Prime Minister Petr Nečas paid an unexpected visit to Czech troops in
Afghanistan over the weekend. According to the information released to the
media on Sunday, the prime minister met with Afghanistan’s president
Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Saturday and visited the Czech army bases in the
Logar and Vardak provinces the following day. According to Mr Nečas, the
two leaders spoke about Afghanistan’s interest in the Czech-made L-159
light combat aircraft, as well as cooperation in industrial development,
transportation and education.
The Czech prime minister assured his host that Czech troops are willing to continue training Afghan soldiers even after 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission will end. The Czech side is hoping to secure business contracts in Afghanistan, for example in the area of transportation infrastructure. The Afghan president welcomed these plans and expressed his hope to begin working on specific projects in the near future, according to the Czech News Agency.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the Czech News Agency on Sunday that the dispute over new Czech ambassadors is actually at the core of who will control Czech foreign policy. The minister is set to meet President Miloš Zeman on Tuesday to discuss their disagreement over the naming of new ambassadors to Slovakia and Russia. A few weeks ago, President Zeman nominated his predecessor’s wife Livia Klausová to the post in Bratislava, and the MEP for the Communist Party Vladimír Remek to the one in Moscow. Mr Schwarzenberg disagreed with both choices and emphasized that it is in the competencies of the foreign minister to nominated ambassadors, while the president traditionally only signs the subsequent approval of the government.
Defense Minister Vlastimil Picek said that he will recommend for governmental approval a plan to purchase two more transportation aircrafts for the army. During the Sunday talk show Partie on the Prima Family channel Mr Picek said he will present the government with a detailed document concerning the transportation and helicopter air force in the second half of the year. The minister wants to acquire more airplanes, saying that the four CASA planes that were purchased in a highly disputed deal in 2009 do not fulfill all the needs of the Czech army.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas released a public statement calling on the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to make public information about all the production and related expenses of the embattled social welfare S-Card. The Premier has distanced himself from the S-Card project in the past week and has asked the Labor Minister Ludmila Müllerová to discontinue the new system. Ms Müllerová and the coalition partner TOP 09 are defending the project.
The Prague 1 town hall has announced that it is ready to start the re-vitalisation of the Kampa island park, which will begin with the renovation of the so-called gas house from the 17th century. The renovation should last approximately three months, after which the town hall plans to make the house available for public use. Afterwards it plans to work on the baroque wall surrounding the building of the Sova mills, which now houses a museum of modern art.
This weekend marked the last days of the skiing seasons for many, but not all, Czech ski centers. Many ski resorts in the south Bohemian Šumava, northern Bohemian Krkonoše mountains and in the Vysočina region finished off an unusually long season. Some mountain resortss like Klinovec in northwestern Bohemia or the Bílá ski center in the eastern Beskydy mountains will remain open next week.
The women’s handball team from Most will be the first Czech team to take part in the final of the European Handball Championship after they claimed a 31:21 victory over Üsküdarem Istanbul on their home turf on Saturday. The Most team will take on the Croatian team Fantasyland Samobor in the two finals matches in May.
Ahead of a debate in the lower house of parliament over healthcare fees, the opposition Social Democrats said they want to revoke hospital-stay fees for children up to the age of 18. Currently all hospitalized patients, including children, pay 100 crowns per day. The Social Democrats released an official statement reiterating their earlier claims that if they win the 2014 elections they plan to revoke all healthcare fees that were introduced by Mirek Topolanek’s government.
Financial analysts at the Česká spořitelna bank have calculated that Czechs spend approximately 5% of their total expenses abroad, based on the fact that their spending outside of the Czech Republic by credit and debit cards amounted to 45.9 billion crowns last year. Analysts claim that the number of trans-border shopping trips is on the rise due, to a large extent, to the rise in the Value Added Tax and the weakening of the crown. What is interesting is that the Czech Statistical Office estimated the amount spent abroad to 2.3%, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. This may mean that the Czech households are not as badly off as it has seemed from official statistics, the report claims.
The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting has launched an investigation over alleged violation of journalistic objectivity and balanced reporting of the presidential campaigns on Czech Television and the private TV Prima broadcaster. Two shows on Czech Television are being put in question over their objectivity, while Prima is being investigated over the choice of the candidate chosen for their televised presidential duels before the first round of elections, where nine candidates were in the running. The late night talk show of Jan Kraus has also been questioned over impartiality.