The Chamber of Deputies backed an amendment by the opposition Social Democrats on Friday, which, if passed in a final reading, would require the prime minister’s counter-signature on presidential pardons. Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek has charged that the current system did not work and went against the principles of the parliamentary system. The ruling Civic Democrats, as well as other members of the government coalition such as Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake, came out against the amendment. Some, like former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil made clear they would be in favour of the abolition of pardons entirely. The bill will now be reviewed by the chamber’s Committee of Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
The police have recommended that criminal charges be pressed against Tatra truck company CEO Ronald Adams. The head of the Czech branch in Kopřivice was under investigation for corruption since last year. State prosecutor Jan Petrásek, who has two weeks to review the case, said in all likelihood charges would be filed in the coming days with the regional court in Brno. Mr Adams, who is an American national, is suspected of having offered a 20 million crown bribe to try and secure a military contract with the Czech Army. He was accused by former defence minister Martin Barták, himself accused in the case.
President Miloš Zeman appointed Social Democrat Miloslav Kala the new head of the Czech Supreme Office. Mr Kala, who was chosen by the lower house, has until now served as the office’s vice-president. The search for the head of the state auditing agency lasted for more than a year, after the previous president was sentenced for abuse of power. The Supreme Auditing Office is in charge of supervising the use of public finances.
Representatives of the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation, together with the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, have reached an agreement on establishing an international award that will bear Mr Havel's name. The award is to recognize outstanding contributions to human rights and will be given annually, in October. The agreement is to be signed by Jean-Claude Mignon, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Marta Smolíková of the Václav Havel Library and František Janouch, representing the Charter 77 Foundation.
Police on Friday evacuated 500 employees and visitors from the Trade Unions Building in Prague 3 as the result of a bomb scare. An anonymous caller warned the authorities an explosives system had been installed inside. Specialists called in to investigate, however, did not find evidence of any tampering. It is not the first time the building has suffered a bomb scare; according to the head of the largest trade unions association, Josef Středula, the site has been targeted before but had not suffered a similar call in several years.
Respected Czech actor Vladimír Čech, known for his extensive work in the theatre as well as for being the first host of the Czech version of Who wants to be a Millionaire? died on Friday at the age of 61. The actor had been battling cancer and suffered complications from pneumonia. Čech, the son of anchorwoman Heda Čechová and actor Vladimír Čech, Sr, graduated from the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in 1977, before taking employment at numerous theatres including the Oldřich Stibor State Theatre in Olomouc. In addition to theatre, Mr Čech was an acclaimed voice actor; for children he was the voice of the cartoon character ‘Garfield’.
The Czech Republic offers the best conditions for ‘active aging’ out of all EU newcomers and is in 12th spot in the union, according to authors behind the active aging index (AAI) who presented their results in Prague on Friday. The AAI assesses factors such as employment, environment, independence of – and participation in social life and politics by – seniors, relying on statistics from individual countries. The index was completed by the Vienna-based European Centre for Social Policy and Research in cooperation with the EC and the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe. Sweden finished first in the study; Poland, Lithuania and Malta were ranked last.
Organisers have confirmed that Turkish Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk will attend the Prague Writers’ Festival in April. The vice-president of the festival, Vlasta Brtníková, told the Czech news agency on Friday that the festival had already secured the author a return plane ticket. She compared his attendance at the festival to that of author Salman Rushdie in 2001. Others who have attended the Prague Writer’s Festival in past years include Margaret Atwood, Irvine Welsh and Yann Martel.