The head of the government’s human rights department Monika Šimůnková has been dismissed from office for allegedly violating internal regulations. She is to be replaced by the current head of the government’s agency for social integration Martin Šimáček. Ms. Šimůnková, who was dismissed by the head of the government’s office, has denied any wrongdoing and told reporters she would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok on Wednesday. She retains the post of the government’s human rights commissioner for which she is directly answerable to the prime minister. The internet news site which broke the story aktualne.cz has suggested her dismissal might be linked to reports that she resisted efforts to radically reduce the government’s human rights section which currently employs about 50 people.
Social Democrat shadow finance minister Jan Mládek has said the Czech Republic should curb its criticism of Russia and China in the interest of improving business ties with the two countries. At a business conference in Prague Mr. Mládek said the Czech Republic needed to expand its business interests outside the EU, predominantly to Russia and China and noted that excessive criticism of these countries’ human rights records was not aiding the process and was costing the country thousands of potential jobs. This view was supported by the acting chairman of the centre-right Civic Democrats Martin Kuba who said that even superpowers often tailored their diplomacy to their business interests.
Trade unions in the country’s largest coal mining company OKD have gone on strike alert in protest against the conditions of a proposed collective agreement for 2014-2018. The proposed agreement was put forward by a government mediator after year-long negotiations between trade unions and employers failed to produce results. The head of trade unions at the Paskov mine, which is slated for closure next year, said the strike alert would remain in place until an agreement is reached.
A Prague court has cleared the former police president Petr Lessy of slander charges, over which he was dismissed from office in 2012 by then interior minister Jan Kubice. The libel charge pressed against Lessy was based on statements he made in the press when he insinuated that a subordinate officer had swept criminal investigations under the rug. Mr. Lessy has vehemently denied the charges saying it had been a strategy to remove him from office since under Czech law the police president cannot be dismissed unless he is suspected of having committed a crime. Mr. Lessy now says he will strive to be reinstated.
Billionaire Petr Kellner’s PPF Group NV is in talks to acquire the Czech Republic’s biggest telephone company, potentially putting an end to eight years of control by Spanish carrier Telefonica SA, the Bloomberg news agency reports. Telefonica has been exploring strategic options for its 69 percent stake in Telefonica Czech Republic AS and according to an unnamed source cited in the Bloomberg report PPF is currently the only bidder for the holding, which has a market value of 3.9 billion dollars.
President Miloš Zeman has started a three-day tour of the central Bohemian region during which he is meeting with local politicians, entrepreneurs, students and members of the public. He is visiting the Philip Morris factory in Kutná Hora, his birthplace Kolín where he worked at a local engineering factory, a hospital in Příbram and an old age home in the town of Dobříš, among others. The president announced shortly after taking office that he would be touring all the regions with the exception of Prague where he now resides.
A crisis committee of nurses, patients and unions in the health sector has appealed to President Milos Zeman to push for a solution to the growing problems in the public health sector which they say is impacting the quality of health care provided. This includes an acute shortage of nurses who say they are no longer able to care for patients as required. The deputy chairman of the Association of Czech and Moravian Hospitals Petr Fiala complained that the present government was turning a blind eye to the problem and had proved a bitter disappointment to employees in the health sector.
Ex-president Vaclav Klaus’ wife Livia is now an employee of the Czech Foreign Ministry and is preparing for her diplomatic post abroad, the ministry’s press department said on Tuesday. Ms. Klaus, who herself is Slovak, is to serve as the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Slovakia. Her appointment, pushed through by President Milos Zeman, roused plenty of controversy with speculation that she was being rewarded for actively supporting Mr. Zeman’s election campaign.
Four Skoda Auto managers have reportedly been dismissed without warning, according to the internet news site idnes. According to the news source they include the head of sales in the Czech Republic and the head of customer services. A Skoda spokesman confirmed the report, saying all four had been denied entry to the company headquarters and were officially “on leave”. Neither the company nor the four managers have commented on the development.
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra opened the new 2013/2014 season on Monday night with a Czech premiere of a work entitled Last Train to Tomorrow by the American Composer Carl Davis. The symphony is a tribute to Nicolas Winton who was able to save 600 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia before World War Two by arranging train transports for them to England. The premiere was conducted by the composer, with the vocal accompaniment of the Children’s Opera Prague.