On Tuesday, the lower house of the Czech parliament overturned a veto by the Senate regarding an amendment to the act on value added tax that would cancel higher taxation of employee benefits. The final decision is now up to President Václav Klaus, who already stated that he would not sign the amendment. Should the change in law go through, it would raise the state budget deficit by over 700 million Czech crowns. Last week, transport union leaders threatened to go on a nation-wide strike should the higher taxation of employee benefits not be cancelled. After Prime Minister pushed through a decision in the unions’ favor, the Senate vetoed this decision.
On Tuesday, the umbrella organization of transport unions apologized to Gustav Slámečka, the Minister of Transport, for homophobic remarks made by one of its leaders, Jaromir Dušek. In an open letter to the minister the union said that Mr. Dušek’s homophobic remarks damaged the image of all members of the union and were offensive to all decent people. It added that it hoped the incident would not damage relations between the transport union and the ministry in the long run. On Monday, trade unions publicly distanced themselves from Dušek’s homophobic statements. Dušek said in an interview for Saturday’s Lidové Noviny that the transport sector was run by a clique of homosexuals who had people both in the cabinet and the office of the government.
A regional court on Tuesday denied an appeal by Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a communist-era prosecutor who is serving a six year jail sentence for judicial murder, to be freed on the grounds of three amnesties that apply to her case. Mrs. Brožová-Polednová can appeal the regional court’s decision at the Supreme Court in Prague, but will have to remain in prison until the Supreme Court delivers a final ruling. Her lawyer filed a request for her prison sentence to be cancelled last week and says he has not yet been officially informed about the negative decision.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, aged 88, is the first participant in the communist era show trials that took place in the 1950s to be persecuted.
The Czech Ministry of Defense is selling several properties that are no longer in use, including a military airport in Central Bohemia, on sale for 140 million Czech crowns. The Všechov airport covers 407,000 square meters of land and has a 2 kilometer landing strip. A large military training ground and army barracks are also on offer. Following an overhaul in the armed forces, the ministry is required by law to offer properties it no longer uses to other state authorities at no charge first, before it can advertise any such properties for sale.
The head of the anti-drug squad, Jakub Frydrych, said on Tuesday that 340 illegal methamphetamine laboratories were uncovered in the Czech Republic last year. That is the highest number in any EU country, and according to Frydrych, the actual number is likely much higher. The anti-drug squad supports a change of law that would limit sale of pseudo-ephedrine in pharmacies, a substance that is a crucial ingredient in the production of methamphetamine. Neighboring countries such as Germany and Poland already limit the sale of the substance. Frydrych said that introducing strict limitations on the sale of the prescription drug would send a signal to the Czech Republic’s European neighbors that the country is taking serious steps to cut down on illegal methamphetamine production.
Juraj Chmiel, the minister for European affairs, stated on Tuesday that cooperation with the Czech ambassador to the EU, Milena Vicenová, was very positive. He criticized the weekly Respekt for the manner in which it reported on her possible dismissal on Monday. The minister’s statement comes shortly after Foreign Minister Jan Kohout dismissed claims that the ambassador was to be fired for incompetence. Minister Kohout, currently on a visit to Ethiopia, said that a change of guard at ambassadorial posts was standard procedure and expressed regret that the issue had been politicized in the press. He refused to disclose any further details until his return. Ms. Vicenová’s alleged dismissal was confirmed indirectly by the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene, the Civic and Social Democrats, who are at odds over the plan. The centre right Civic Democrats, who nominated Ms Vicenová to the post, even suggested her dismissal was an act of revenge by the foreign minister who himself was dismissed from the same post by them a few years ago.
Police officers from Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and the Czech Republic are currently performing increased controls at Prague’s Ruzyně airport in an effort to crack down on human trafficking. Since last week, police have mainly been focusing on arrivals from third world countries and looking for forged passports. Further details could not be revealed, a police spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The controls are part of an initiative of the European agency Frontex, an organization seeking to increase cooperation between police officers in Europe. Czech police officers participate in similar projects at airports abroad.
The Czech Republic’s infrastructure lags behind the EU average, according to an analysis published by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The analysis points to poor quality roads, energy and telecommunication infrastructures as possible factors in slowing down economic development in the Czech Republic. The country ranks 19th in terms of quality of overall infrastructure and it placed 79th for quality of roads and motorways. The percentage of the population that uses broad-band internet is also below the EU average. The ministry has recommended investments into new high-speed railway lines to improve the country’s transport capacity. As far as energy transmission is concerned, the ministry stated that connections to German and Austrian systems had to be improved.
Almost 90 percent of Czechs rate the caretaker prime minister, Jan Fischer, favorably, suggests a STEM agency survey published on Tuesday. The authors of the survey said such a high approval rating was very unusual. The prime minister has the most supporters amongst voters of right of center parties, while he is least popular with Communist party voters. Minister of Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb received the most critical ratings. Overall, about 50 percent of the population trusts the government, the best rating since 2002, when Vladimír Špidla’s cabinet received an approval rating of 55 percent.
The Czech Parliament will not participate in the international initiative “A Flag for Tibet” that is to take place Wednesday, which marks the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Green party deputy Kateřina Jacques tried to garner support for the initiative, but only 74 deputies voted in favor of it. The initiative calls on ministries and other government buildings to display the Tibetan flag as a sign of support for the nation’s struggle for freedom. Last year, over 350 institutions in the Czech Republic took part and displayed the flag.
The coming days are expected to be sunny, clear and cold, with daytime temperatures of around -3 degrees.