volunteers collected money for the two weeks surrounding the holiday dressed as the three kings and singing carols. This was the thirteenth year of the drive, and the donated money will go to projects and organizations that help the physically, mentally and socially disadvantaged persons.
The Prague City Hall will launch a month-long project in February, which will see nutrition consultants visit around 30 schools to advise their lunchroom staff on how to improve the daily menu. The Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Thursday that the consultants will have a taste of what kids are offered in the mess and will make suggestions on how to prepare tastier and healthier food. As part of the project, organizers will also hold discussions with the school children about healthy eating choices.
Miloš Zeman has ended his post-campaign recuperation the town of Veselí na Žďársku where he has a house and has returned to Prague on Thursday. The president-elect attended the meeting of the Party for Citizens’ Rights Zemanovci, where he is the honorary chairman. Mr Zeman and his team will also begin making the necessary preparations for his transition to the castle.