Environment Minister Richard Brabec, who took over his portfolio on Friday morning, has outlined his priorities. Mr. Brabec said he planned to travel to Šumava at the earliest opportunity to stabilize the situation at the Šumava National Park and try and secure the return of experts who left their posts amid a row over the park’s future. The newly-appointed environment minister also said he wanted to address the persisting problem of air-pollution in Moravia and Silesia and improve the drawing of EU funds in the environment sector.
Customs officers at Vaclav Havel Airport uncovered 18 elephant tusks hidden in luggage heading for Asia. The smuggled goods was heading for Vietnam and is believed to be worth 1.6 million crowns on the black market. The elephant tusks which had been sawn into pieces, were from the highly protected breed of African elephants. Police have detained a 24-year-old Vietnamese national for questioning. If charged and convicted he could face up to eight years in prison.
The speaker of the lower house Jan Hamáček has nominated Sir Nicholas Winton for the Nobel Peace Prize, the ctk news agency reports citing Parliament sources. Nicholas Winton, a former British diplomat based in Prague, helped 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia escape Nazi concentration camps by securing their departure to Great Britain before the war broke out. Sir Nicolas was nominated for the prize on three successive occasions by the former lower house speaker Miroslava Němcová. The initiative is supported by the Open Gate secondary school whose students have collected thousands of signatures on a petition supporting the nomination.
The new labour and social affairs minister, Michaela Marksová-Tominová of the Social Democrats, is planning to disallow payments into private pension funds by 2016. The introduction of the so-called second pillar of the pension system was a key feature of the previous centre-right coalition government’s efforts to reform the pension system. Ms Marksová-Tominová told reporters a team of coalition and opposition politicians along with experts should start working on a new reform of the system. Around 84,000 people have joined the second pillar, sending part of their monthly social insurance payments to private funds.
Meteorologists have issued a hurricane warning for the eastern parts of the country. Hurricane force winds of up to 145 km per hour are expected to hit the Jeseníky, Krkonoše and Beskydy mountain regions late Friday or early Saturday. Cable cars and ski lifts are expected to be out of operation and drivers have been warned to exercise caution.
Slovak prosecutors in the case of Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš have presented the court with documents indicating that in the 1980s Babiš may have informed on some of his colleagues in the company Petrimex. However the documents in question were administered by the former stb officer Andrej Kulha who told the court earlier that Babiš had not knowingly collaborated with the former communist police. Andrej Babiš, who took the issue to court asking he be struck off the list of stb agents, claims that while as an exporter he could not avoid questioning by the stb he had never betrayed anyone or knowingly informed on them. The case has been adjourned until April 14.
The new Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová from the ANO party has affected sweeping changes in top management, replacing three out of four deputy minsters. Klára Dostalová is to head the European funds department, which is considered of crucial importance given the country’s problems with drawing of EU funds. The Regional Development Ministry is expected to improve the transparency of project management and know-how in drawing of EU funds. The minister has also been tasked with drafting a bill on public tenders in line with new European Parliament directives.
The newly-appointed centre-left cabinet is reviewing a number of proposed bills prepared by the former interim administration of Jiří Rusnok. According to the daily Právo several draft bills which would otherwise have been slated for debate in Parliament next week will be swept off the table. They include a proposed draft law on civil service which the Rusnok cabinet prepared as an alternative to that currently being debated in the lower house, a draft law on the appointment of professors and a draft law on the composition of the army and salaries in the military. The matter is to be debated at Monday’s cabinet meeting.
A total of 40 people have died in road accidents in the Czech Republic this month which was two more than last January, according to figures released by Czech police. The number is however the third lowest since 1990. Another 135 people suffered serious injuries in road crashes in January, which is half the number of road injuries sustained in the same month last year.
Former Justice Minister Jiri Pospíšil who on Thursday announced his decision to leave the Civic Democratic Party after 14 years of membership, is resisting pressure for him to give up his parliamentary mandate. Under fire from former party colleagues, Mr. Pospišil said on Friday he had not signed a pledge to relinquish his mandate in the event to leaving the party or facing charges of criminal behaviour, because he considered the document vague and badly worded. Mr. Pospišil said he did not want to squander the trust of the Plzen electorate saying he believed he had been elected on the basis of his own reputation rather than as a member of the ailing Civic Democratic Party.
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery