Speaking before the beginning of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that the current proposal for the EU budget for 2014-2020 is unacceptable for the Czech Republic and he is prepared to veto it. The premier said he wants the budget to be slimmer on the one hand, and to be fair to the Czech Republic on the other. The beginning of the meeting over the budget was moved to a later time on Thursday evening, in order to give EU leaders a chance to hold bilateral meetings beforehand.
The Czech power utility ČEZ is launching international arbitration proceedings against Albania for failing to protect its investment in the country’s energy sector. The company is filing for damages to the tune of 5 billion crowns. ČEZ’s license to operate Albania’s national grid was revoked in January over a long-running dispute with the Albanian energy regulator over tariffs and unpaid bills. Company officials say that decisions made by the Albanian authorities are incompatible with European business standards as well as being in violation of Albanian law.
Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Civic Democrat Miroslava Němcová, has criticized her own party for giving former “rebel” MPs Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa as well as former defense minister Alexander Vondra lucrative positions in state-owned companies. In an interview on Thursday with the radio station Impuls, Ms Němcová said that these were compromises that crossed the line. Mr Šnajdr and Mr Fuksa were among the Civic Democrat MPs who attempted to block government proposed tax hikes late last year. They eventually quit their lower house seats to allow the package to pass.
The Public Affairs party allegedly had a secret bank account from which it paid out over 41 million crowns, according to a report aired on commercial TV Nova. Journalists were given documents by an unidentified source that showed payments made by the party in 2010 and 2011. Several people, including a member of the party, confirmed the document’s validity. A number of current and former party members further admitted to receiving some payments in cash in those years. Party chairman Radek John has denied any knowledge of a hidden account and the party’s de-facto leader Vít Bárta said the report was an attempt to tarnish his reputation.
After a meeting with president-elect Miloš Zeman, the head of the Public Affairs deputies’ group in Parliament Katerina Klasnová said that the future president commended her party for filing a constitutional complaint over the church property restitution law. The two also agreed on the need to increase the powers of the Supreme Audit Office. Later on Thursday afternoon Mr Zeman was also due to hold talks with the Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip. A meeting with TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg, Mr. Zeman’s unsuccessful rival in the presidential election, has been scheduled for Friday. The newly-elected head of state is still refusing to meet with the leader of the newly-emerged political grouping LIDEM, a break-away faction from the Public Affairs Party, on the grounds that it lacks legitimacy.
The Czech Medical Chamber will hold a protest against government reforms in the health sector on March 1. The chamber wants to warn the public that changes recently introduced by the Health Ministry will decrease quality, safety and access to healthcare. Patients will be able to sign a petition at doctors’ offices, which calls on the ministry not to lower public spending on healthcare and to protect quality. The medical chamber is also planning to file a constitutional complaint against the ministry. It claims private doctors’ salaries will decrease by 20% this year. The Health Ministry claims that quality of care will not deteriorate as a result of its reforms.
A quarter of all cases of encephalitis reported in Europe in the past 40 years have been from the Czech Republic. The head of the Coalition for Vaccination Rastislav Maďar said on Thursday that the Czech Republic is a source country for encephalitis that has spread to other states. Last year, the Czech Republic had the highest incidence of the disease in the whole of the EU, with over 570 patients infected. Mr Maďar said that given the relatively warm and damp weather, the country can expect a further increase of encephalitis cases this year.
The Ministry of Culture has announced that it will allocated at least the same amount of money to theaters this year as it did last year. Although originally the ministry had planned to give 37 million crowns to support the country’s theaters, after protests last year, the total budget was raised to approximately 55 million. This is still only about a third of the amount that was supposed to be distributed to theaters, according to the Conception of Effective Support of Culture for 2007-2013.
The first day of the biathlon world championship has begun in the town of Nové Město in Moravia on Thursday evening. Michal Šlesingr, who was supposed to take part in today’s mixed relay race, did not participate, due to flu. He is replaced by Jaroslav Soukup, who had been recovering from a surgery until just a month ago.
The Czech national football team beat Turkey 2:0 in a friendly match in Turkish city of Manisa on Wednesday night. The Czechs dominated the first half of the game; they went ahead in the 3rd minute and added another goal some 25 minutes laters. The hosts improved in the second half but the Czechs managed to stay clear. The Czech national team is next playing Denmark in a world cup qualifier in Olomouc next month.