On Monday, Jiri Cunek’s successor at the Ministry of Regional
Development was named. The new minister for regional development is
Christian Democrat Jiri Vackar. The post has been open since Mr Cunek’s
resignation last Wednesday. On the same day, Mr Cunek resigned from his
position as deputy prime minister as well. A replacement for this post is
yet to be found.
Mr Cunek resigned under strong pressure from his partners in the government coalition to explain why he claimed social benefits while having 3.5 million CZK (175,000 USD) deposited in various bank accounts. He responds that he only ever claimed benefits that he was entitled to.
In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Monday, the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, said that he expects there to be a US anti-missile radar base built in the Czech Republic. He said that he did not expect this to be in the very near future, due to all of the technical and legislative details which still had to be worked out, but added that he was in no doubt as to the radar base’s construction. In the interview, President Klaus also voiced his hope that NATO would become involved in the building of the base. The Czech lower house and Senate still have to approve the construction of any such base, plans for which have split the Czech Republic down the middle. The White House is expecting a final decision from the Czech Republic in 2008.
Former prime minister and leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek is to marry his partner at the weekend, reported the novinky.cz news website on Monday. Mr Paroubek’s wedding comes two months after a high-profile divorce. The Social Democrats leader has said that he wants his wedding to be modest and calm, and so the Hotel Esplanade in Marianske Lazne, where the wedding is to take place, will be closed to the public over the weekend. Mr Paroubek’s future bride is Petra Kovacova, his former interpreter, some twenty years his junior.
Twenty new soldiers have been released from the Czech army after testing positive in a drugs test revealed the Defence Ministry on Monday. The twenty new conscripts were training to become soldiers at the Vyskov military base in Southern Moravia. The Defence Ministry has not divulged which drug the soldiers tested positive for. To combat drug-abuse in its ranks, the Czech army has introduced drug tests for its troops every three months, and the military police reserve the right to randomly test soldiers at any time they choose. Last year the military police investigated a total of six incidences of drug production and possession in the Czech army, and this year four soldiers have already been charged with such offences.
Monday’s edition of Lidove noviny reported that, according to experts, the average wage after tax in the Czech Republic will go up by around 3% in 2008. The predicted rise has been attributed to the low rate of unemployment in the country, and the large number of jobs that remain unfilled. Employees working in the information technology sector can expect the highest pay-rise, while the wages of those in the car-manufacturing industry are also expected to go up. The research was conducted by the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, who also predicted that living expenses would go up by around 5% next year, due to a package of reforms passed by the government in August. The current average wage in the Czech Republic is around 21,000 CZK (1,000 USD) a month.
The snowy weather which the Czech Republic has been experiencing since Saturday has continued to cause disruption into the start of this week. Dozens of road accidents have been caused by the snow, and some rail links have been disrupted. Areas most affected by the snow include northern and eastern Bohemia, alongside Silesia and parts of Moravia. Between 5 and 15 centimetres of snow are predicted to fall over the course of Monday evening, and snowy conditions are expected to last at least until Thursday. The icy weather has put a halt to motorway repairs and forestry in parts of the Czech Republic, but delighted skiers, who are gearing up for a first weekend on the slopes.
Six people have been charged following a clash between skinheads and anarchists in Prague city centre on Saturday evening. The clash happened at an illegal demonstration staged by right-wing extremists near Prague’s Jewish Quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht – a Nazi pogrom carried out in 1938. On Monday, Czech police revealed that five anarchists and one skinhead would face charges following Saturday’s unrest. According to police, amongst those charged is Petr Kalinovsky, a neo-Nazi who fired an air-pistol into the crowd. The anarchists in question have been charged with assaulting police-officers. One policeman was seriously injured at Saturday’s demonstration, and two further policemen suffered minor injuries. Almost 400 people were detained during Saturday’s unrest.
Two regional galleries in Ostrava and Pardubice have lost their appeal to hold onto paintings belonging to the late Jewish industrialist Oskar Federer. Mr Federer fled Nazi-occupied Czecholsovakia in 1939, leaving behind some twenty-four paintings with an estimated collective value of as much as 1 million CZK (110,000 USD). The pictures, including one work by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, ended up in collections in Pardubice and Ostrava, but two years ago, Oskar Federer’s nephew won a lawsuit transferring their ownership back to the Federer estate. On Monday, The High Court in Brno upheld this ruling. The Pardubice and Ostrava galleries had appealed, claiming that there was insufficient proof that the paintings had ever belonged to Mr Federer in the first place. This argument was thrown out by the High Court judge.
Economist Jan Svejnar has indicated that if he were to run for the office of the president, he would be interested in debating incumbent Vaclav Klaus on television. He said as much during a news programme on Czech TV on Sunday. Mr Svejnar pointed to differences between the two men on issues such as global warming, the economy, or approach to democracy. According to a recent STEM poll for the daily Pravo, 28 percent of the population said they would vote for Mr Svejnar given the chance, something the economist said he viewed as a positive sign as he is less known than Mr Klaus. Mr Svejnar has dual citizenship and divides his time between the Czech Republic and the US. Under the current system the Czech presidential election is not decided by the public but by MPs and senators in Parliament.
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