The lower house of Parliament approved on Wednesday an expansion of the Czech army’s contingent in Afghanistan. As of next year, the Czech military will send up to 720 troops to that country, some 200 more than there are now. The Czech army’s priorities in Afghanistan include the expansion of its Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar, training of local army and police forces in the province of Wardak as well as a Czech helicopter unit at Kabul airport.
In line with the position of the Czech government, the Czech Senate rejected on Wednesday an EU-proposed bank tax that should help rescue defaulting banks. The Senators said the measure would be a disadvantage to European banks that would transfers the new costs on their clients. Members of the upper chamber of Parliament said they want the debate to focus on curbing “moral hazards” of financial institutions, rather than on creating new funds and approving new taxes.
The lower house of the Czech parliament has passed in the second reading four bills aimed at reducing government spending next year by around CZK 35 billion (USD 2 billion). Among other changes, the legislation will bring about a reduction in support for building savings; tax changes, including a new flood reserve tax; measures reducing social benefits; and a decrease in state contributions to political parties. A final vote is expected to take place by the end of the week. Tuesday’s show of hands took place under what is known as a “state of legislative emergency”. The opposition said using that mechanism to speed up the approval process represented a breach of the constitution.
The four bills are part of a government plan to balance the Czech Republic’s budget by 2016. It says it will launch reforms of the pension, health and taxation systems in 2012.
Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra announced on Wednesday that he will replace his deputy Jan Fulík by next week. Mr Vondra said the move was part of a broader reshuffle at the Defence Ministry. However, the news agency ČTK speculates that Mr Fulík is being removed due to his involvement in the purchase of Spanish-made CASA transport planes for the Czech army, a 3.5 billion-crown deal over which the European Commission is taking the Czech Republic to court. The news website respekt.cz reported Mr Fulík will be replaced by former defence minister Jiří Šedivý.
Former Czech prime minister Jan Fischer, who led the country’s caretaker government between 2009 and 2010, is going to publish a book of memoirs later this month from his time in office. Entitled Yes Prime Minister or A Misaligned Country, the book recalls, among other things, Mr Fischer’s dealings with the former leaders of the two strongest Czech parties, Mirek Topolánek and Jiří Paroubek, whom he refers to as Hugo and Boss. Former statistician Fischer, who went on to become a vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development after his term expired, also shares his memories of some world leaders as well as the turbulent times during the ratification of the EU’s Lisbon treaty.
The Czech anti-monopoly authority issued on Wednesday a fine of six million crowns for one of the country’s biggest transport firms, Student Agency, over low fares the company charged on its Prague-Brno route. The competition watchdog fined Student Agency for its policy in 2008 when the firm got involved in a price war with another company on the Prague-Brno route. Representatives of the Brno-based transport firm said they were going to appeal the verdict.
Prague’s National Theatre is considering a new service, offering people to get married inside its historic venues. The theatre management said the new service should partly cover the cuts in its budget for 2011. Couples could get married in one of the boxes in the theatre main building, for around 35,000 crowns, or, during the summer break, on stage of the Estates Theatre, at roughly 90,000 crowns. The Czech culture minister, Jiří Besser, however told Czech Radio he opposed those plans, given the historic significance of the theatre, as well as the high divorce rate in the Czech Republic.
Three officers of the Czech foreigner’s police branch in Litoměřice in northern Bohemia have been charged with taking bribes from visa applicants, a police spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The police spokeswoman said the officers took bribes in at least 108 cases for facilitating visa applications. The Czech police inspection also detained 12 Ukrainian and Vietnamese nationals who face charges of offering bribes.
A Polish construction worker died in the west Bohemian town of Mariánské Lázně on Wednesday after the scaffolding he was working on collapsed. Another two workers were taken into hospital with serious injuries, a spokesman for the emergency service said. The accident occurred when a part of the building’s moulding broke off and fell onto the scaffolding which then crashed down.
The Czech women’s national volleyball team beat Kenya 3:0 at the World Championships in Japan on Wednesday, securing the fourth place in Pool B and advancing to the tournament’s second round, after also upsetting the reigning European champions, Italy. The Czechs last made it to the last 16 at the world championships in 1994.
Three clubs of the Czech hockey Extraliga – Plzeň, Mladá Boleslav and Kladno – are likely to lose points over invalid registrations of some of their players, the league’s director, Stanislav Šulc, told reporters on Wednesday. Mr Šulc said these clubs failed to register some of their players properly with the league’s management, and will therefore lose any points they won in games in which the players in question took part. Plzeň is thus set to lose 19 out of 28 points, Mladá Boleslav 22 of 24 points and Kladno 6 of 13 points.
Rain showers and strong winds by the end of the week are expected to spoil the current spell of nice weather. Daytime highs should range between 13 and 18 degrees Celsius.