A former Czech minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, took part in a demonstration in support of Ukraine’s pro-Western opposition on Kiev’s Independence Square on Saturday. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who currently chairs the Czech lower house’s foreign affairs committee, was quoted by a local news website as saying the demonstrators were showing the entire world their desire to forge closer ties with the European Union. Protests began in Ukraine after the government of President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the EU last month, apparently under pressure from Russia. On Sunday the Czech EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said the bloc was suspending talks with Kiev on the agreement.
Martin Červíček says he never promised Interior Minister Martin Pecina that he would stand down as police president if his predecessor Petr Lessy was reinstated, a situation that came about at the start of this month when a case against Mr. Lessy was thrown out by a court. Mr. Pecina insists Mr. Červíček made such a pledge. The latter said on a TV debate show on Sunday that if he was forced to resign he would resume his former position of deputy police president. Meanwhile, President Miloš Zeman said in a radio interview that a selection process should be held to decide which of the two men stays in the post, adding that he regarded Mr. Červíček as the legitimate police chief.
President Miloš Zeman says Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok, Finance Minister Jan Fischer and Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek have learned that it doesn’t pay to whisper in the Chamber of Deputies, after a conversation among the three was picked up on microphones. Mr. Rusnok was left particularly embarrassed after using vulgar language in making clear he did not wish to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Mr. Zeman said in a radio interview on Sunday that he would have gone to South Africa to honour the country’s late president if he were not suffering from an injury to his leg.
The Czech police’s internal affairs agency is carrying out an intensive investigation of the deaths of a police officer, 27, and his mother, 46, in the garage of their home in the village of Žerůtky in South Moravia on Saturday afternoon. Local people have told reporters that the policeman collected old munitions and that a grenade may have been the cause of the fatal explosion that killed the two. The police are refusing to release details and have neither confirmed nor denied this theory.
The Czech swimmer Simona Baumrtová has taken four medals at the European Short Course Championships in Herning, Denmark. Baumrtová’s latest success was silver in the women’s 200m backstroke, which she achieved on Sunday in a new Czech record of 2:03:06. The 22-year-old had already taken gold in the 50m backstroke, silver in the 100m and bronze with the Czech team in the mixed medley relay.
The Central Executive Committee of the largest party in the emerging new Czech government, the Social Democrats, has, as expected, approved a coalition agreement reached with ANO and the Christian Democrats. The party’s chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, said no serious objections to the coalition deal had been raised at Saturday’s meeting at Prague’s Congress Centre. Mr. Sobotka said the new government – which has pledged not to raise taxes – would make savings in the running of the state but not at the expense of individuals. The country is on the edge of recession, he said, and required a government that would waste no time in supporting growth.
The three parties of the emerging centre-left coalition have released the
details of the future government’s policy programme. The Social
Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats plan no tax hikes next year as
they agreed to postpone any changes to the tax system for 2015. The
emerging coalition would however like to raise the taxes on betting and
lottery, and cut the VAT rates on medicines, books, and other goods. The
three parties plan to raise pensions and the minimum wage, and to scrap
direct payments for medical care; they want to invest more into transport
infrastructure, and pursue self-sufficiency in basic foodstuffs. The
agreement also suggests the next government will only go ahead with the
expansion of the Temelín nuclear plant if it’s economically viable.
Christian Democratic leaders are to discuss the agreement at the weekened while ANO is set to debate it next week. Leadership of the Social Democrat party, meanwhile, approved the deal unanimously on Friday.
In related news, the Christian Democrats are demanding a better deal in the distribution of ministerial posts, party leader Pavel Bělobrádek told the news site iDnes on Friday. The Christian Democrats, the weakest party in the potential coalition, are not prepared to accept two ministerial positions offered by their partners, and demand at least one more post, Mr Bělobrádek said. The Christian Democrats have been offered the culture and health ministries, neither of which they particularly wanted to manage. In a reaction, leader of the ANO party, Andrej Babiš rejected the demands and said the proposed distribution reflected the parties’ election results.
Czech fugitive Radovan Krejčíř has been denied bail by a South African court after his attorneys on Friday failed to convince the court Mr Krečíř would not flee the country. Radovan Krejčíř and three of his local associates are being held in police custody on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. Mr Krejčíř is wanted in the Czech Republic where he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for fraud. He fled the country and eventually settled in South Africa in 2007.
The Slovak state-owned rail operator ZSSK has placed an order for eight electric train units of the 671 class, worth 77 million euro, or 2.1 billion crowns, with the Czech producer Škoda Vagonka, the Slovak company said on Friday. The first trains should be delivered by the end of next year, a spokeswoman for the rail operator said. The order came after the European Commission approved a project of modernization of suburban and regional railway transport in Slovakia.