The Civic Democrat and TOP 09 parties on Thursday reached a deal to form a centre-right coalition at Prague City Hall, with Civic Democrat Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda retaining his post. The deal comes days after the Civic Democrats, in a surprise move, terminated a coalition with the Social Democrats, quoting budget issues as the reason. A split in the Civic Democrat party’s Prague branch is thought to have triggered the latest developments at Prague City Hall; while party members aligned behind the head of Prague’s Civic Democrat branch, Boris Šťastný, toppled the previous coalition, Thursday’s deal with the TOP 09 group is considered a victory for his party rival, Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, who was backed by party chair, Prime Minister Petr Nečas.
Swiss prosecutors have uncovered new evidence of corruption related to the 2002 privatization of the Czech engineering giant Škoda Plzeň, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The detectives found out that the Appian Group, which acquired the engineering firm, sent 150 million crowns in consultation fees to an offshore company which later transferred the money to firms in the Czech Republic. Last year, Swiss authorities reportedly asked Czech prosecutors for cooperation in investigating the illegitimate money trails.
President Václav Klaus on Thursday announced he was not going to veto the government’s pension reform legislation, effectively allowing the reform to come into effect in 2013. Following a meeting with the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Mr Klaus said that he was not going to sign the bills either because of his objections to the reform. The president had earlier warned that the new system would increase the deficit in the pension system; he had also criticized the government for passing the bills without a broader public debate.
The pension reform, as shaped by the Czech centre-right government, will allow people to divert part of their social security payments from state-run pay-as-you-go system into individual accounts. To pay for the transition, the government will next year increase the lower VAT rate from 10 to 14 percent before introducing a single VAT rate of 17.5 percent in 2014.
The European Commission has closed the case against the Czech Republic for breaching EU public procurement rules in the 2009 purchase of four Spanish CASA military aircraft. In a statement on Thursday, the commission said it still had doubts about the 132 million euro deal which was awarded without proper tendering procedures; however, the case was dropped as Czech authorities provided assurances that in the future EU rules would be observed. Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra told reporters the commission’s decision had been the result of Czech diplomatic efforts.
The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of obese people in the EU, according to a survey by the bloc’s statistics body, Eurostat, released on Thursday. Based on data from 2008 and 2009, the proportion of obese people in the adult Czech population reached 18.3 percent, which puts the country in fifth place among all 27 EU member states. Czech women aged between 65 and 74 top the EU’s obesity chart, with 35.9 percent. The survey suggests that obesity levels are higher with less educated people while it found no relation between obesity and gender.
The Dalai Lama is set to visit the Czech Republic in December at the invitation of former Czech president Václav Havel, the Forum 2000 foundation said on Thursday. The Tibetan leader, who will spend three days in Prague, will arrive on the Human Rights Day on December 10. The 14th Dalai Lama, who has visited the Czech Republic several times, is scheduled to appear in a debate at Charles University along with Václav Havel, the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and the Chinese dissident Yang Jianli. He will also deliver a public lecture during his stay in the Czech capital.
Top Czech internet awards, the Crystal Magnifying Glass, were handed out in Prague on Wednesday to the most popular and interesting projects on the Czech internet scene. The most visited Czech web portal and search engine Seznam.cz won the overall vote, while the award in the news category went to the website idnes.cz. The award for the best Czech-made global project was presented to the social media statistics portal socialbakers.com. Czech President Václav Klaus received a special award for his role in a popular youtube video called Czech President steals pen which has become a huge hit with more than three million viewers.
The Russian Defence Ministry will buy three Czech-made planes L-410 for some 275 million crowns, or more than 14.2 million US dollars, the news agency ČTK reported on Thursday. The ministry will buy luxury versions of the short-range transport planes; according to Russia’s public procurement registry, they will be used to transport top ministry officials. A Russian mining firm holds a majority stake in Let Kunovice which manufactures the planes; Under communism, hundreds of L-410 planes were sold to the Soviet Union.
A Czech Orthodox priest who lost his job has been offered the chance to re-train as a butcher, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. 38-year-old Pavel Polhoš, an ethnic Roma who grew up in a south Bohemian orphanage, lost his job in a small community in Moravia due to an influx of Orthodox clerics from Russia who are in high demand by the Czech Republic’s growing Russian community. When he applied for a job a local unemployment office, he was offered requalification as a butcher; the unemployed priest told the daily he was considering the offer, but would most likely turn it down.
Czech hockey clubs have refused to admit two Slovak clubs into the top Czech hockey league. In a vote on Thursday, 13 out of 14 Czech top division clubs voted against admitting HC Košice and Slovan Bratislava in the Czech Tipsport Extraliga; one club abstained. The two Slovak hockey clubs applied to join the Czech top division earlier this year in an attempt to revive the former federal hockey league.
Czech football champions Viktoria Plzeň scored their first victory in the Champions League when they beat Belarus’ Bate Borisov 1:0 in Minsk on Wednesday. The Czechs had many opportunities to score but Bate’s goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor showed some superb saves. But three minutes before halftime, Plzeň’s Petr Jiráček passed the ball from the right side inside the box to Milan Bakoš who netted the winning goal. The win significantly boosts Plzeň’s hopes of finishing third in the Champions League Group H, and transferring to the Europa League in the spring.
The spell of gloomy weather with overcast skies, fog and drizzle should continue for days to come, with daytime highs ranging between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.