Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip met with President Miloš Zeman at Lány Chateau on Thursday for talks on the post-election situation. The Communists, who came third in the early general elections, had hoped for a bigger role in national politics, but those hopes were dashed by the Social Democrats’ lackluster victory in the elections meaning that the two parties together do not have a majority in the lower house. The Communists, whose coalition potential is extremely limited, will be the strongest opposition party in the Chamber of Deputies.
The Social Democrats have initiated talks with church dignitaries on a possible revision of the law on church restitutions. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka told the CTK news agency on Thursday he had requested a meeting with Cardinal Dominik Duka and the head of the Ecumenical Council of Churches Joel Ruml. The Social Democrats are hoping to reach a new agreement with churches which would lower the burden on the state budget. The matter is also being debated with the Social Democrats’ potential coalition partners –the ANO party headed by Andrej Babiš, which approves of the move and the Christian Democrats who are vehemently against it.
The outgoing finance minister Jan Fisher has rejected speculation that he is to be the country’s new ambassador to Luxembourg as of February 2014. The report appeared in Thursday’s Hospodarské Noviny which claimed that according to unnamed diplomatic sources Mr. Fischer was the only candidate for the post. The Czech Embassy in Luxembourg was closed at the end of 2012 within broad austerity measures introduced by the then centre-right government but the country’s new foreign minister, Jan Kohout, ordered its reopening, based on new foreign policy priorities.
President Miloš Zeman has selected two more nominees for Constitutional Court judges to replace those whose term in office expires in the coming months. They are Jiří Zemánek, an expert on European law and current Constitutional Court judge Jan Musil who would be considered for re-election. The nominations will need to be approved by the Senate by January 10th of 2014.
Czech Airlines has announced it will renew direct flights from Prague to Bratislava as of December 2013. The airline is planning three flights a week in the winter months and double that number in the summer season. Direct flights between the Czech and Slovak capitals were curtailed in 2011 for financial reasons. The price of a return ticket for the hour-long flight will be close to 2,000 crowns.
President Miloš Zeman has requested a meeting with Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka on November 21st, the president’s spokeswoman Hana Buriánová told the ctk news agency on Thursday. The president is expected to officially task the Social Democrat leader with forming a new government. Mr. Sobotka said after his first meeting with the head of state on Wednesday that the president had clearly indicated he meant to entrust him with the task. As the head of the strongest party to come out of the elections, Mr. Sobotka is the natural candidate to lead the talks, although he has had to fight off a rebellion from party members who blame him for the Social Democrats' lackluster victory.
The Social Democratic chairman Bohuslav Sobotka met with President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since the October elections. Since the Social Democrats received the most votes in the elections, it is expected that the president will most likely charge Mr. Sobotka with putting together the next government. During the Wednesday meeting the president did not do so, though speaking after the meeting, Mr. Sobotka said he expects this to happen next week. Mr. Zeman said earlier this week that he does not want to confirm a new government before he recovers from his recent knee injury. Mr. Sobotka delayed the traditional meeting with the president for two weeks after the general elections, because of an upheaval in the party right after the elections.
A number of right-wing extremist groups are planning on staging demonstrations in the center of Prague on Sunday during celebrations of a state holiday marking the Day of Freedom and Democracy. The Worker’ Youth group is planning on marching from Wenceslas Square through the historical center of the city. Traditionally on November 17th, the Czech Republic commemorates Nazi repressions of Czechoslovak university students in 1939 and the student demonstrations in 1989, which eventually led to the fall of the Communist regime.
Some residents of the town of Dobrovíz, where the internet shopping giant Amazon is planning to build one of its Central European distribution hubs, are protesting against the American company’s decision. Locals are concerned with the damage to the environment that will be caused by the construction and operation of the 95,000-square-meter warehouse, as well as the burden on local infrastructure from approximately 450 lorries that will be coming in and out of the complex on a daily basis starting in the second half of next year. The town’s mayor said that he has not seen any exact plans of the project and has not yet met with either the developer or Amazon representatives, though those meetings are in the plans. Amazon made the announced that it has chosen the industrial complex in Dobrovíz near the Václav Havel airport and another location near Brno for two new distribution centers over a month ago.
Leaders of the miners’ unions have reached an agreement with the management of the coal mining company OKD on a new collective contract until 2018. OKD employees called off a series of major strikes planned for the upcoming weeks. The unions threatened strikes primarily because the company was unwilling to meet their demands on employee bonuses. The agreement negotiations, which have been going on for the past 13 months, were further complicated by the austerity measures that OKD, a subsidiary of New World Resources (NWR), began introducing this year in response to a worsening situation on the coal market.
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