Outgoing Czech President Václav Klaus received an award from the Slovak Entrepreneur’s Association on Wednesday, the second day of his visit to Bratislava. The association praised Mr Klaus’s role in the economic transformation of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic from a central economy to a free market economy after 1989. Mr Klaus served as finance minister in Czechoslovakia and then prime minister in the Czech Republic, overseeing wide-ranging but often criticised reforms in the 1990s. In Bratislava, the president – who leaves office next week – discussed the EU and slammed the union as no longer being a symbol of prosperity. An outspoken EU critic, he also downplayed the negative impact of a member state leaving the euro zone, citing the Czech Republic’s and Slovakia’s own split and successful separation of currency.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said he is not prepared to appoint former prime minister and unsuccessful presidential candidate Jan Fischer to any ambassadorial post. The foreign minister, who has been discussing candidates for several ambassadorial posts with president-elect Miloš Zeman, said in an interview for Wednesday’s Lidové noviny that Mr. Fischer had no experience in diplomatic service and advised him to stick to his field of expertise. The statement comes amid speculation that the president-elect may have promised Mr. Fischer a post in diplomatic service as a show of gratitude for supporting him in the presidential election.
A Czech mountaineer was killed in a slab avalanche on Tuesday in Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains, the Mountain Rescue Service has confirmed. According to the service, the 65-year-old climber was buried after he mistakenly set off the avalanche as he was descending part of the mountain. The climber was not equipped with an anti-avalanche device or with a transceiver. His body was found by rescue workers aided by a sniffer dog. The search ended at around 10 pm on Tuesday.
The Czech government will seek direct talks with the government of Sweden over the continued lease of Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. The Czech Republic, he made clear, was not satisfied by the current approach by Sweden which he suggested could be more accommodating. The Czech government has postponed further negotiations on the Gripens.
Czech Radio has unveiled its new logo, a stylised capital ‘R’, which will be used by the broadcaster’s various stations, from the flagship Radiožurnál to Vltava, Radio Wave and others. The change of logo is the first for Czech Radio in 17 years. The author of the logo, Pavel Zelenka, told journalists during the unveiling on Wednesday at the Czech Radio building in Prague, that Radiožurnal – as the broadcaster’s main news station – had been given the sharper background of red, while the other stations will have the white stylised ‘R’ framed by different colours. The new logo is aimed at unifying Czech Radio’s corporate identity, the head of Czech Radio, Peter Duhan, said. The logo will come into official use on March 1 and will be introduced gradually at the different stations.
Pension funds in the Czech Republic saw profits rise by 6 percent year-on-year to 4.83 billion crowns in 2012, the Association of Pension Funds has told the Czech news agency. Pension funds registered a record number of 5.15 million clients, over half a million more than at the end of 2011. Savings made up by clients’ deposits, employers’ contributions, state subsidies and appreciation reached 247.7 billion crowns, which was an annual rise of 6 percent. In Q4 of last year alone, the number of private pension scheme clients increased by more than 474,000. The rise of interest in these kinds of savings was connected with a statutory period that restricted the possibility of signing such contracts until the end of November, APF president Karel Svoboda said.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has strongly criticised steps taken by a group of 27 Czech senators who signed a petition calling for President Václav Klaus to be charged with high treason over a controversial amnesty declared at the beginning of the year, as well as other actions taken, such as having delayed to sign the Lisbon Treaty or failing to appoint new judges. The prime minister said that in his 20 years in politics he had never seen such a base example of personal and political “wretchedness”. The signature of 27 senators was a prerequisite to having the proposal discussed. Pushing it through would require gaining majority support in the upper chamber. The petition has likewise been signed by over 73,000 members of the public.
The government on Wednesday decided not to postpone the introduction of the country’s new Civil Code, set to come into effect next January. The code, once implemented, will unify private law covered in the Labour Code, the Commercial Code and other legislation. Some politicians had raised concerns that not all sectors will be ready for the changes. The Justice Ministry, by contrast, saw no reason for any delay.
The Prague High Court has reduced a 20-year prison sentence to 17 for a Czech mother who poisoned her child with antifreeze but had second thoughts and called for an ambulance. In January the sentence was changed from 25 to 20 years. The reason for the more lenient sentence is that the child, five years old, was saved by doctors and was able to recover fully. Had she died, the chairman of the appeals committee Jiří Lněnicka indicated, the extraordinary sentence would have been upheld. The little girl now lives with her father and has had no contact with her mother. The would-be murderer has expressed regret over her deed.
Roughly four-fifths of Czechs consider the country’s introduction of direct presidential elections this year a good step, a new poll by the STEM agency suggests. Some 80 percent of Czechs supported the idea since the end of the 1990s. In the past the Czech head-of-state was elected by a joint-session of both houses in Parliament. According to the survey, the number in favour of direct elections has since grown to 83 percent. Czechs in the second round chose between two final candidates, Miloš Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg; Mr Zeman won by some 500,000 votes – his inauguration is in nine days. Two-thirds of those queried agreed the election process had been dignified. The poll was conducted at the beginning of February.
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