The governing Civic Democrats have unveiled “Agenda 2014”, a policy document outlining their priorities for the period between now and the end of the coalition’s term of office. The measures include tax reliefs for employers, support for small businesses and a reduction in bureaucracy. Recent opinion polls indicate that support for the Civic Democrats stands at between 9 and 15 percent. Parliamentary elections are expected in June next year, while 2014 will also see European, Senate and local elections in the Czech Republic.
Reacting to the indictments at City Hall, the leadership of TOP 09 described the move as an incomprehensible criminalisation of political decision-making. The party said it guaranteed the integrity of its members, adding that the current council had been attempting to rectify the extensive corruption committed by the previous city government. A councillor from TOP 09, which is in coalition in Prague with the Civic Democrats, said Haguess was the only company capable of operating the system. Meanwhile, some opposition Social Democrats have called on Mayor Svoboda to step down.
A copy of a Baroque Marion column pulled down in 1918 should be erected on Prague’s Old Town Square next year, after the city council voted in favour of the move on Tuesday. The original column was torn down in November 1918 following the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia by Czechs who felt it stood for defeat at the battle of Bílá Hora and the centuries of Habsburg oppression that followed. The Krocín Fountain, which was removed from the square in 1862 in connection with the construction of the Old Town Hall, should also be replaced under the plan.
An agreement has been signed in Prague on the creation of a new Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Jointly created by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation, the award will be presented every October to a group or individual that has been strongly engaged in the defence of human rights. Václav Havel, who died in 2011, led Czechoslovakia’s peaceful Velvet Revolution and was an active defender of freedoms in many parts of the world.
The Ústí nad Labem regional council has decided not to pay its share of a 2.6-billion-crown fine that the European Commission imposed on the Ústí and Karlovy Vary regions. The regional governments were fined for problems with some of the EU funding allocated through an operational program by the regions. The Ústí council said on Monday that it is not responsible for the mishandling of grants, and the regional governor Oldřich Bubeníček said last month that the Finance Ministry should pay for at least half of the fine.
Čestmír Císař, a reformer in Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party in the 1960s, has died at the age of 93. Mr Císař passed away on Sunday following a long bout with illness. In the early 1960s Mr Císař held the high post of secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (KSČ). From 1963 to 1965 he was also the minister of culture and education, but was dismissed for overly liberal views and was sent to serve as ambassador to Romania. Later, he was brought back by Alexander Dubček and was one of several candidates for president following the resignation of Antonín Novotny. After 1989, Mr Císař founded a short-lived group (made up largely of former Prague Spring reformers) backing “democratic socialism”.
The former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil has been elected as the head of the Civic Democratic association of regional leadership. The association was founded in January of this year in order to improve the Civic Democrats’ position in regions outside of Prague and strengthen communication between central party leadership and regional party members. The largest ruling party won in only one out of the 13 regions in the last elections in the fall of last year.
After meeting with President Miloš Zeman on Monday, representatives of the Bohemian-Moravia Confederation of Trade Unions have agreed to lower their demands on raising the minimum wage. Although the union representatives were previously asking to bring the minimum monthly wage up from eight to nine thousand crowns, President Zeman convinced them to agree to a hike of 500 crowns. The decision on the issue, though, depends primarily on the government and parliament. Mr Zeman and the head of the confederation, Jaroslav Zavadil, have good relations, and the new president agreed to help broker better ties between the government and unions.
The ministry-run organization CERMAT has placed practice versions of the new state high school leaving exam online to give students a chance to practice before they take the real one in the first week of May. After last year’s highly criticised and problematic launch of the unified state exam system, the Education Ministry decided to simplify the structure of the exams and have one level instead of two. Most students have to pass a Czech language exam, and then have a choice of either doing a foreign-language or mathematics examination. This year, out of the 98,082 students registered to take the state exams, 60% chose the foreign language test as their additional exam.
The Health Minister Leoš Heger is planning to add a proposal to relieve children of hospital stay fees to an amendment package he will present to the government in the next few weeks. The minister is hoping to either lower the fees, which are currently 100 crowns per day, or get rid of them altogether. The Association of Hospitals agrees with the move saying that that this way children will be able to remain in hospital for as long as necessary and their treatment will not depend as much on the family’s financial situation.
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