The Social Democratic MP Jan Hamáček was elected to the post of chairman of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. Mr. Hamáček ran for the position unopposed, receiving 195 of the 198 votes. The likely future coalition government partners – Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats – had agreed on supporting his candidacy beforehand. Deputy clubs of the TOP 09 and the Civic Democratic parties openly voiced their support for Mr. Hamáček. MPs also elected three deputy chairpersons in the first round of voting on Wednesday – Jaroslava Jermanová of ANO, the chairman of the Christian Democratic Party Pavel Bělobrádek and the chairman of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip. Neither the chairman of the Dawn of Direct Democracy party, Tomio Okamura, and Miroslav Kalousek of TOP 09, received enough votes in the second round. The selection of the fourth deputy chairperson has thus been postponed until next Wednesday.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has called on European Union representatives to be more flexible in their negotiations with Ukraine, speaking in front of the Czech Senate ahead of a joint summit in Vilnius. Mr. Rusnok urged the EU to continue negotiations with Ukraine despite the fact that its parliament rejected a law that would have allowed the jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko from traveling to Germany for medical treatment. EU negotiators set the passage of such a law as a precondition for signing an association agreement with Ukraine. The Czech premier is planning to suggest at the summit, which begins on Thursday, that EU and Ukrainian representatives meet in Prague in the spring to renew discussions over the association agreement.
Vít Bárta has stood down as the chairman of the Public Affairs party, which failed to reenter the lower house in last month’s elections. Mr. Bárta is currently under investigation over allegations that as the owner of a security firm in 2009 he obtained sensitive documents from a then agent of the BIS intelligence service. He had only become chair of Public Affairs in February but had previously been considered de facto leader.
The Czech Senate has rejected a recommendation from the European Commission to introduce special measures focused specifically on the Romany minority. Senators rejected the recommendation based on the fact that creating legislation based on ethnicity is discriminatory and would go against the Czech Constitution. Deputy chairman Zdeněk Škromách said on Wednesday that the commission should not issue such blanket recommendations to all the member states, and that helping socially marginalized groups is a matter for national policy, based on the specific national context.
Tomáš Vaněk has been elected as the new dean of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. Mr. Vaněk, who is an alumnus of the school as well as a teacher there, received 11 of 21 votes in an anonymous vote of the academic senate. He was one of the main critics of the current dean Jiří Kotalík earlier this year, accusing him of bad management. Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) is the oldest visual arts university in the country, having been founded in 1799.
The Plzeň regional government is planning to install new security camera systems in border areas to help the police catch drug traffickers. New high-tech cameras will be installed in towns and on the road particularly in the Klatovy, Domažlice and Tachov districts, which are closest to the border with Germany. The west Bohemian border areas have long been the focus of international drug trade investigations, with methamphetamine Pervitin being one of the main products taken across state lines. German authorities have repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for failing to effectively fight drug trafficking on its side.
The Jewish holiday Chanukah begins on Wednesday evening. To celebrate the eight-day festival of light, the Prague Jewish community is holding a special event on the first evening at the Jerusalem Synagogue, which will include the reciting of blessings and the lighting of the first Chanukah candle by rabbi David Peter. Prague’s Chabad community will be lighting the traditional menorah with human-size candles on Jan Palach square on Sunday.
The sweet pizza-shaped pastry called Frgál, traditionally produced in the Czech Wallachia region, will soon be placed on the EU’s protected regional food specialities list. The association of Wallachian traditional bakers announced on Wednesday that the registration process has been completed successfully, and Valašské Frgály should appear on the list of products with EU’s Protected Geographical Indication within a few weeks. This means that products using this particular name will have to come from bakeries located in a specific area. Among Czech food products which previously received the regional protected status from the EU are Pardubice gingerbread (Pardubický perník), spa wafers from Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně as well as Czech beer.
Temperature records were broken overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday across the Karlovy Vary region in the western part of the Czech Republic. In cities, temperature went down to around 7 degrees Celsius below zero, while in some rural areas it was as low as minus 17.9 degrees. Meteorologists say that this is the lowest temperature for this week in the past decade. In most of the region, there is already snow on the ground since Monday night. The weather is expect to warm up slightly by the end of week.
Viktoria Plzeň are preparing to face Manchester City in a Champions League game on Wednesday night. The West Bohemians were beaten 3:0 by City at their own ground and have taken no points in their four Champions League group games to date. If CSKA Moscow take any points from Bayern Munich in this week’s other Group D game, Plzeň will need to equal that result in Manchester to keep alive their hopes of securing third spot and a berth in the second-tier Europa League.