The European Commission has ordered an audit of all EU-funded health-care projects in the Czech Republic, the website idnes.cz reported on Saturday, quoting a spokeswoman for the EU’s Directorate General for Regional Policy; the directorate ordered the audit with the Czech authorities in July. The news site assumes the move is a reaction to the case of David Rath, a former prominent politician who faces prison term over corruption in public procurement of hospital equipment in central Bohemia. The results of the audit should be available by the end of next year.
The Citizens’ Rights Party – Zemanites on Saturday decided to leave President Miloš Zeman’s surname in the official party name. The party, founded by a group of Mr Zeman’s friends and supporters, was hoping to capitalize on him serving as president; however, it suffered a severe debacle in October’s general election. Party leaders said they would again consider changing the name next spring.
Meteorologists have warned of snow, fog and icy roads in several parts of the Czech Republic, mainly in the north and east of the country, after temperatures dropped below -3 degrees Celsius on Saturday morning. The situation is expected to improve early next week. Drivers should also exercise caution in the central Vysočina region where some roads are covered with snow and ice. Three people suffered light injuries in a series of accidents that occurred on the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno.
Czech TV will broadcast the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve live from the Cathedral of the Divine Saviour in Ostrava, a spokeswoman for the public broadcaster’s Ostrava department said on Saturday. The mass will be celebrated by the bishop of the Ostrava-Opava diocese, František Václav Lobkwicz. The cathedral, built in the late 19th century, seats 4,000 people, and is one of the biggest churches in the country.
About a dozen winter swimmers marked the 90th anniversary of the beginnings of the sport in the country with a short swim in the Vltava in Prague on Saturday. They covered some 100-meter long distance in the Holešovice district which they believe saw the very first winter swim nearly a century ago. The best-known winter-swimming event, however, will take place on December 26 when some 250 swimmers from several countries are expected to plunge into the river near the National Theatre in central Prague.
The Czech national hockey team defeated Sweden 2:1 in a penalty shootout in their second appearance at the Channel One Cup, a pre-Olympic tournament held in Sochi. The Czech were behind but equalized some eight minutes before the end of the third period. Roman Červenka then scored the decisive goal in the shootout. The Czechs beat Finland 2:0 in Prague on Saturday in the tournament’s opener.
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.
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.
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.
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.