President Václav Klaus and former prime minister Mirek Topolánek have exchanged harsh criticism of one another for the growing association of lobbying and politics in the course of their careers. According to the president, the main factor behind the failure of the Civic Democratic Party (which Mr Klaus originally founded) in local elections was the “unfortunate” chairmanship of Mr Topolánek and the emergence of a lobbying structure within the party. Mr Topolánek replied that he was “disgusted” by the remarks, and said that if there was anyone in the Czech Republic who symbolised the merging of business and politics it was Mr Klaus, who he said has surrounded himself with a circle of businessmen since the times of “wild privatisation”. He added that he was not to blame for the party’s election result, as he was neither its chairman nor its candidate.
The government intends to limit an expected increase in electricity prices by introducing a withholding tax on solar energy plants and selling emissions vouchers. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said Wednesday that the 26% tax should keep the price rises to 5.5% for both households and businesses by bringing the state roughly 4.2 billion crowns next year. The sale of emission vouchers he said would fetch the state coffers 4.8 billion. The government also intends to increase the fees for exempting land for solar panels from the agricultural fund, which would draw another 1.7 billion crowns. The withholding tax would apply only to high-power solar panels, which are reportedly the cause of the price hikes, and not roof panels for households.
While the search continues for a nine-year-old girl who went missing in Prague’s Troja district one week ago, police have filed missing persons announcements for two other young women. Both of the girls are sixteen years old and live in the region of Karlovy Vary. Lucie Kosnarová from the village of Stráž nad Ohří was last seen in her home at around midnight on Sunday. Petra Bubeníková of Karlovy Vary went missing after she left home for school on Monday morning. There has been no indication from the police that any of the cases may be related.
The main opposition party in Ukraine has asked Czech officials to stay out of what it called the “settling of political scores” over former Ukrainian finance minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, who was arrested in Prague on Tuesday on an international warrant. The statement by the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc that the accusations against Mr Danylyshyn were purely political and based on falsified information. A spokeswoman for the Municipal Court of Prague said that no proposal of extradition had yet been filed. Bogdan Danylyshyn was the minister of finance in the government of Yulia Tymoshenko until earlier this year. Ukraine accuses him of corruption and losing public funds through "inefficient and excessive expenditure.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is to arrive in Prague on Wednesday for a brief working visit. His talks with his Czech counterpart Petr Nečas are expected to focus on bilateral relations, Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency in the first half of 2011 and the two country’s positions regarding the proposed EU budgetary regulations aimed at increasing fiscal responsibility within the alliance. The Hungarian prime minister will hold talks in Prague just two days after a visit by the Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, which covered similar ground.
The Vítkov arson trial came to an end on Wednesday with the conviction of all four defendants, who received extra-ordinary sentences. The Regional Court of Ostrava on Wednesday morning sent three of the culprits to 22 years in prison for racially motivated attempted murder. The remaining perpetrator received 20 years because he did not assist in planning the attack. The four neo-Nazis were found guilty of throwing Molotov cocktails into a house they knew was inhabited by a Romany family on April 19, 2009, likely to mark the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. Of the nine people in the house, three were injured in the attack, including a two-year-old child, Natálka, who suffered burns to 80% of her body. The girl’s mother was present at the sentencing and said she had not expected such high punishments, and was glad the case was over. The perpetrators must also pay more than 17 million crowns in compensation for damages, 9.5 million of which will go to the injured child. Lawyers for each of the defendants said they would appeal.
The District Court in České Budějovice has sentenced six people to two to eight years for attempted drug and human trafficking. The court found on Wednesday that the group had organised the transfer of Czech prostitutes to a brothel in Switzerland in 2009, as well as a delivery of drugs of their own making. A woman who the group did bring to Switzerland was allegedly kept in a locked room by a Swiss man and was repeatedly raped and beaten. A decision in his trial is expected later this week.
Leaders of the Prague chapters of the rival Civic Democratic and Social Democratic Parties are meeting on Wednesday to discuss a possible grand coalition in the City Council. The two parties finished second and third in local elections after the conservative TOP 09 party, and their leaders said they would be looking for common ground in their programmes. Earlier this week, Civic Democratic chairman and Prime Minister Petr Nečas warned against a grand coalition in Prague, saying it would not be in keeping with the city’s right-wing tendencies and recent election turnout. All parties involved in the negations said there were still three possible coalitions on the table: TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and the Social Democrats, or the Civic and Social Democrats together.
The government on Wednesday also approved the issuing of state bonds in the amount of 148.2 billion crowns for most of last year’s state budget deficit. The Ministry of Finance hopes that the proposal is passed in its first reading in Parliament. The bonds cover the remainder of the amount approved by Parliament earlier this year, with 37.7 billion in bonds already having been approved. The state’s economic result in 2009 ended with a deficit of 192.4 billion crowns, while the original budget anticipated a deficit of 38.1 billion.
Prime Minister Nečas says his centre-right government has shown it is capable of pushing through planned key reforms in its first 100 days in office and done a good job even when taking certain unpopular steps. Mr. Nečas said that the economisation in each of the ministries was a clear sign that his is a government of budgetary responsibility. The opposition criticises the coalition’s planned reforms, saying they are socially insensitive, and blames the government for refusing to communicate with them.