Former defence minister Alexandr Vondra has testified at the trial of Jana Nagyová on charges of ordering military intelligence officers to surveil the former wife of erstwhile prime minister Petr Nečas. His centre-right government fell following the arrest of his then chief of staff. Mr. Vondra, a one-time cabinet colleague of Mr. Nečas, told a Prague court on Tuesday that he was unaware any monitoring had taken place. He said he had been unable to believe his ears when he heard about the Nagyová case in the summer of 2013, when it came to light. Jana Nagyová is now married to Mr. Nečas.
On Thursday, December 18th, Czechs are marking the third anniversary of the death of Vaclav Havel, the legend of the Velvet Revolution and the country’s first post-communist president. Commemorative events are taking place in different parts of the country, but some critics point out that three years after his departure, the Czech Republic has strayed far from Vaclav Havel’s philosophy and ideals.
The police questioned the former defense minister Alexander Vondra on Tuesday in connection with the spying scandal that brought down the centre-right government. Former Prime Minister Petr Nečas’s chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová is accused of having ordered military intelligence to spy on the premier’s wife. The police believe that the then defense minister Vondra did not give the approval for such an investigation. The current defense minister Vlastimil Picek was questioned on Monday. The police said that they are planning to also question the acting chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, Martin Kuba, on Tuesday.
The minister of finance, Jan Fischer, says he is considering removing former MPs from the supervisory boards of state-controlled companies. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Mr. Fischer said that ex-Civic Democrat deputies Marek Šnajdr, Ivan Fuksa, Alexandr Vondr and Zdeněk Zajíček were not, in his view, experts. Mr. Šnajdr and Mr. Fuksa were among three former Civic Democrat MPs who were offered lucrative positions at semi-state companies soon after quitting the Chamber of Deputies, so allowing the government to survive late last year. The state prosecutor asserted that the alleged exchange constituted bribery, an allegation that contributed to the fall of the cabinet of Petr Nečas in June; however, charges against the three have been dropped.
The police’s anti-corruption unit have proposed that 12 people be charged in connection with suspicious contracts won by the company Promopro during the Czech presidency of the European Union in 2009. Detectives say the firm overcharged the Office of the Government by almost CZK 400 million for audiovisual services. Among those accused are three former state officials, including the then deputy to Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. The three face charges of abuse of office and breach of trust, while police say the other accused are guilty of money laundering and fraud.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, has raised the possibility of a deal with President Miloš Zeman on the appointment of ambassadors, an issue on which the two men have been at loggerheads. In a newspaper interview, Mr. Schwarzenberg said he would propose Communist Party MEP and former cosmonaut Vladimír Remek, who enjoys Mr. Zeman’s support, for the post of envoy to Moscow, if the president approved his suggestions for other ambassadorial positions. In a separate interview, the foreign minister said former defence minister Alexandr Vondra would make a good ambassador to Israel. However, he has insisted that former first lady Lidia Klausová, who Mr. Zeman is pushing, is not qualified to become Czech ambassador to Bratislava.
Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Civic Democrat Miroslava Němcová, has criticized her own party for giving former “rebel” MPs Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa as well as former defense minister Alexander Vondra lucrative positions in state-owned companies. In an interview on Thursday with the radio station Impuls, Ms Němcová said that these were compromises that crossed the line. Mr Šnajdr and Mr Fuksa were among the Civic Democrat MPs who attempted to block government proposed tax hikes late last year. They eventually quit their lower house seats to allow the package to pass.
A series of events have been held in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic observing the first anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, who led the country to democracy in 1989’s Velvet Revolution. The commemorations have included the unveiling of a new plaque to the late president at a statue of Woodrow Wilson in the capital.
The Czech defence minister, Alexandr Vondra, says Sweden has offered the Czech Republic a new deal to lease 14 Gripen fighter planes that is 10 percent cheaper than an offer made in the summer. The Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, had previously said that his government might launch a new tender process for fighter jets if the two sides could not agree a deal. Mr. Vondra is stepping down at the end of the week.
Wednesday’s announcement that Alexandr Vondra is giving up the defence portfolio means that, since the appointment of Petr Nečas’s government in July 2010, 12 ministers have now left the cabinet. Indeed, that’s the highest number of departures from one front bench since the foundation of the Czech Republic. So why is the turnover in the Nečas cabinet so high? And what can we expect next?