Finance Minister Jan Fischer, whose election campaign debts were recently covered by sponsors, has asked them to clarify the source of the money donated. Mr. Fischer said that if this was not done he would return the finances. The finance minister, who incurred a 3.5 million crown debt in the course of his presidential election campaign earlier this year, has come under fire for producing the necessary funds from sponsors, among them large donations in cash, soon after it became known he would get a lucrative position in the new caretaker government.
The Czech Republic is stepping up pressure on Canada for the country to lift visa-requirements for Czech nationals. Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Schneider told Monday’s edition of Hospodarske noviny that the Czech side had conditioned its ratification of CETA – the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada – on the lifting of visa restrictions for Czechs. Canada re-imposed visa requirements for Czech nationals in 2009 in the wake of a wave of Romany asylum seekers from the Czech Republic. In 2012 Canada tightened its asylum law, but said it had to test the impact of the new legislation for at least a year before making changes to its visa policy. The Czech Foreign Ministry is hoping for a positive response from Canada within a couple of months at the latest.
TOP 09 has said it will propose an amendment to the Constitution limiting the powers of the president. The centre-right party said on Monday it was ready to consult the amendment with all parties in the lower house and wanted to table it within a fortnights’ time. The move stems from widespread anger over President Zeman’s decision to ignore Parliament and appoint a prime minister designate of his own choice. Both the right and left wing parties are unhappy with the development and accuse the president of setting up his own puppet administration.
MP Michal Babák of the Public Affairs party has come under fire from all sides for making an anti-Semitic comment relating to Finance Minister Jan Fischer during a TV debate programme on Sunday. After prefacing his comments by saying they did not contain any racist allusions, Mr. Babák said that no Jew could be worse for the state coffers than Miroslav Kalousek, Mr. Fischer’s predecessor at the Ministry of Finance. The slur has evoked widespread condemnation from both right and left wing deputies in the lower house with calls for Mr. Babák to apologize. Katerina Klasnova, the head of Public Affairs deputies’ group in the lower house said on Monday that Michal Babák’s words were unfortunate.
The army’s CASA transport planes have successfully passed all flight tests and may now be deployed in foreign missions, Czech Defense Minister Vlastimil Picek told journalists in Prague on Monday. The 3.5 billion crowns purchase of four Spanish CASA transport planes in 2009 has been dogged by problems. The planes’ passive protection system against missiles was found to be defective, failing 7 out of 17 tests and an independent auditor later concluded the purchase had been overpriced. After two years of repairs, fresh tests have now shown that the planes’ protection system is fully operational and the planes’ Spanish supplier is paying the defense ministry 20 million crowns in compensation for the problems.
Five people were injured, three of them seriously, in a highway accident involving a Czech tourist bus in Serbia in the early hours of Monday. The accident happened southeast of Belgrade at around 3 am. The bus was carrying a group of Czech tourists on their way back from holiday in Turkey. Two of the injured remain in a coma in a hospital in Belgrade. The cause of the accident is being investigated. The driver himself was among the seriously injured.
The former chief of staff of ex-prime minister Petr Nečas, Jana Nagyová, made a brief appearance in court on Monday to give evidence relating to the release of information regarding to the size of her monthly bonuses over a year ago. Two people have been charged in connection with the leak, anti-corruption activist and former head of military intelligence Karel Randák and Lenka Pikorová, a former employee at the office of the government. Jana Nagyova, who has spent the last month in prison on charges of corruption and abuse of office, had little to say in court, claiming she could not remember the size of her monthly bonuses at the time and emphasizing that the charges against Randák and Pikorová for violation of privacy had been brought by the Office of the Government and not by herself. The former prime minister who was also called to testify excused himself, citing family reasons.
The police monitored the home of former Prague mayor Pavel Bém for nearly a fortnight earlier this year due to suspicions that CZK 100 million arising from alleged criminal activities was going to be stolen from the building, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday. The surveillance operation was ordered by the police’s organised crime unit after it received information that the cash, which was stored in sports bags in the basement of Mr. Bém’s villa, was going to be stolen in mid April, the newspaper said. The theft – which in the end never took place – was allegedly planned by two police officers, who thought that it would not be reported as the money had been acquired illegally.
The first ever quintuplets born in the Czech Republic should be allowed to leave Prague’s Podolí maternity hospital by the end of this month, iDnes.cz reported. The news website said the infants could go home for the first time to the central Bohemian town of Milovice as three of the five now weigh more than five kilogrammes. A week ago they were moved from incubators to the room of their mother, Alexandra Kiňová, who is 23. There was great media attention surrounding the children’s birth six weeks ago.
Police chased a wild boar through three Prague districts on Sunday before pacifying the animal in Prague 10. The boar swam across the Vltava river, smashed a window in Hotel Hilton and tore at top speed through the city centre, stopping cars and pedestrians in their tracks. One officer was injured in the 3-hour-long chase and the boar was finally overpowered in Prague 10 where several officers pinned it down until the arrival of animal control.