Czech Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek will propose that the Czech Republic renew its lease on 14 Swedish fighter jets beyond 2015. The minister said on Saturday he would present the government with the proposal next week and expected to see it approved. The new contract with Stockholm on the renewed lease of supersonic JAS-39 Gripen combat jets could be inked at the end of the year or in early 2014 by the new government. According to the minister the new contract will be a better deal for the Czech Republic and would be valid for a period longer than 10 years. The Czech army paid nearly 20 billion crowns (780 million euros, 1 billion US dollars) to lease the Gripens for a decade starting 2005.
President Miloš Zeman and unsuccessful presidential candidate Jan Fischer will not have to pay gift tax on money from sponsors which they received after the presidential election. Of all presidential candidates they alone were unable to settle their campaign debts within the legal deadline. The Interior Ministry and the Financial Administration Office said that despite this irregularity it was obvious that the donated finances were intended for the presidential campaign and no gift tax was required. This decision will save President Miloš Zeman an estimated one million crowns, and his unsuccessful rival for the presidency half that sum.
Three hundred Czech towns and cities have joined in the celebrations of European Heritage Days. The annual event, organized jointly by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, offers Europeans the opportunity to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. The Czech Republic has taken part in the celebrations since 1991 and between now and September 15th people will be able to view over 1,000 monuments and historical sites for free. This year’s Czech celebrations opened in the city of Olomouc with an outdoor opera performance of Verdi’s Nabucco, a light show, a baroque pantomime and an exhibition of young designers.
A group of German anti-nuclear activists staged protests against the Temelin nuclear power plant at three border crossings with the Czech Republic on Saturday. According to the DPA news agency the protests took place at Saska Kamenice/Chemnitz, Amberg and the German town of Marktredwitz, located some 20 kms west of Cheb. The demonstrators called on the Czech authorities to close down the south Bohemian power plant and protested against plans for its expansion by another two nuclear reactors by 2025. The Czech side is still in the process of considering bids and it is not certain that the project will go ahead as planned.
Lawyer and former police investigator Václav Láska, who cooperates closely with Transparency International, is to head the Green party’s ballot in central Bohemia an independent candidate. Mr. Láska, who specialized in economic crime, investigated many high profile cases involving abuse of office, manipulation of public tenders and abuse of public finances. Mr. Láska said that if he got elected to the lower house he would focus primarily on pushing through effective anti-corruption laws.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs wants doctors to communicate medical documentation –such as notice of paid sick leave – electronically rather than by post as they have in the past. An effort to get this introduced last year hit the rocks and its planned implementation as of the beginning of 2014 remains highly complicated. According to the Czech Doctors’ Chamber twenty percent of doctors, mainly in small towns and villages, do not use computers and 40 percent of physicians do not have a reliable Internet connection. The head of the chamber has warned that if this change is enforced the system of paid sick leave would collapse and tens of thousands of people would be affected. The electronic system is already up and running but apparently very few doctors use it.
Czech composer, pianist, dedicated teacher and writer Ilya Hurník has died at the age of 90. He authored a number of operas (including Oldrich and Bozenka and A Lady and Robbers (a tragi-comic opera in four acts to the composer's own libretto loosely adapted after William Rose's The Lady killers), several symphonic works, a ballet (Ondráš) children’s songs and many essays and short stories. As a pianist he specialized in the works of Claude Debussy and Leos Janacek.
Businessman Andrej Babiš will be the top candidate on the ballot of his ANO party for Prague in the October general elections. He will be running against two political heavyweights – former Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Miroslava Němcová heading the Civic Democratic ballot and the former foreign minister and chairman of the TOP 09 party, Karel Schwarzenberg. The Social Democrats have decided to put a union leader Jaroslav Zavadil at the top of the Prague ballot. Green Party chairman Ondřej Liška will also be running in the capital.
Miroslav Toman, who holds the Agriculture portfolio, is the third minister from the interim Czech government selected to stand for the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites. Mr. Toman will head the grouping’s candidate list in the Ústí nad Labem region, a spokesperson said on Thursday night. The minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, and the minister of labour and social affairs, František Koníček, have already been announced as Zemanite candidates. The caretaker cabinet, which is led by Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok, was installed by President Zeman despite the fact that a previous coalition said it could deliver a majority in the lower house. The government failed to win backing in a confidence vote and MPs subsequently voted to dissolve Parliament.
The Civic Democratic party launched its election campaign on Friday with posters saying “I vote for the right”. The slogan on the posters is shown as a twitter hashtag and the name of the party does not appear on them. The party also confirmed its candidate lists on Friday afternoon. Miroslava Němcová will be leading the key Prague ballot, the acting party chairman Martin Kuba will be the top candidate for his home region of South Bohemian, the vice-chairman Jiří Pospíšil is running in the Plzeň region, and, uncharacteristically, an independent candidate – the former Education Minister Petr Fiala – was selected for the South Moravian region .