Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas has asked the country’s president, Václav Klaus, to accept the resignation of Transport Minister Vít Bárta, and to dismiss Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister Josef Dobeš, all from the junior coalition party Public Affairs. The move comes in the wake of a corruption scandal that racked the Public Affairs party and resulted in a call for a change-of-guard from the other coalition parties, Civic Democrats and TOP 09. President Klaus said he would make a decision after a meeting of coalition leaders scheduled for Monday evening.
The president is bound by the country’s constitution to accept the resignation and proposed dismissals, although there is no deadline by when he should do so. Mr Klaus said earlier on Monday he wouldn’t agree to any government shake-up before the prime minister presents him with a plan of how to ensure sufficient support for his government in Parliament.
In related news, Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra offered to step down on Monday in order for the government to continue. Leaders of the Public Affairs party said they would only continue supporting the government in the lower house on condition that Prime Minister Petr Nečas also removes two Civic Democrat ministers, Alexandr Vondra and Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa, and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, from the TOP 09 party, all of whom have at some point been linked to dubious tenders.
The opposition parties in the lower house of the Czech Parliament – the Social Democrats and the Communists – said on Monday that snap general elections would be the “cleanest” way of dealing with the ongoing government crisis. Social Democrat deputy chair Michal Hašek told Czech TV the project of Prime Minister Petr Nečas had failed, and that he should seek voters’ confidence in a new general election. For his part, the head of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip said Mr Nečas’ government had lost all legitimacy.
The Czech police on Monday launched an investigation into the alleged bribery scandal within the junior coalition Public Affairs party. The unofficial party leader, and outgoing Transport Ministr Vít Bárta, reportedly bribed two Public Affairs MPs in return for their loyalty and keeping silent about the party’s financial dealings. Mr Bárta has since denied the charges, and said he only provided loans to the deputies. Police have set up a special team to investigate the issue in which two criminal complaints have been filed.
A covert listening device has been found in the apartment of MP Kristýna Kočí, former head of the Public Affairs’ group of deputies who had been expelled from the party after she accused last week the unofficial party leader Vít Bárta of corruption. Ms Kočí said the wire was found by a private security agency she hired last week over concerns for her safety. She was the second Public Affairs figure to speak publicly about corruption within the party. The scandal led to the ongoing crisis of the Czech coalition government.
The European Commission has suspended payments into the Enterprise and Innovations Operation Programme, run by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, the news website Česká pozice reported on Monday. A spokeswoman for the Commissioner for Regional Policy said the European Commission was concerned over “certain financial circumstances” of the programme. In a letter to the ministry, the commission reportedly pointed out shortcomings in management and control and a lack of transparency in project evaluation, among other things. The Industry and Trade Ministry said they did not agree with the commission’s decision, and is working on a reply that should explain the functioning of the programme which should make some 90 billion crowns available to Czech entrepreneurs by 2013.
The proposed overhaul of the EU’s common agriculture policy after 2013 should lower subsidies for Czech farmers, the European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos told reporters in Prague on Monday. The 27-member-bloc’s planed reform of its agriculture policies should among other things introduce limits for basic agriculture subsidies; Czech farmers fear this could reduce subsidies by around 12 billion crowns per year.
Fuel prices in the Czech Republic have reached record highs, according to date released by the CCS petrol seller on Monday. The price of top-selling gasoline Natural 95 went up to 34.20 crowns per litre last week, while the price diesel increased to 34.20 crowns per litre. Analysts believe fuel prices will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
The Czech and Polish governments have agreed on linking the two countries with a high-speed train service, the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reported on Monday. High-speed trains should run between Warsaw and Prague via Wroclaw as well as between Warsaw and Vienna via Brno. The paper said a joint working group should be established in three months’ time, and the service could be launched by 2019. The new service would significantly cut travelling time between the Czech and Polish capitals, which is now around 8.5 hours.
Trade unions in Česká rafinérská, the country’s largest oil refinery firm, said on Monday they would consider going on strike after salary negotiations with company management have failed. Negotiations will now continue through mediators. Česká rafinérská, which operates refineries in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, has around 640 employees, half of which are members of trade unions. The company’s largest shareholders are Unipetrol, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni.
Jan Balabán’s novel Zeptej se táty, or Ask Your Father, has won the Magnesia Litera award for the book of the year 2011. The author Jan Balabán died last year at the age of 49, shortly after finishing the novel book. Poet Josef Hrubý was awarded for the best book of poetry, while Alžběta Skálová’s Pampe a Šinka got the prize for best children’s book. The award for best work of non-fiction went to Vladimír Papoušek, the author a new history of modern Czech art. The Magnesia Liteta awards were handed out in Prague’s Estates’ Theatre on Sunday.
Czech actor Ladislav Lakomy died on Monday at the age of 79. Mr Lakomý was mainly a stage actor, although he appeared in more than 80 TV and film roles. He spent most of his career in south Moravia; after a stint at a theatre in Uherské Hradiště, he joined the National Theatre in Brno in 1965, where he worked until January. Mr Lakomý last appeared in the 20014 Czech-Greek movie entitled Returning in Autumn.
The start of the week will see overcast skies with occasional rain showers. Daytime highs should range between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.