The Chamber of Deputies voted in favour Wednesday of stripping former Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda of parliamentary immunity so he can face criminal proceedings. The vote in favour was 101 of the 175 lawmakers present with 55 against. The debate was concluded Tuesday without a vote being held. Now an MP for the Civic Democrats, Mr. Svoboda is accused along with other councillors of breach of competition rules and breach of trust in connection with Prague’s Opencard electronic card system. He describes the accusations as nonsensical and politically motivated but says he is in favour of his immunity being lifted.
The Apollo music award for the best album of 2013 will be presented at an awards ceremony in Prague on Wednesday night. The annual award, which is perhaps analogous to the Mercury Prize in the UK, is voted on by a panel of music critics and is this year being presented for the third time. Among the contenders this time out are Dan Bárta & Illustratosphere, Never Sol and Prago Union.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg has said that former Civic Democrat Jiří Pospíšel could run in European parliamentary elections for the party. Pospíšel resigned from the Civic Democrats last week citing mutual differences but said that he would keep his seat in the lower house of parliament. He told the daily Právo on Wednesday that he had not received such an offer from TOP 09 but would consider it if he did. Pospíšel, former justice minister, was frequently cited as one of the most popular members of the ODS in public opinion polls.
President Miloš Zeman named former caretaker prime minister Jiří Rusnok a member of the board of the Czech National Bank on Wednesday. Zeman said that Rusnok had the economic and political background to help the Czech Republic decide when and under what conditions to adopt the single currency euro. Mr. Rusnok, an economist, was previously minister of finance and minister of industry and trade in Social Democrat dominated governments. His arrival is expected to dent the distinct euro sceptic composition of the Czech central bank as a result of appointments made by former president Václav Klaus. Rusnok is being tipped in some circles as a possible successor to the current governor of the Czech National Bank, Miroslav Singer, when he steps down in 2016.
Police president Petr Lessy is to resign from the post. In a press conference Wednesday, Lessy said he would resign as of February 28 but counted on remaining in the force as its representative in the Slovak capital, Bratislava. His predecessor, Martin Červíček says he does not count on competing for the top post again. According to new Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec a new tender will be launched to select a head of police. Chovanec said he did not have any favourites to fill the vacancy.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaoralek warned Ukrainian authorities that that would damage long term relations with the European Union if they seek to suppress protests using violence. Zaoralek issued the warning after a meeting with US deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland in Prague on Wednesday. The Czech foreign minister said that Kiev would need European support to try and pull the country out of its current economic crisis. Nuland was visiting Prague as part of a European tour. Prague authorities said Tuesday they wished to play no part in a planned state visit by Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, to the Czech Republic in April.
The Austrian government has expressed its opposition to Czech plans to extend the operational life of the Dukovany nuclear reactor by up to 60 years, according to Wednesday’s edition of the business daily E15. Approval will be sought soon for the first of the four reactors at the site to be given a 10 year operational extension until 2025. Similar proceedings should follow for the remaining three reactors. Czech state owned electricity producer ČEZ would like to extend the life of the four units, completed in 1985 and the following years, to at least 2025 and if possible to 2045. Consultations with neighbouring countries have been held over the Czech Republic’s long term energy policy which should be finalized this year.
In tennis, Czech preparations for the Federation Cup match against Spain have suffered another blow. Lucie Šafářová has fallen ill and her participation in the two day tie starting Saturday is now uncertain. The best Czech singles player Petra Kvitová has already pulled out last week because of illness. Šafářová, ranked 28 in the women’s world singles ratings, is the next best player in the Czech squad.
Social Democrat and ANO party negotiators said on Wednesday that they are seeking to reduce the restitution bill for non-returned church property by around 13 billion crowns. The Czech government and religious organisations previously agreed on total payments of 59 billion crowns spread over 30 years as compensation property taken by the former communist regime which will not be handed back. The party negotiators are also seeking changes in the inflation linking of the payments. Church groups are due to get back around 75 billion crowns worth of land and property. The two parties say the deal with the former centre-right government should be revised. Separately, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he wanted a special committee in the government offices to follow the restitution process.
Internet commerce giant Amazon’s plans to site a distribution centre on the outskirts of Prague are still up in the air. A meeting of the Dobrovíz local council did not take a vote Tuesday night on whether to approve the centre which was opposed previously in a referendum of local residents. The mayor said that the council’s lawyers would have to look over pledges by Amazon to build a bypass round the village so it would not be affected by the extra lorries and noise. A vote should now be taken on February 13. The council meeting was attended by newly installed Industry and Trade minister, Jan Mládek, who is backing the distribution centre near Prague and another one near Brno.
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