The Senate has established a special commission to assess the European
Commission audits concerning Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's suspected
conflict of interest which could mean that the Czech Republic might have to
return close to half a billion crowns in EU subsidies.
The commission, headed by Zdeněk Nytra from the Civic Democrats' senators' group, does not have the status of an investigative body, it will merely analyse available information on the case.
The two EC audits, which are both preliminary, claim that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest due to continued influence on the agro-chemical business conglomerate Agrofert which he established and later put in trust funds in order to comply with a strict new conflict of interests law.
Prime Minister Babiš has denied any wrongdoing, saying he fully adhered to Czech law.
The Senate has moved to scrap a law according to which large retail outlets
must remain closed on selected public holidays. The proposal was included
in an amendment to the law which will now go back to the Chamber of
The lower house previously rejected a similar proposal including a proposal for the ban to be extended to all public holidays. The law, which went into force in 2016 bans outlets bigger than 200 square metres from selling goods on eight public holidays of the year, among the October 28, Christmas, Easter Monday and May 8.
It is still vehemently opposed by the Czech Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Trade and Tourism which says it discriminates large sales outlets.
The head of the Czech Business and Trade Association Marta Nováková says large retail stores lose billions of crowns in profits on each public holiday on which they are forced to close their doors.
The Senate rejected Charles University vice-rector Aleš Gerloch as a
candidate for Constitutional Court judge in a secret ballot on Wednesday.
The law professor had been put forth as a candidate by President Miloš Zeman, who is now expected to suggest another candidate.
Opposition senators object to Mr Gerloch having been a member of the Communist Party. They also say he neglected to note that before 1995 he worked at universities suspected of having improperly awarded politicians and police officials degrees.
In connection with the terrorist attack in New Zealand’s Christchurch,
the Czech minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, says the country’s
police force are investigating all instances of people expressing approval
on the internet of criminal acts. Mr. Hamáček said on Twitter that
officers had begun monitoring such cases on Friday.
Police chief Jan Švejdar said that the force would not tolerate any expressions of agreement with terrorism, extremism or hate speech. Czech police have responded to internet hate speech in the past, including in late 2017, when they dealt with cases of vitriol directed at a photo of a mixed-race group of primary school children.
Forty-nine people were murdered and dozens more were seriously injured in a gun attack on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.
Czech leaders have condemned Friday’s attack on two mosques in
Christchurch, New Zealand that claimed 49 lives and left 50 wounded.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš tweeted that he was ‘appalled by the horrendous terrorist attack’ and extended his ‘deepest sympathy to the friends and families of the victims and all people of New Zealand.’
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček also sent condolences, calling the attack ‘repugnant’. He said that he rejects all forms of violence, including that which is aimed at people of another faith.
No Czech citizens are believed to have been killed or wounded in the attack.
A Communist Party bill aiming to tax church restitutions hit the rocks in the Senate on Wednesday where the vast majority of senators rejected it as “unconstitutional“. The bill was rejected not just by the opposition parties but by nine senators from the ruling ANO and Social Democratic Party which helped to push it through the lower house.
The Senate has voted against the Communist party proposal to tax
restitutions paid out by the state to various religious organisations
including the Catholic Church and the Czech Jewish Community. Aside from
the opposition, the senators who voted against the bill also included the
Social Democrats, a junior partner in Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s
government. The proposal will now return to the Chamber of Deputies, which
can by-pass the Senate if it votes in favour of the bill again. However,
the opposition says it will bring the issue to the Constitutional Court if
Aside from returning property, the current restitution law passed enacted in 2013 counts on paying church organisations CZK 59 billion crowns divided into annual payments over a period of 30 years. The proposed restitution bill would tax these pay-outs reducing the total payment to CZK 48 billion.
A group of Czech senators recently accused President Miloš Zeman of gross violation of the Constitution and began drafting an official bill of impeachment. However, the chances of the liberal Senator 21 group finding the support to force out the head of state seem extremely slim. But why is it so hard to remove a Czech president?
Senators from the Liberal Democratic Caucus - Senator 21 say they will take
legal action against President Miloš Zeman for alleged gross violations of
Senator 21 caucus head, Václav Láska, told reporters the impetus stemmed from improper interventions by the president and his staff.
Last week a proposal by another Senator 21 member to file a “constitutional action” against President Zeman over suspicions he had tried to exert influence over the courts was rejected, as he hadn’t secured the backing of at least one-third of the Senate to do so.