As coalition talks continue, the Social Democrats say they will not give up the agriculture portfolio. The smallest party in the nascent three-party government, the Christian Democrats, have insisted that they get agriculture, and the issue has proven to be a sticking point in negotiations. On Wednesday, the Social Democrats said they were pushing for a cabinet in which they would have eight seats, ANO seven and the Christian Democrats three; the latter would include the Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs and either Transport or Regional Development, along with a deputy prime minister’s post.
Czechs have marked the second anniversary of the death of the country’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel. President Miloš Zeman laid a wreath at his tomb at Prague’s Vyšehrad cemetery, while Cardinal Dominik Duka was due to celebrate a requiem mass in his memory. Other events were organised around the country, including a concert at the capital’s Archa Theatre celebrating the late statesman’s friendship with US musician Lou Reed, who died this year. A playwright and dissident, Mr. Havel led 1989’s Velvet Revolution and was president for over 12 years.
President Miloš Zeman has discussed the restitution of properties at Prague Castle with the leader of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Dominik Duka. The two men toured the properties in question together on Wednesday, the president’s spokesperson said. Teams representing both sides will discuss the issue in the New Year with a view to producing a deal by the end of 2014. The Catholic Church is seeking the return of some of its properties at the Castle under long-discussed and divisive restitution legislation approved last year.
The government have approved a law under which the ministers of education, defence and the interior would take over the president’s power to confer the title of professor. President Zeman said that the power should be removed from his office after earlier this year becoming embroiled in a row over his refusal to name Martin C. Putna a professor. Mr. Zeman cited the fact that Mr. Putna had carried a provocative sign in a Gay Pride parade.
President Miloš Zeman will appoint the outgoing prime minister, Jiří Rusnok, to the board of the Czech National Bank board in March, the daily Hospodarské noviny reported on Wednesday. The news was confirmed by the president’ spokesperson. Mr. Rusnok, who has already indicated he would accept the position, would replace Eva Zamrazilová, whose six-year term is due to expire shortly.
Law professor Jan Musil is to remain a Constitutional Court judge, while European law specialist Jiří Zemánek will join the court. The two, who were nominated by President Miloš Zeman, were approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Justice Musil was first appointed in 2003. Mr. Zemánek described the appointment as the pinnacle of his career.
Tickets for a direct train running between Prague and the Russian capital Moscow are sold out until the end of January, iDnes.cz reported on Wednesday. The news website said Czech Railways and its Russian equivalent were looking to boost the number of passengers making the 27-hour trip. There has been a direct route between the two cities for over 50 years, but the service was improved with the introduction of the current timetable when passengers were no longer forced to change trains at the Czech town of Bohumín.
The police are looking into a guesthouse that offers right-wing guests a discount, iDnes.cz reported on Wednesday. The penzion, which is located in the Krkonoše Mountains, first came to public attention earlier this year when its co-owner, Agnieszka Pallová, refused to allow President Miloš Zeman, who is a socialist, to stay there. She was questioned on Tuesday on suspicion of inciting hatred toward a group of persons and curtailing their rights and freedoms, the news site said.
After recently hanging up his boots as a player, former Czech soccer international Tomáš Ujfaluši is set to take up a post at the Turkish club Galatasaray, where he spent two seasons. Ujfaluši will serve as an advisor and as an intermediary between the players and management, the Czech News Agency reported, adding that his Italian language skills make him a suitable candidate to work alongside Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini.
During its time in office the Rusnok interim government has approved contracts to the tune of 2.8 billion crowns without holding public tenders, according to the NGO Oživení. The organization which monitors government commissions says this is six-fold more than that commissioned without tenders by the preceding centre-right government in a similar time frame. The Rusnok government has defended its decisions, saying it had not violated any laws and had speeded up the process of commissioning work wherever possible in order to secure well-functioning public administration. Oživení has called the situation alarming and urged the government to make public details of the contracts awarded.