A dispute over deputy ministerial positions involving the two main parties in the new government was not resolved by a meeting of the parties’ leaders on Monday. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats is insisting that a tradition of deputy ministers coming from the other parties in a coalition be respected. However, ANO boss Andrej Babiš is reluctant to accept a Social Democrat candidate for the post of deputy minister for taxation; he has also questioned the reputations of other Social Democrat deputy ministerial nominees. After Monday’s talks, Mr. Sobotka said 30 percent of what divided the two parties remained to be ironed out. Talks are due to continue on Friday, two days after the three-party government is appointed.
Councillors in the Plzeň Region have elected Václav Šlajs of the Social Democrats governor. The position became vacant when his party colleague Milan Chovanec was chosen to become minister of the interior in the new Czech government. Around 2,800 people signed a petition objecting to Mr. Šlajs’s nomination on the grounds that the 61-year-old was a member of the Communist Party and an army officer before 1989 and dozens of people protested during Monday’s regional council session. Mr. Chovanec said his successor, who joined the Social Democrats in 1993, should be judged on his achievements.
The Ministry of the Environment hugely increased its spending on consultancy and legal services during a period when it was helmed by Civic Democrat minister Tomáš Chalupa, the Supreme Audit Office said on Monday. The ministry spent CZK 48 million on such services in 2012, twice as much as the previous year, the agency said. A current spokesperson for the ministry said savings had been made on salaries under Mr. Chalupa and that the consultants had been hired to carry out checks on an environmental operational programme, which channels EU funding. Among the Supreme Audit Office’s findings was that the Ministry of the Environment spent over CZK 110,000 on around 70 frames for photographs.
The incoming minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová-Tominová, is on the supervisory board of a company that is in a legal dispute with the ministry, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday. The Social Democrat politician said she was aware of the conflict of interest but had a purely formal role at the company. She added that cabinet members have 30 days to quit such positions. The company is in receivership and the ministry is claiming CZK 20 million it gave the firm to provide social services; the ministry halted the project when doubts emerged over how it was being run.
Andrej Babiš, who will be named Czech deputy prime minister and minister of finance on Wednesday, says the day after he is appointed he will travel to his native Slovakia to give court testimony in a slander action he has taken against allegations he collaborated with the secret police in the communist era. The billionaire businessman, whose ANO party came second in elections in October, made the comments in an interview with Monday’s Právo. Mr. Babiš said he would be criticised if he did not go to Bratislava for the hearing. He reiterated his claim that he never collaborated with the StB, adding that the files of the secret police’s biggest agents had been shredded immediately after the Velvet Revolution.
Officials in the Olomouc region in the east of the country have cancelled a decision by the city’s monument preservation department allowing the construction of Šantovka Tower, a controversial high-rise project. A spokeswoman said a City Hall permit had been issued illegally as it did not, among other things, take into consideration the fact that the new building would disturb the skyline. Plans to erect the 22-storey building in the centre of the city have provoked public protests. They are also opposed by the Ministry of Culture.
Three men, aged between 59 and 66, found dead in the Brno district of Komárov on Thursday were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. An autopsy found that the three died because they employed a makeshift propane heater in an insufficiently ventilated space. They were discovered after a local shopkeeper reported that one of them, a regular customer, had not been in in some time.
People in the Moravia-Silesia Region have been warned to avoid going outside unnecessarily because of poor air quality. The dust in the air in the eastern region was three or more times the legal limit on Monday morning. The worst affected spot is the Frýdek-Místek area, where a measuring station recorded 187 microgrammes of particles per cubic metre. The situation is also bad in Český Těšín, with 180 microgrammes per cubic metre registered. An industrial area of the country, Moravia-Silesia frequently suffers from poor air quality, particularly in the winter months.
The Czech NGO People in Need has produced a short video in English and Czech drawing attention to human rights abuses in Russia, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Under the title Hidden Sports, it depicts the mistreatment of homosexuals and the press, which it presents as typical Russian “sports” that will not be on show in Sochi next month.
Much of the Czech Republic has been hit by snow, with road transport impacted in many parts of the country. Approximately 120 gritting trucks were out in force on Monday in the Central Bohemia region alone, while the police attributed 40 traffic accidents in Prague to the difficult conditions. Nevertheless, major roads around the Czech Republic were passable on Monday afternoon.