The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, discussed the UK’s exit from the
European Union, Austria’s presidency of the EU and bilateral relations
with his Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz, in Vienna on Saturday
evening. Austria’s finance minister, Hartwig Löger, and speaker of
parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, also attended the meeting.
Mr. Babiš was in Vienna for a concert by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra marking the recent centenary of Czech statehood.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, begins a four-day state visit to Israel
on Sunday. While in the country Mr. Zeman will become the first Czech
statesman to speak at a session of the Knesset. He will also open a Czech
House in Jerusalem housing a Czech Centre and the offices of CzechTrade,
CzechInvest and CzechTourism. Mr. Zeman says he regards that move as a
precursor to transferring the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an
idea to which the Czech government has not given its backing.
The Czech head of state will meet his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, and the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Zeman will be accompanied by around 70 Czech business people and representatives of scientific institutions.
Up to 20 centimetres of fresh snow could fall in South Bohemia, Vysočina
and north-eastern parts of the Czech Republic on Monday, the Czech
Hydro-Meteorological Institute has warned. Most of the snow will be in
highland areas but it will also be seen in some low-lying parts.
According to a regular four-week forecast issued on Saturday, temperatures in the coming week should hover just above 0 degrees Celsius during the day. While those values will be below average, the following weeks are expected to see average daytime highs for the time of year. Precipitation will also be around average for most of the coming month, forecasters predict.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, has described
Russia as “dangerous”. In an interview with Czech Radio, Mr.
Petříček said Moscow was increasingly assertive and represented a danger
as it was spreading disinformation and employing various hybrid threats.
The minister, who was appointed last month, said Russia was a genuine risk to the Czech Republic and other European Union states, adding that reports of the threat posed by Moscow from the Czech intelligence service ought to be taken very seriously.
Mr. Petříček said the Czech Republic should not “wait with its hands on its lap” but should tackle such threats more effectively. He said it was necessary to boost strategic communication and the combating of disinformation within the framework of the EU.
The chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala, says Prime
Minister Andrej Babiš has so many personal and family problems that he is
unable to concentrate on serving the country. He told Saturday’s edition
of newspaper Právo that recent events mean that the Czech Republic has
moved a step closer to early elections.
The Civic Democrats were one of a number of opposition parties that tabled a no-confidence vote in the ANO-led government after Mr. Babiš’s son sparked a scandal by saying he had been taken to Crimea to “disappear” during an investigation involving the PM and alleged corruption.
Mr. Fiala told Právo the defeat of the no-confidence vote had not been a foregone conclusion. He said the junior party in the coalition, the Social Democrats, had displayed cowardice by not taking part in the show of hands.
The Social Democrats have also pledged to work to dissolve the lower house in certain circumstances and this is reason to believe the current government cannot last much longer, Mr. Fiala said.
Government leaders ANO would have won elections in November with 29.5
percent of the vote, virtually the same as they achieved in the last
general elections, suggests a freshly released CVVM poll. Most respondents
answered the survey prior to November 12, when a scandal surrounding ANO
leader Andrej Babiš’s son broke.
The Civic Democrats placed second in the poll on 14.5 percent, just ahead of the Czech Pirate Party on 14.0 percent. Some 10.0 percent of those surveyed would have cast their ballots for the Communists, with 9.0 percent backing the Social Democrats, the junior party in the governing coalition. Freedom and Direct Democracy would achieve 7.5 percent, the poll indicated.
Thousands of people demonstrated in central Prague on Friday evening,
calling for the resignation of Andrej Babiš’s ANO-led government. The
crowd gathered at Prague Castle and marched to Old Town Square, which was
almost full, repeating the scene at a similar demonstration on November 17.
The event was organised by Milion chvilek, a group that has held a number
of protests against Mr. Babiš’s this year.
The gathering took place shortly after the ANO government survived, as anticipated, a no-confidence vote. It was tabled by the opposition over a scandal surround Mr. Babiš’s son, who says he was taken to Crimea against his will so as not to be available to answer questions in an investigation involving the PM and alleged corruption.
The chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, Aleš Opata, visited
Czech troops in Iraq and Mali between Wednesday and Friday. In Iraq General
Opata met instructors from the Czech chemical forces, military police and
regular police, as well as flying instructors teaching local pilots in the
use of Czech-made jets.
While in Mali the Czech Army chief met soldiers in the capital Bamako tasked with providing protection to a European Union training mission, a spokesperson for the General Staff told the Czech News Agency.
The government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has, as expected,
survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. Ninety-two MPs voted for the
measure, 90 voted against it, and 18 abstained. To pass, 101 votes were
The vote took place after over seven hours of at times heated and emotional debate. It was called by the opposition due to fraud allegations against Mr Babiš involving EU subsidies, triggered by an interview his son gave claiming he had been “kidnapped” so he would not talk to investigators.
Mr Babiš’s coalition partners, the Social Democrats, skipped the vote to allow the government to survive. But they want Mr Babiš to resign. He is refusing to do so.
“I have no reason to resign,” he told lawmakers in an emotional speech before the vote. “You either have to dismiss me or try to defeat me in free, democratic elections. You cannot get rid of me in any other way than through the one based on the will of the citizens.”
Mr Babiš condemned what he called the “lies” being spread about the kidnapping or coerced disappearance of his son, Andrej Babiš Jr., who he says was in Russian-occupied Crimea at the time in question of his own free will.
Mr Babiš called the whole thing a “pseudo-affair” and again accused journalists of exploiting his son’s psychological condition to obtain what he called “a false and unethical report.”
Earlier in the week, Social Democratic party leader Jan Hamáček said it would be best if the prime minister stepped down.
“The prime minister’s personal problems are burdening the government and we lobbied hard for a change of prime minister, but the ANO party is categorically against that. So by abstaining from the vote we are acknowledging the problem, but our priority is to continue in this government and to implement our policy programme”, Hamáček said.
The only way to bring about a change of prime minister, Hamáček said, was via a motion to dissolve parliament and hold early elections, which his party was ready to support if 120 votes could be found for such a solution in the lower house.
Mr Babiš’s ANO party remains the most popular. A survey published on Friday by the pollster CVVM show ANO would win elections now with about 30 percent of the vote. However, that poll was conducted before the current crisis peaked and so does not fully reflect its potential impact on party preferences, CVVM said.
A separate poll by the Median agency taken last week showed that most Czechs (57 percent) believe Babiš tried to keep his children from testifying in the corruption case against him over EU subsidies to the Stork’s Next complex.
The poll was taken after the publication of an interview on November 12 with Andrej Babiš Jr, who said he had been “kidnapped” and taken to Crimea because his father wanted him to “disappear” while the investigation into EU subsidy fraud was underway.
Mr Babiš says his son, who now lives in Switzerland, is mentally ill and that the allegations are nonsense. The prime minister also says his daughter is bipolar and so her testimony would be unreliable.
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