Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová said on Thursday that it was seeking
legal advice on what aspects of the Stork’s Nest report it could release.
Without such advice parts of the report by the EU anti-fraud report could not be released, she said. The minister added that with the appropriate clearance, parts of the report could be published with a matter of days.
She added that she herself had not read the report, said to be around 50 pages long and in English. Schillerová explained that the the EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, has also sought permission to publish the report.
The contents and timing of the release of the findings could play a role in a vote of confidence in the government of ANO leader Andrej Babiš due to take place on January 10. The report should suggest whether Babiš or those close to him were involved in fraud using EU funds.
Top 09 lower house lawmaker Dominik Feri has lodged a demand in parliament
for the Ministry of Finance to release details of a report submitted to it
on the so-called Stork’s Nest affair by European Commission fraud
investigators. The Pirate Party said it had made a similar demand.
The European Commission has forwarded the report into whether ANO leader and prime minister Andrej Babiš and others fraudulently pumped EU funds for a recreation and hotel centre. Although the report has not been fully made public, the squad has called on the Czech Republic to exclude expenditures from the controversial Stork’s Nest project from an EU programme for the Central Bohemia region.
The Czech Ministry of Finance says it will decide how and whether to release the report and on the substance of the matter within two months. A spokesman later told Czech Radio a decision on what to release could come within 15 days. The Commission said last week the Czech state would end up paying the 50 million crowns subsidy in question.
Eleven people, including Babiš and his senior ANO colleague Jaroslav Faltýnek, have been charged in connection with the affair. The pair have parliamentary immunity after being elected in October and the Czech lower house is to decide on whether to allow them to face trial in connection with the matter. They deny any wrongdoing.
Around three-fifths of Czechs are in favour of relaxing the across the
board ban on smoking that was introduced in the country at the end of May
The law banned smoking in pubs, restaurants, and public areas after long resistance to such a move in the country.
The survey by the Median agency for Czech Radio found 58 percent of those questioned in favour of relaxing the ban with 40 percent against and two percent undecided.
Restaurants and pubs have been among the biggest lobbyist for a change, saying that their takings have gone down. The current health minister has said more time is needed to evaluate the impact of the ban before changes are proposed.
The struggling Czech construction sector is set for growth this year
according to figures from the Czech Statistical Office.
The national statistical office says growth for the first 10 months of the year averaged out at 2.3 percent. The compares with a sharp drop of 5.9 percent in turnover for the sector in 2016.
Construction in 2017 started poorly in January and February this year but activity picked up in the Spring and Summer for around six months before falling off again.
The head of one of the biggest farmers' associations, the
Zěmědelský Svaz, has called for a cut in the basic rate of Value Added
Tax for food and fruit.
Martin Pýcha suggest a cut to between seven and 10 percent should apply at least to basic foodstuffs. The reduced rate of VAT in the Czech Republic is currently 10 percent.
So far the government of ANO leader Andrej Babiš has not signalled any willingness to cut VAT rates in its government programme.
The Czech crown was one of the fastest appreciating currencies in 2017,
according to the financial news agency Bloomberg.
The fastest rising currency was the Mozambique metical which climbed by 21 percent against the US dollar. The Czech crown shared second place with the Polish zloty, both appreciating by 18 percent.
The Czech National Bank ended the so-called weak crown policy in April this year which had pegged the crown to at or below 27 crowns to the euro and allowed it to float freely. Interest rate rises have followed and are set to continue.
Local authorities around the Czech Republic have begun issuing voting cards
ahead of next month’s presidential elections. Any registered voters who
plan to cast their ballots for head of state at a location other than their
registered address can apply for the cards in writing until January 5 and
in person until January 10. The same dates apply to Czechs living abroad,
who must obtain voting cards from their nearest Czech diplomatic mission.
The first round of voting in the second ever public vote for president takes place on January 12 and 13. If no candidate gets over 50 percent the front two will go through to a run-off two weeks later.
Nervous Trees by artist Krištof Kintera was the best-attended exhibition
of the year in the Czech Republic. Almost 162,000 visitors saw the show,
which was free of charge and took place at Prague’s Galerie Rudolfinum.
Originally due to end in late November, Nervous Trees was extended by a month because of its popularity. On the colourful exhibition’s final day on Wednesday it drew over 5,000 people, the gallery’s chief, Petr Nedoma, told the Czech News Agency.
Three foreigners have been charged after a knife attack on two men in Brno
in the early hours of Saturday, police in the city said on Wednesday. One
of the three foreigners could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty
of charges including grievous bodily harm. The other two have been charged
with disorderly conduct, for which the maximum sentence is two years.
The three men are reported to be from North Africa and long-term residents of the Czech Republic. The victims, aged 31 and 32, were taken to hospital after the attack, which left them with bad cuts.