The Christian Democrats have won a significant concession from their partners in the emerging coalition government. In an effort to break the deadlock in talks on Friday the Social Democrats agreed to leave the agriculture ministry portfolio to the Christian Democrats, if they could have a deputy at the ministry in charge of the land register which deals with property restitutions. The Christian Democrats have also been offered the culture ministry and the post of deputy prime minister without portfolio. The second strongest party ANO said that although it had been against such an arrangement it would respect the deal.
The light of Bethlehem arrived in Prague on Friday. Traditionally it was borne by a group of girl and boy scouts who travel for the light of Bethlehem to Vienna from where it is taken to Brno and then Prague. In the Czech capital it was first taken to St. Vitus Cathedral where it was received by Cardinal Dominik Duka and from there to a number of spiritual sites and institutions including Czech Radio. People will be able to come to the radio building at Vinohradska to light candles from the flame after 5.30 pm up until Christmas Eve. The tradition of bringing the light of Bethlehem to the Czech Republic started in 1990 a year after the fall of communism.
Pavel Varvařovský has resigned as Ombudsman. The office will temporarily be headed by his deputy Stanislav Kreček until a new Ombudsman has been elected to office. Mr. Varvařovský announced his decision earlier this month without stating any reasons for his departure. He had in the past criticized lawmakers for what he called disrespect for his recommendations. Pavel Varvařovský, a former Constitutional Court judge, was the second Czech ombudsman, after the late Otakar Motejl. He has held the post since September, 2010.
Speculation that President Miloš Zeman may reject some of the proposed ministers in the new cabinet has been fuelled by a report that the President’s Office asked the Czech Academy of Sciences to produce a legal study regarding his rights within the boundaries set by the Constitution. According to the internet news site lidovky.cz the study produced by the Academy’s Institute for State and Law claims that the president is not a passive player in the process of establishing a new government and would be acting within his rights were he to reject any of the PMs nominees for ministerial posts. President Zeman has already made it clear that he would not accept Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek as foreign minister or Martin Stropnický of ANO as defence minister. Some political analysts suggest that Mr. Zeman is not only breaking with tradition but overstepping his powers by meddling in the line-up of the next cabinet.
Businessmen Daniel Křetínský and Pavel Tkac have confirmed buying the Ringier Axel Springer CZ group. The value of the group which publishes the Czech Republic’s best-selling tabloid Blesk, the weekly Reflex, and a daily sports newspaper among others, has been estimated at 4.7 billion crowns (170 million euro). In a statement for journalists the group’s new owners said their main task would be to address the address the problems facing print publishers.
The High State Attorney in Prague has charged 12 people over contracts awarded by the Czech government during the country’s EU presidency in 2009, state attorney Tomáš Černý said. The prosecutors say that contracts for audiovisual services, awarded to the firm Promopro during the six-month period, were overpriced by 338 million crowns. Among those charged with manipulating public tenders and abuse of office are three former close associates of Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. Mr. Vondra himself has not been charged.
Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek said he welcomed the concession but was not optimistic regarding a positive outcome of the talks since his party wanted to be in control of three fully-fledged ministries. The Christian Democratic Party leadership is to consider the offer in the coming hours. The Social Democrats have made it clear that this is the final concession they are prepared to make in the division of ministerial posts.
The Czech national hockey team beat Finland 2:0 in Prague on Thursday night, in the opening game of the Channel One Cup. The goals came from Petr Nedvěd and Jaroslav Hlinka. Coach Alois Hadamiczik praised the performance of goalie Jakub Kovář who had 39 saves. The Czech team will move to Sochi on Friday where the tournament’s remaining games will be played. The Channel One Cup is the last event ahead of the Olympic Games that get underway in Sochi in February.
Overall confidence in the Czech economy increased slightly in December for the fifth consecutive month. According to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office the economic sentiment indicator in December increased by one point as compared to November to 5.5 points. Confidence increased in trade and selected services. Confidence in industry remained unchanged and in construction it slightly decreased. Business confidence has been rising while consumer confidence remains virtually unchanged, statisticians said.
The former president Vaclav Klaus on Friday criticized his successor Miloš Zeman for breaking with tradition and stretching his powers to the limit. Speaking to journalists Mr. Klaus said that during the ten years he had spent in office he had never refused a proposed appointment by a prime minister although in private he had often tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision. Once such a decision was firmly made I accepted it, albeit with a gnashing of teeth, Mr. Klaus noted. The former president who supported Miloš Zeman in the presidential race also slammed his successor’s decision not to continue with the tradition of presidential New Years’ addresses. Mr. Zeman has decided to deliver a Christmas message instead.
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