President Milos Zeman will not be delivering a New Year’s address to the nation, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on Thursday. He will instead address the nation on December 26th with a Christmas message. The tradition of New Years’ addresses started with the country’s first communist president Klement Gottwald in 1948. Presidents Tomas G. Masaryk and Edvard Benes delivered Christmas greetings.
Addressing a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Kiev, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout urged Ukraine to observe the OSCE’s human rights norms, including the right to demonstrate peacefully. In a speech devoted largely to human rights, Mr. Kohout said the present developments in the country were a crucial test for its leadership and expressed the hope that the country would stand by its international commitments. The meeting is taking place in a turbulent atmosphere of continued street protests against President Yanukovich and his decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Ukraine, presently holds the OSCE chairmanship.
The government has agreed to return a number of precious art pieces that are currently in the possession of the National Gallery to the different Catholic orders as part of the church property restitution settlement. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said on Czech Television on Wednesday evening that the Cistercian Order will receive nine wooden panels by the anonymous Master of Vyšší Brod from the mid 14th century, while two paintings by Peter Paul Rubens will newly belong to the Augustinians. All of the artworks will remain on display at the various National Gallery locations, but will officially be considered as free loans from the respective church orders.
Police have concluded an investigation into alleged abuse of the country’s Military Intelligence Service. Several people have been charged in connection with the case, including the former chief-of-staff to then-prime minister Petr Nečas and the former and current heads of the Military Intelligence Service. The scandal which brought down the centre-right government centred around the prime minister’s chief of staff Jana Nagyová who is believed to have commissioned the military intelligence service to shadow his wife. The former prime minister and his one-time chief of staff are now married and have refused to testify against each other in the case.
President Zeman and the Social Democrat leader met at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon to discuss matters relating to the emerging coalition government. Mr. Sobotka said after the talks that there had been no areas of friction between them and that he saw no indication the president might try to artificially prolong the process of appointing a new government to office. The Social Democrat leader said talks on policy matters were advancing well and he hoped to have a coalition agreement by mid-December.
Lawyer Vladimír Zavadil has been fined 850,000 crowns for taking out a smear ad against presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg on the day of the presidential run-off vote. The ad, which appeared in the tabloid Blesk warned people not to vote for Karel Schwarzenberg since he had made controversial statements regarding the Benes decrees and could present a threat to the country’s national interests. Mr. Schwarzenberg was defeated in the presidential race by his rival Miloš Zeman. Police shelved a complaint by Schwarzenberg, but the lawyer was fined in a disciplinary hearing by the Czech Bar Association which said he had violated professional ethics.
Metrostav, the construction firm building the Blanka tunnel complex in Prague has confirmed that work on the project will cease on December 7, over unpaid bills. The company has filed a complaint against Prague City Hall at an arbitration court and is demanding 2.1 billion crowns for work already completed. Efforts by city hall officials to reach an out-of-court agreement have failed.
President Miloš Zeman has said he will appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister once it is clear his government will have a majority in the lower house. The president said in a statement for the CTK news agency that he expected this to come about in late December or early January. Mr. Zeman said he would not require signatures from all MPs supporting the government, merely a commitment from the leaders of the respective coalition parties.
Meteorologists have issued warnings of approaching gale-force winds which have already caused serious damage elsewhere in Europe. The winds are expected to hit the Czech Republic in the evening or early night hours with a force of 100km/h. People living in the mountain regions, where heavy snow is expected, have been warned not to leave their homes.
President Miloš Zeman has expressed support for police president Martin Červiček, who is fighting to retain his post in the wake of a legal hurdle that has left the country with two police chiefs. His predecessor Petr Lessy was dismissed on suspicion of slander, but he was reinstated by Interior Minister Martin Pecina earlier this week after a court cleared his name. Neither Červíček nor Lessy are willing to give up the post, and Mr. Červicek has indicated that the interior minister had used the opportunity to remove him after he refused to succumb to pressure to effect personnel changes at high posts.
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