Daily news summary News

23-08-2011

Czech Republic welcomes gains by rebel Libyan forces

The Czech Republic has welcomed the gains of the rebel forces fighting the Gaddafi regime but has not so far formally recognised the Libyan National Transitional Council as the only and legitimate representative of the Libyan people. A statement published by the Czech Foreign Ministry calls on Muammar Gaddafi to end the bloodshed and give himself up, opening the way to a new, democratic Libya. The Czech Republic has expressed readiness to share its know-how in the transition to democracy and the process of political and economic reform.

Civic Democrats call on TOP 09 not to rock the boat

The Civic Democratic Party has urged its coalition partners not to put the future of the government at risk. In a resolution passed on Tuesday morning the party leadership indirectly criticized TOP 09 suggesting it was using the scandal surrounding public official Ladislav Bátora to destabilize or even bring down the coalition government. A spokesman for the Civic Democratic Party said that if a coalition party wanted to walk out of the governing coalition it should do so in a straightforward manner and not hide behind a pretext such as the Bátora scandal.

TOP 09 has threatened to leave the government unless Ladislav Bátora, a controversial, high-placed official at the Education Ministry was sacked over insulting remarks he made about TOP 09 chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The two officials have traded insults in the media in recent weeks and Mr. Bátora’s boss, Education Minister Josef Dobeš of Public Affairs has refused to sack him saying his employee enjoyed the right to freedom of expression as much as anyone. Mr. Bátora, who in the past ran for the ultra-right National Party, has also come under fire for his criticism of the recent gay rights parade in the Czech capital.

TOP 09 denies having hidden agenda

The TOP 09 leadership which met to debate the crisis on Tuesday has denied allegations that it has a hidden agenda in the matter. However it insists on Batora’s dismissal before the government can become fully functional again. At present TOP 09 ministers are boycotting government sessions and sending their deputies in their place.

Meanwhile, Public Affairs maintains that in the light of Minister Dobeš’ apology to Minister Schwarzenberg it considers the matter closed.

Social Democrats call for early elections

The opposition Social Democratic Party has said it is ready to discuss early elections if the government is incapable of functioning properly. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said at a press conference on Tuesday that if TOP 09 ministers were not willing to do their duties then it would be better not to prolong the crisis and seek an effective solution. The party’s deputy Lubomir Zaoralek noted that the prime minister was clearly unwilling or unable to resolve the crisis and the situation in Czech politics was increasingly chaotic. The leading opposition party also attacked Education Minister Josef Dobes, saying both he and Batora should be dismissed.

Flash poll on Batora scandal

A flash poll on the Batora scandal indicates that 57 percent of Czechs would support his dismissal from office. Forty-four percent of respondents moreover view him as a racist who should never have been appointed to the post. On the other hand, 30 percent of respondents are inclined to agree that the scandal surrounding him does not merit a government crisis of the present proportions and that the TOP 09 party is using it as a pretext to destabilize the government.

President’s aide threatens legal action against foreign minister

President Klaus’ close aide Petr Hájek on Tuesday threatened to take legal action against Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg for allegedly having insulted the Office of the President. Mr. Hájek was referring to an interview for Týden magazine in which the foreign minister said Mr. Klaus used his “minions” at Prague Castle to voice some of his more controversial stands. The remark was made in connection with Mr. Hajek’s criticism of the recent gay rights parade in the Czech capital. Mr. Hájek said he could not let the matter rest since it was an insult to the Office of the President and that unless he got a “loud and public” apology from the foreign minister he would sue him. Mr. Hájek recently also took Mr. Bátora’s side in his controversy with the foreign minister, suggesting that Mr. Bátora had only defended himself against insults from Mr. Schwarzenberg.

Bárta asks to be stripped of immunity

Public Affairs parliamentary group leader Vít Bárta has asked to be stripped of his immunity to open the way for a criminal investigation. Mr. Bárta who resigned as transport minister after being accused of bribing party members says he has nothing to hide and wants to clear his name in court. Parliament’s immunity committee is to make a recommendation on the case in late August. A vote will then take place in the lower house.

Institutions to lift lid on public sector salaries

An agreement has been reached on providing information about the salaries of employees in the public sector. Following numerous requests from the media for institutions to make public the salaries and bonuses of high placed officials, representatives of the Office for the Protection of Private Data, the Interior Ministry and the Ombudsman’s Office on Tuesday agreed that in future the information should be made available unless there was a very good reason to deny it. The Interior Ministry has been commissioned to provide guidelines for various institutions.

PM slams plan to pay out old-age pensions via bank accounts

Prime Minister Petr Nečas has strongly criticized the Labour Ministry’s plan to pay out old age pensions exclusively via bank accounts. The prime minister said such an arrangement would inconvenience hundreds of thousands of senior citizens who would have to go to the bank or the nearest money machine for cash. The Labour Ministry said that it considered such a development inevitable in the long run, but added that when such a system was introduced exceptions would be made for elderly people with mobility problems and chronically ill people. Currently many pensioners get their monthly pensions delivered to their homes by the Czech Postal Service.

Police cracks down on people smugglers

The organized crime squad of the Czech police has cracked down on a ring of Nigerian people smugglers. The group of six is charged with illegally smuggling at least 25 Nigerian women to the Czech Republic and forcing them into prostitution. The head of the gang was a 37-year-old Nigerian woman living in the Czech Republic. The accused face up to 15 years in prison.

Weather

The Czech Republic is presently laboring under a heat wave with afternoon highs around 33 degrees Celsius. The extreme heat is expected to last until Friday when temperatures should hit 36 degrees.

23-08-2011