President Miloš Zeman appointed a new centre-left government to office on
Wednesday. The new administration, led by Social Democrat prime minister
Bohuslav Sobotka is a coalition of his party, Andrej Babis’ ANO movement,
and the Christian Democrats. The new cabinet will have 17 members with the
Social Democrats controlling eight ministries, ANO six and the Christian
The new administration has pledged to stimulate economic growth, raise pensions and the minimum wage while keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP. The incoming finance minister claims improved tax collection will help provide the state with the extra funds needed. The government has 30 days to win a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament but coalition leaders said they would seek a vote around February 18.
President Zeman called on party leaders of the incoming government to make the passing of a new civil service law its highest priority. The proposed new law was already approved at first reading in the lower house of parliament, a step which the head of state demanded for ANO leader Andrej Babis to become minister of finance. Zeman stressed that the Czech Republic is the last EU country to implement rules guaranteeing an independent and professional civil service. He said such a law was the only way to protect citizens against those who sought to traffic state power.
A Czech betting company has offered odds that prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s government will probably last its full four year term. The Fortuna betting office was giving odds Wednesday of 1:0.95, meaning that a bet of 100 crowns would recoup 195 crowns if the government fulfilled its mandate. Odds were also being offered on which ministers would be sacrificed first in reshuffles.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Petr Fiala denounced the promises of the incoming coalition government as vague and irreconcilable. The recently selected leader of the centre-right party said that the government was promising more social spending but had failed to spell out where it will make savings. Fiala added that the self employed are likely to suffer the most from the new government’s measures and also highlighted the possibility of sector taxes on banks or big energy companies. But Fiala welcomed that a government composed of political parties would replace the caretaker administration installed by president Miloš Zeman.
The Visegrad Group countries are to hold an extraordinary summit in Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday to coordinate their positions on the situation in Ukraine. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have already issued a joint statement calling for an end to the violence and for the parties involved to seek a lasting, democratic solution to the conflict. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is travelling to Budapest right after the government’s appointment to office.
The Czech president’s chief foreign policy advisor Hynek Kmoníček met with the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague Boris Zajchuk on Wednesday to discuss the security of Czech diplomats and Czech citizens in the country. The ambassador earlier met with top foreign ministry officials and assured them that police who had committed acts of violence against protesters would be punished. The Czech Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning relating to certain parts of the country and has urged tourists to stay away from public protests.
The Czech Republic’s third major car maker, joint venture TPCA, says it made a profit of 170 million crowns in 2013, a fall of 13% compared with the previous year. TPCA is the cooperation between Japan’s Toyota and France’s PSA Peugeot Citröen. Workers and management at the plant are currently in a face off over demands for a 12% wage hike with employers offers just 2.2%. A new collective deal should be agreed by the end of February.
The Czech upper house, the Senate, has opposed giving greater nuclear safety supervision powers to the European Commission. Senators took the same stand Wednesday as the Czech government and said that calls for reinforced rules following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan were premature. One change called for is that independent supervisors replace the safety checks made by national authorities. An evaluation of member states compliance with existing safety rules is not due until July this year. Speaking to the Senate, outgoing prime minister Jiří Rusnok said he doubted whether the Czech Republic could win sufficient among other EU states to oppose the Commission proposal.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is to pay a three day state visit to the Czech Republic at the invitation of Czech President Milos Zeman. President Sargsyan is due to arrive in Prague on Wednesday for a series of talks with top officials and will attend a state dinner held at Prague Castle in his honour on Thursday night. The two heads of state are expected to discuss bilateral ties and investment and trade opportunities. The Armenian president last visited the Czech capital in 2009 when the Czech capital hosted an EU summit focusing on the Eastern partnership project.
In tennis, Czech Federation Cup captain Petr Pála has named his squad for the first round tie again Spain. The women players are Petra Kvitová, Lucie Šafářová, Klara Zakopalová, and Andrea Hlaváčková. The encounter takes place at Seville on February 8 and 9. Spain has won two out of the three last contests between the countries but the last honours went to the Czech Republic when they competed in 2009 in Brno.