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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The only viable coalition is that of the Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats, according to Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Speaking after a meeting with President Zeman on Thursday, Mr Sobotka told reporters an ongoing dispute with the Christian Democrats over which party will take over the Agriculture Ministry would not impede talks among the three parties on forming the next government.
In related news, the Christian Democrats are ready to continue in coalition talks with the Social Democrat and ANO parties even if the broader Christian Democrat leadership rejects the latest proposal on distribution of ministerial posts, party leader Pavel Bělobrádek said on Thursday. The Christian Democrats have been offered the portfolios of labour and social affairs, environment and transport. However, the party said earlier it would not join the next government without taking over the Ministry of Agriculture. The Christian Democrat leadership is set to discuss the proposal later on Thursday.
The lower house of Czech Parliament on Thursday approved the state budget for next year. The budget projects a deficit of 112 billion crowns, 12 billion more than this year. The deficit is not expected to exceed 3 percent of the country’s GDP. The budget, put forth by the outgoing interim Czech government, was backed by 109 MPs of the emerging coalition while centre-right Civic Democrats and TOP 09 deputies voted against. MPs of the Communist and Dawn parties abstained from the vote. The budget bill is now to be signed into law by the president.