The leaders of the Visegrad Four have issued a joint statement calling on the European Commission to take action to eliminate double standards in quality of food products sold by companies in Eastern Europe and in the West. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and leaders of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungry met in Warsaw on Thursday to make a joint motion on a problem that has plagued all four states for years now. The four leaders are angry that European producers are often selling lower quality foodstuffs under the same label in their countries compared with richer neighbours such as Germany and Austria. Czech Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka has commissioned a comparative survey in all four states and Austria which would reveal the extent of the problem.
The Czech Republic has made significant progress in tackling corruption and increasing transparency in party financing, according to a report by the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). The report says that Prague has now fulfilled 9 of the 13 recommendations it was given by the council but regrets the lack of progress in implementing its recommendations concerning the criminalisation of corruption. These are to accelerate the process of signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and to clarify that all public sector employees, in particular those exercising ancillary jobs, fall within the scope of the bribery and trading in influence provisions. GRECO has consistently monitored the situation in the Czech Republic and says the country has made significant progress in the field.
Czechs trust in the army and police is the highest in 15 years, according to the results of a January survey conducted by the STEM polling agency. Seventy-four percent of respondents confirmed trust in the army and 61 percent said the trusted the police force. The only time that trust in these institutions was higher was in 2002 when the police and army actively helped to deal with devastating floods, saving lives and helping with clean-up work. It took the army and police years to build up public trust after the fall of communism. In the 1990s their trust rating was deeply under 50 percent.
The country’s security forces should see a 10 percent increase in wages as of July 2017, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec announced following a meeting with Finance Minister Andrej Babiš on Thursday. Mr. Babiš promised to earmark one billion crowns from state funds to make that possible; 600 million will come from the ministry’s own budget. The country’s police force has 40 thousand employees and the hike will also apply to the country’s close to 10,000 firemen, customs officials, secret service employees and prison wardens.
Lower house deputies from across the political spectrum have urged the Sobotka government to move faster with plans for high speed rail construction in the country. The country currently has no high speed rail links and the most advanced project between Prague and Dresden would see construction launched in 2035. MPs are pushing for construction to start in 2025 and end in 2030, arguing that the country should have no problem building 40 to 50 km of high speed rail tracks a year, both financially and as regards construction potential.
The Czech agency tasked with preparing for a deep underground repository to take the country’s highly radioactive waste has been told to apply again for permits to carry out geological research at seven possible sites for the storage site. The Ministry of Environment said that an application to continue the survey process arrived late and the previous permit expired at the end of 2016. That means in effect that the application process to start surveys will have to begin again from scratch. The hitch has been welcomed by opponents at the seven sites who hope that surveys could be blocked altogether. The government is supposed to decide on a deep storage site by 2025 with its completion targeted for 2065.
Saturday should bring clear to partly cloudy skies and day temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius. Friday’s strong wind is expected to subside by the end of the day.
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