The European Parliament will debate possible conflict of interest on the
part of the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, next Wednesday. The motion
was submitted by the European Greens with the support of the European
MEPs are expected to hear the positions of the European Commission and the Council of the EU on the matter. However, they will not pass a resolution on it.
A leaked European Commission report found that the Czech PM was in conflict of interest over moneys handed out to his Agrofert conglomerate.
Critics say that although Mr. Babiš placed Agrofert in a trust fund, he remains the beneficial owner, in breach of Czech and EU law. He denies any wrongdoing.
The minister for regional development, ANO appointee Klára Dostálová, is
a key suspect in a police investigation into the state agency CzechTourism,
Czech Television reported. It said a court order for a search of Ms.
Dostálová’s home indicates that she is suspected of handing out
contracts without following due procedure while she was a deputy regional
Ms. Dostálová denies any wrongdoing and has received the backing of ANO chief Andrej Babiš. Opposition politicians have called for her to resign.
Last month police raided the Ministry of Regional Development, CzechTourism and other venues in connection with the case.
The two coalition parties are in favour of free lunches at elementary
schools and kindergartens but have different conceptions of which children
should receive them, Právo reported on Thursday. Prime Minister Andrej
Babiš of ANO wants to bring in free lunches for all elementary school
pupils and final-year kindergarteners. However, the Social Democrats’
former education minister Kateřina Valachová has put forward a bill
promising to feed all kindergarten children and elementary school first
Právo said that whichever version is adopted free lunches look set to come in the year after next. Critics say taxpayers will foot the bill in any case and that it is a populist gesture.
A group of students has criticised that fact that Jiří Ovčáček, the
spokesperson of President Miloš Zeman, was invited to give a lecture at a
university. The head of a faculty at Prague’s University of Economics
invited Mr. Ovčáček to speak about fake news and introduced him as
“the most educated” presidential spokesperson ever.
However, the student Facebook group Club of Young Political Scientists said that inviting Mr. Ovčáček to discuss fake news was deliberate provocation. He frequently speaks to the pro-Russian Parlamentní listy website, which has long been monitored by the Ministry of the Interior, the students said.
A question time session of the Chamber of Deputies was abandoned on
Thursday morning when no members of the ANO-Social Democrats cabinet turned
up, Novinky.cz reported. Government ministers excused their absences by
citing work commitments or international trips.
Around 90 members of the 200-seat lower house had been there for the 9 am start. One minister, culture department chief Antonín Staněk, arrived after the session had been suspended.
Some members of opposition parties joked that the government was “slogging away”, a reference to a slogan frequently used by ANO.
The State Security Council has taken note of a 2017 report on extremism in
the Czech Republic in the original wording drafted by the Ministry of the
Interior, the minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, said on Thursday.
The study will now be debated by the government.
There have been media reports that discussion of the document was delayed after President Miloš Zeman’s office objected to its purported linking of extremism and Tomio Okamura’s anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy party.
In the past the annual report on extremism was discussed in May. However, Mr. Hamáček has denied that political intervention caused a delay this year.
Retail sales in October, excluding car sales, rose by 6.4 percent in annual
terms, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday.
The growth signals stronger than usual pre-Christmas holiday spending, analysts said, in line with Czechs’ rising purchasing power.
Online sales grew at an even faster pace, rising more than 24 percent year on year.
The office also noted a marked rise in sales of information and communication equipment in specialised stores, such as laptops and smartphones, which rose 18.1 percent.
President Miloš Zeman on Thursday will formally receive the credentials of
four new ambassadors, from the Vatican City, Georgia, Latvia and Albania.
The ceremony will take place at Prague Castle.
The new apostolic nuncio to the Czech Republic is Charles Daniel Balvo, an American, who has already served at the Prague nunciature. He replaces Giuseppe Leanza, who has served as apostolic nuncio to the Czech Republic for the past seven years.
Georgia will be newly represented by Mariam Rakiašvili, who previously served as Deputy Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Latvia’s new ambassador, Gunta Pastore, previously served as a deputy in embassies in Denmark and Sweden.
The new Albanian ambassador to Prague is Ilirian Kuka, currently a counsellor of business affairs.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, founder and chairman of the centre-right
populist ANO party, remains the most trusted leader of a political party
now represented in parliament, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency.
According to the poll, the ANO leader enjoys the trust of 40 percent of the 1,100 people surveyed. In second place is Pirate party chairman Ivan Bartoš, at 33 percent, followed by Tomio Okamura of the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party at 31 percent. The head of the junior coalition party, Social Democrat Jan Hamaček, placed ninth in the survey, at 22 percent.
However, CVVM noted that the survey was conducted from November 2 to November 15 and “does not reflect political events that have occurred after this date.”
On November 12, the prime minister’s son, Andrej Babiš Jr, said in an interview he had be “kidnapped” and taken to Crimea to prevent him testifying in a corruption probe over his father’s alleged abuse of EU subsidies.
That allegation triggered a no-confidence vote on November 23, which the government of Mr Babiš survived with the support of the Communists.
A separate poll by the STEM agency, conducted more than a week after the first report on the alleged kidnapping, shows support for ANO has risen by 2.3 percentage points since the last poll, to a 35.7 percent, and would handily win parliamentary elections if held today.