President Miloš Zeman has entrusted the country's Justice Ministry with the right to decide on presidential pardons expect for exceptional cases, (applicants suffering from incurable disease or filing on humanitarian grounds). Outgoing Justice Minister Marie Benešová confirmed the ministry would take over in the role and would pass certain cases on to the head-of-state. The move will require the creation of new posts at the ministry to be discussed on Monday. Mr Zeman pledged to give up pardons soon after he was elected, calling them a "monarchistic hold-over".
Ukraine’s refusal to sign a trade deal with the EU stems from the country’s present political and economic situation, Czech Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said at the close of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday. Prime Minister Rusnok said that Ukraine had made the decision based on a short-term rather than long-term perspective. He said that in his view the EU could have been more flexible as well, but what was important was the EU’s doors remained open. The Czech head of government said the Czech Republic was ready to help keep the process of Eastern partnership in motion by organizing a conference on the issue in Prague next spring.
Following late-night talks on Thursday potential coalition partners the Social Democrats and ANO say they have come closer to reaching agreement on taxes and public expenditures. The two parties’ representatives said they would now discuss outstanding issues with the third potential coalition partner the Christian Democrats. The leader of the ANO party, Andrej Babiš said talks were being speeded up in view of passing the 2014 budget by the end of December. He said his own party would propose further cuts in expenditures in the sphere of public administration. The three parties have also stressed the need to pass a civil service law as soon as possible, since it is crucial to the process of drawing EU funds.
The Christian Democratic Party, which is expected to be the third partner in the emerging coalition government, has expressed dissatisfaction with being left out of the talks between the two bigger parties. Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek told the internet news site iDnes on Friday that his party, potentially the smallest partner in government, wanted to have the right of veto on outstanding issues, for fear that the two bigger parties would join forces with the opposition Communists or Dawn Party to outvote it in the lower house. The party has already warned that it is not prepared to enter into a coalition that would scrap the screening law which bans former communist collaborators from holding high posts in government and public administration. There are signs that the two big parties are aiming to replace this post 1989-legislation with a new civil service law.
Prague City Hall and the construction firm Metrostav have failed to resolve the controversy over the Blanka tunnel complex under construction in the Czech capital. Metrostav recently warned it would cease further construction work on December 7 over unpaid bills. City Hall said it had stopped further payments after having found that the contract on building work was legally invalid. Metrostav claims it is owed 2.1 billion crowns and is handing the matter over to an arbitration court. Prague City Hall had hoped to reach an out-of–court settlement in order not to jeopardize one of the city’s largest building projects.
The police have asked the lower house to release the former mayor of Prague, MP Bohuslav Svoboda, for prosecution in connection with dubious contracts relating to the multipurpose card Opencard. The newly-elected deputy for the Civic Democrats has said he himself would support the motion and wants to clear his name in court. Nine other councilors and former councilors have been charged in connection with the case including the current mayor of Prague Tomáš Hudeček.
A Swiss court in Bellizona has ruled that neither the Czech Republic nor the company Czech Coal Services are entitled to receive money confiscated in Switzerland in connection with the fraudulent privatization of the Czech Republic’s largest coal mining company Mostecka Uhelna(MUS). While the Czech police was unable to bring the case to court, Swiss investigators assembled sufficient evidence against the company’s former managers to prosecute. They received prison sentences from 16 months to 4 years. The damage incurred to the Czech Republic has been estimated at around two billion crowns.
Electricity prices for households are expected to drop by 10.9 percent on average in 2014, while the regulated component in the price of gas should drop by 5.9 percent, the Energy Regulation Office reported. CEZ clients can expect the biggest price drop of around 12 percent, Pražská Energetika has announced a 9.5 percent drop while E.ON will effect an 8.8 percent price reduction.
The Czech military is close to a deal on selling 28 L-159 combat aircraft to a US company, the Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek told reporters on Friday. The potential buyer is Draken International, a Florida-based firm which provides aviation training and other services for the US Air Force. The Czech army has been trying to sell the L-159 planes ever since it became apparent it only needed a third of the 72 planes it ordered in 1997 at a total cost of over 50 billion crowns.
Czech doctors have registered a record number of HIV patients in the course of 2013, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. According to statistics there were 215 new cases of HIV in the first 11 months of the year, which is already several more than in 2012. Testing for HIV in this country started in 1985 and there has been a steady increase in cases since 2003. Ten years ago doctors only registered around sixty cases a year. Altogether 2082 people were diagnosed HIV-positive, 396 of whom developed AIDS. 198 people have died of AIDS in the Czech Republic.