The head of an elite team of Czech police charged with finding some of the country’s most wanted criminals may face prosecution for corruption. State prosecutors have recommended that charges be brought against Jana Rybár for allegedly offering to assist Vietnamese immigrants with their visas in exchange for a bribe. Mr Rybár has been on suspended from duty since earlier this year after the allegations first surfaced.
A vote of no-confidence in the centre-right government which the opposition Social Democrats plan to call after the upcoming local and Senate elections has led to fears within the ruling coalition that it may not survive the vote. The concerns have been voiced amidst increasing turmoil within the majority coalition party due to a recent scandal involving potential blackmail of party members. The coalition currently has 100 seats in the 200 seat parliament – its mandate was gained through several Social Democrat defectors who voted for the coalition. However, concerns have been raised that as many as five party rebels may now vote against the government.
A new report entitled Doing Business 2009, which evaluates the ease of doing business across the world has rated the Czech Republic in 75th place out of 181 countries. Singapore, New Zealand and the United States top the list, while Congo and the Central African Republic are at the bottom of the table. In comparison to the Czech Republic, Slovakia finds itself in 36th place, while only Greece ranks lower out of OECD countries than the Czech Republic. Georgia also beats the Czech Republic in the list. Key problems that continue to haunt the Czech Republic according to analysts in terms of doing business are a complex registration process, excessive bureaucracy and excessively complex tax laws. In response to this report put together by the International Finance Corporation, the government has stated that new measures are being prepared for early next year.
In related news, Czech President Václav Klaus has weighed in on the current scandal rocking the Civic Democrats. In comments made to the media, Mr Klaus, who established the party in the 1990s, stated that the current scandal was symptomatic of the emptiness of current politics which remain excessively focused on turf wars and power struggles. Fellow Civic Democrats were quick to distance themselves from the analysis. Prime Minister Topolánek, Interior Minister Ivan Langer and several other senior Civic Democrats publicly denied that Mr Klaus’s characterization was applicable, stating that that description was of a bygone era and not the current situation. In an interview with the Czech daily Hospodářské Noviny, Mr Topolánek stated that the era of the opposition agreement between the two major parties from 1998-2002 – a time when Mr Klaus led the party – was a time in which politics and business were unhealthily interwoven. The comments underline increasing tensions between Mr Klaus, the current honorary head of the Civic Democrats and Mr Topolánek.
The former Czech prime minister and current Euro commissioner Vladimír Špidla has expressed a wish to walk across Europe. The comments were made on Mr Špidla’s online blog, where the Euro MP wrote “One day, when I will have the time, I hope to put on some mountain shoes and crisscross Europe by foot.” He also added that since working in Brussels, he tries to find time at least once a week to take a long walk in the city. A number of Brussels politicians have their own blogs.
Many Czechs are paying far above the European average for sending an SMS message from their mobile phones - this, according to a new report from the Czech Telecommunication Office. According to the report, the average Europe-wide price of sending a single SMS is 2.80 crowns, while the Czech average is 3.2 crowns, with some operators charging less and others charging significantly more. The survey also finds that neighbouring Austria has the highest average charges, with 4.60 crowns for an SMS, while Denmark and Estonia have the lowest charges. At present, the European Commission is preparing proposals to harmonise mobile call charges across Europe.
The Czech village Lidečko ze Vsetínska has won the government’s Village of the Year award. The village, in eastern Moravia, near the Slovak border will now get a one million crown grant from the Czech Ministry of Regional Development. The award was announced Monday by the controversial Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek. Entries are evaluated on their abilities and efforts to transform and renew their villages, with particular emphasis placed on civic engagement. Lidečko ze Vsetínska will now be entered in a similar Europe-wide competition.
Rebel MP Jan Raninec has left the Civic Democrat group of deputies over the continuing scandals within the party related to blackmail and entrapment. Specifically, Mr Raninec stated that he was unhappy with the way that his party has handled the affair in which Civic Democrat MP Jan Morava was caught attempting to purchase compromising photos of rebel MPs opposed to Prime Minister Topolának. Mr Raninec has stated that he believes that the probe into Civic Democrat conduct should extend further than Mr Morava, who resigned due to the scandal last week. However Mr Raninec has also stated that he will continue to vote with his party.
Příbram is the Czech Republic’s most crime-riddled town according to new statistics published by the Czech Interior Ministry. Last year, Pribram, which is situated 60km southwest of Prague had 711 crimes per 10,000 inhabitants. The figures reveal an overall rise in crime in small towns. A new government scheme will give extra money to tackle crime in identified hotspots.
Developers building high-rises in Prague’s Pankrác have reportedly ignored a request from the UN heritage body UNESCO to lower the number of stories in planned buildings. This has led to real concerns that Prague may be removed from UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. ECM, the company investing in two high-rise buildings in Pankrác has planned for a height of 104m and 75m, respectively. However, UNESCO has urged that in order to preserve Prague’s unique skyline, the buildings should be no more than 60m in height. The final approvals will now rest with the Prague municipal authorities.
Demonstrations held in 11 cities over election of Communist MP Ondráček to chairman post
National Museum discovers fake gems in its collection
Czech Republic caught up in plastic waste disposal crisis in Europe
President Zeman’s Chinese advisor arrested
Growing concern over plight of leading Chinese investor in the Czech Republic