A badly set up state system supporting solar energy could end up costing Czech tax payers up to CZK 1 billion, the environment minister, Tomáš Chalupa, said on a TV debate programme on Sunday. The Energy Regulatory Office said on Monday that an internal audit had revealed that some of its officials had acted illegally in setting inflated purchase prices for solar power in the 2005–2011 period. The regulator said excessive charges levied under the scheme could total tens of billions of crowns and filed criminal charges in relation to the matter. Minister Chalupa blamed the situation on deputies who approved the system in 2005 and subsequent governments. He also said that solar power producers could go bankrupt and leave fields of panels for the local authorities to clean up.
The body that brings together companies active in the solar power field is planning to file a criminal complaint against the chairwoman of the Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková. A representative of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association said on Czech TV on Sunday that the regulator deliberately produced false data that was then used by the Constitutional Court. The court ruled last year that the government was within its rights to put a retroactive tax on solar power plant investors in order to curb a solar boom. The industry body says the Energy Regulatory Office’s action against its own staff has been intended to cover up for the organisation’s failings.
President Václav Klaus’s chief of protocol, Jindřich Forejt, will remain in the post under the new head of state, Miloš Zeman. Mr. Forejt had been tipped to be the Czech Republic’s next ambassador to the Vatican. His prospective appointment had been the source of a dispute between Mr. Klaus and the foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, who said the post should only be filled by an experienced diplomat. Another of the outgoing president’s team, his chancellor Jiří Weigl, rejected an offer to remain at Prague Castle. Mr. Klaus steps down on March 7, with Mr. Zeman due to be inaugurated the following day.
The deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, Lubomír
Zaorálek, says he is still waiting to learn who formulated a
amnesty declared by President Klaus at the beginning of the year. Speaking
on a TV debate programme on Sunday, Mr. Zaorálek said that he had applied
for the information under right to information legislation but had
a reply from Prague Castle that “said nothing”. He said that he would
now address the president directly and would consider taking a lawsuit if
he does not find satisfaction.
Under President Klaus’s amnesty, which he said was to mark 20 years since the foundation of the Czech Republic, over 6,000 prisoners have been released early, while – more controversially – cases dragging through the courts for eight years or longer have been thrown out. The president’s office has refused to specify who drew up the declaration.
The Ministry of Culture has decided that a former slaughterhouse in Prague’s Holešovice district will remain a protected historical landmark. Prague Town Hall had requested a downgrading in its protected status, arguing that some parts have of the site have no historical value, and can now appeal the ministry’s ruling. The one-time slaughterhouse is today home to Holešovice market, which has been rebranded as “Prague Market” in recent years.
The Czech women’s tennis team have beaten Australia to reach the semi-finals of the Fed Cup for the fifth time in five years. Petra Kvitova lost the first set of her singles rubber against Samantha Stosur in Ostrava on Sunday and faced match-ball in the second, but she recovered to win 2-6 7-6 6-4 to give the Czech Republic an unassailable 3:0 lead on matches. The Czech women won the Fed Cup in Prague last year just weeks before the Czech men’s team triumphed in the Davis Cup, making it the first time that the country held both trophies.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech says he will be fit to play against his former club Sparta Prague in a Europa League tie in the Czech capital on Thursday. Čech broke a finger in a game for the English Premier League side last weekend, but turned out for them on Saturday wearing a protective splint. The player, who is 30, said on his own website that Chelsea’s doctors had left it up to him whether to take to the field. He has never faced Sparta since leaving the Czech club over a decade ago.
The Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, says the Czech Republic’s threat to veto a proposed European Union budget helped secure more funding for the country. Mr. Nečas made the comment in Brussels on Friday shortly after a summit of EU leaders hammered out an agreement on a budget for the 2014–2020 period. Under the deal, the Czech Republic will be able to draw up to EUR 20.5 billion as part of the bloc’s cohesion policy. That figure is down from the EUR 26.7 billion available to the country under the current long-term budget, with the fall reflecting both austerity efforts and the Czech Republic’s relative growth in wealth. Mr. Nečas said the figure proposed prior to the summit was unacceptably low and that the country’s veto threat had been “significant” in winning increased funding, adding that the sum for the Czech Republic per capita would still be fourth highest in the EU.
The opposition Social Democrats criticized Prime Minister Nečas’s performance at the EU summit. The party’s leader, Bohuslav Sobotka, said at a news conference on Saturday that because the Czech Republic was going to receive less EU funding under the next budget it meant Mr. Nečas – and the country – had been defeated in Brussels. The Social Democrarts’ deputy chairman, Lubomír Zaorálek, said the outcome reflected the approach of the Czech Republic’s diplomats and the country’s foreign policy.
Pressure on Prime Minister Nečas is growing within his party, the Civic Democrats, Novinky.cz reported on Saturday. The news website said some members were giving their chairman until a party congress in the autumn to turn around its fortunes or face possible replacement ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. The dominant right-wing force in Czech politics in the last two decades, the Civic Democrats currently lead an unpopular coalition government after garnering 20 percent in the last general elections. A poll this week suggested they would receive 15.6 percent in a vote held now, just ahead of their rivals on the right (and coalition partners) TOP 09 on 14.5 percent. Some mayoral candidates have recently said that they will not run for election under the Civic Democrats’ banner as it would harm their chances.