The Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats have signed a coalition agreement on a new centre-left government. The agreement outlines a list of policy priorities and a division of ministerial posts. Under the deal, the Social Democrats will get 8 posts in the new government, the ANO party 6 and the Christian Democrats 3. Social Democrat leader and the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka will now submit the coalition agreement to President Miloš Zeman who should by rights appoint him prime minister. There has been some speculation that the president might try to stall the process if he has serious reservations to the proposed cabinet line-up. Mr. Sobotka said earlier that if all goes well a new administration could be in place by mid-January.
Czech hockey legend Karel Gut has died at the age of 86. As defenseman Gut scored 34 goals in 114 international games for Czechoslovakia and was named the best defenseman at the 1955 world championships. He won three bronze medals with the national team at major tournaments but became more successful as a coach. He was in charge of the national team from 1973-79, winning world titles in 1976 and '77 and a silver medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.
The company which moved the late Palestinian ambassador’s possessions to his new Prague residence, including a safe that exploded and killed the ambassador the next day, rules out that the safe could have been opened or tampered with during transport. The head of the company Martin Souska said the safe had been sealed in the course of the transport and the late ambassador himself had accepted the delivery and had given instructions on where it should be placed. The police questioned the moving company’s employees after the late ambassador’s daughter Rana claimed that her father had been the victim of a terrorist attack and the explosives placed in the safe must have been put there shortly before it was moved to the ambassador’s new residence.
Environment activists have criticized the nomination of Richard Brabec to the post of environment minister in the new government. Brabec, who is nominated by the ANO party, is actively engaged in the chemicals and forest industries and in the years between 2005 and 2011 served as financial director at the chemicals plant Spolana, which appears on Arnica’s list of major polluters. He is moreover still on the company’s board of directors. Jan Pinos of the environment movement Duha says Brabec’s nomination to the post of environment minister presents a blatant clash of interests and borders on the absurd.
The police have charged six people with illegal trade in anabolic steroids. The six were reportedly part of a network that smuggled anabolic steroids from Asia to Europe and apart from the Czech Republic operated in Spain, Germany and Cyprus. During the operation, police confiscated a large amount of anabolic steroids in ampoules and tablets, worth over 1.3 million crowns. If convicted the suspects could face up to 12 years in prison.
Long queues have been forming at labour offices around the country with people complaining about delayed welfare payments. Employees have been struggling to deliver welfare payments after the system they had been using since 2012 was unexpectedly shutdown. They have gone back to using a previous system which is outdated and slow. Meanwhile, Labour Ministry officials and representatives of the firm Fujitsu Technology Solutions are meeting to debate the legal implications of the decision to shut down the welfare payments system which the company had provided since 2012. The company won a contract on running the system but the Czech anti-monopoly regulator last year cancelled the tender over breach of rules. The Labour Ministry says Fujitsu had no reason to act rashly since its system could have remained in operation on the grounds of an addendum to the contract signed.
The three parties also made public the nominations for ministerial posts in the emerging government. The Social Democrats will be managing 8 portfolios including the ministries of internal and foreign affairs, the ANO party will be controlling the finance, defense and justice ministries among others and the Christian Democrats the ministries of culture and agriculture. Commentators have noted that a number of business leaders nominated for ministerial posts in the emerging coalition government will have to give up their posts at the head of successful companies before taking up their posts in government in order to avoid a conflict of interests.
The 47th cross country skiing event Jizerská 50 has been cancelled due to insufficient natural snow, the organizers announced on Monday. In a statement issued on the Jizerská 50 homepage they said persistent above-freezing temperatures and rain over the weekend have made it impossible to prepare the race route, many kilometres of which are completely without snow cover. The decision to cancel the race was made on Monday in view of a forecast predicting even higher temperatures in the coming days.
The Bulgarian energy regulator has ordered an inspection into pricing at the Czech energy distributor ČEZ and the Austrian EVN in the wake of growing complaints from the public. People claim their electricity bills are excessively high and accuse the distributors of overpricing. A similar inspection was ordered last year under threat of revoking ČEZ’s license but the inspection uncovered no irregularities. The Czech power giant ČEZ said late last year it would appeal a decision by the Bulgarian energy regulator to cut energy prices for consumers from January 2014. The Bulgarian State Energy Commission had announced a plan to reduce electricity prices for Bulgarian households by one per cent starting January, at the same time cutting the night-time rate by 10 per cent and electricity prices for industrial consumers by 1.5 per cent.
Hundreds of people turned out on Sunday to see the traditional procession of Three Kings - a re-enactment of the journey of the Three Wise Men to visit the infant Jesus – which annually marks the end of the Christmas festivities in Prague. The procession made its way from Prague Castle to the nearby Loretto Square, where a live nativity scene had been set up. The event is organized by the Prague Archdiocese and is traditionally linked to charity with children dressed as the three kings collecting money for the needy. This year they collected a record amount of 77 million crowns.
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