Following talks with the prime minister on Tuesday, Defense Minister Alexander Vondra announced a planned overhaul of the country’s defense structures. The new concept is being drafted by a team of experts led by the former chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy. The planned changes should reflect the country’s defense needs – taking into account both the size of the Czech Republic and its location as well as its membership in NATO.
In one of the first reactions to the budget proposal, the Justice Ministry on Tuesday expressed serious doubts as to whether it could operate on the sum it had been earmarked for next year. Spokeswoman Veronika Ludvikova said the ministry had been earmarked 18,8 billion crowns which is approximately 12 percent less compared to 2010. Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil has asked a team of economic experts to assess the possibilities and say whether the cost-cutting measures are not in violation of the three party coalition agreement.
A black-and-white ruffed lemur escaped from his summer enclosure at Ostrava zoo on Tuesday morning. The lemur was sighted at several locations but all efforts to re-capture him have so far failed. The zoo’s management has asked the public for assistance saying the animal, which resembles a large black and white cat rather than a monkey, may be tempted with fruit. On ascertaining his whereabouts people should call the zoo and not try to capture him by themselves.
Poland and the Czech Republic have agreed to share embassies in a number of countries where they currently lack the means to maintain separate missions. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who met with his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski in Warsaw on Monday, said the two neighbours had agreed to debate the possibilities with other members of the Visegrad group who are also having to close down their embassies and consulates for economic reasons. It was agreed that at least one Visegrad group state – meaning the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – should retain its embassy in all important destinations, allowing the three remaining states to open an office on the premises.
Prime Minister Petr Necas has said his government would propose a change of law to prevent mediating companies making fat profits from state military purchases. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, the prime minister said he was determined to push for a change of legislation which would prevent a few privileged firms from sponging off the state and would enable the Defense Ministry to make the purchases directly. As an example the prime minister cited the purchase of four transport CASA planes for the Czech military in which case he said the mediating firm had done very little at a hefty price. Under the present legislation no direct purchases from foreign companies are possible and the Defense Ministry relies on the services of companies such as Omnipol and MPI Group.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek’s proposed draft budget for 2011 aims for a deficit of 135 billion crowns, or 4.6 percent of GDP, taking cost-cutting measures further than expected, the daily Hospodářské Noviny wrote on Tuesday. According to the paper the proposed 58.8 billion crown cut in expenditures is four billion more than originally planned and would affect all ministries. The draft proposal is to be submitted to the government on Wednesday and is expected to spark a heated debate. Cabinet members are still at odds over this year’s cuts, with ministers from the Public Affairs party arguing that they were having to shoulder a heavier burden than their colleagues in government.
The former world heavy weight boxing champion Mike Tyson is to visit Prague in October, the CTK news agency reports. The 44-year-old boxer, who ended his professional career five years ago, will visit Prague within a European tour which includes stops in Vienna, Munich, St Petersburg and Belgrade. His agenda in Prague features meetings with sponsors, a charity event at a children’s hospital and a training session with children.
The new environment minister, Pavel Drobil, on Tuesday briefed President Vaclav Klaus about his priorities in office. Mr. Drobil said following the talks that the president had approved his plans for the ministry, which will seek to balance the needs of the environment with those of society. The new environment minister, who was originally considered a hot candidate for the trade and industry ministry, has alarmed environmental activists by announcing a change of direction in environmental policies that will most likely include support for nuclear power and a more benevolent policy towards business activities in protected nature reserves.
In anticipation of next year’s cost cutting measures, some ministries have started offering their employees part-time jobs. All ministries will have to implement a 10 percent cut in expenditures, including salaries, which means either laying off staff or introducing a job-sharing scheme where possible. Until now, Czech employers have been generally unwilling to hire people on a part time basis, despite interest from mothers on maternity leave. Consequently only 5.5 percent of Czechs currently work on a part time basis, as compared to an EU average of 18.7percent.
Work on the government’s policy statement has been concluded and it will be submitted to the cabinet for a vote on Wednesday, the news site Lidovky.cz reported on Tuesday. The statement, which will be put to the vote before being submitted to Parliament, outlines a number of priorities; primarily curbing the state budget deficit, reforming the health and pension systems and curbing corruption in the public sector. On the basis of this policy statement Prime Minister Necas’ centre-right government will ask Parliament for a vote of confidence on August 10th.
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