The parliamentary budget committee has voted down a proposal by its deputy chairman Jan Volný (ANO) to lower the budget for the Office of the President by about one million crowns. MP Volný wanted to re-allocate the money to the Justice Ministry, since it recently took over the agenda of state pardons from the President and will require more staff. Only half of the members of the budget committee voted for the proposal. Prague Castle was criticized for spending three times as much on entertainment this year than was originally planned. The president’s chancellor Vladimír Mynář said that expenditure of around 1.5 million for hosting visitors in 2013 is due to the fact that Miloš Zeman has held more official events at Prague Castle than his predecessor, since taking office in March.
The Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats have reached agreement on a coalition deal. The document will be signed by party representatives on Thursday and made public the following day. The parties hammered out the deal late on Tuesday night after lengthy talks. On the issue of health fees, they have agreed to remove them for seeing a doctor but retain them for visits to accident and emergency. Regarding VAT, there will be a second lower rate covering medicines, books, nappies and children’s foods. The three parties are expected to focus on the division of portfolios next week when the leader of the Christian Democrats returns from an overseas trip.
The chief of the general staff of the Czech Army, General Petr Pavel, was at an airport base in Kabul on Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of international troops leaving the base. No casualties were reported among the soldiers in the convey, who belong to NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). No Czech soldiers were injured. General Pavel continued with his visit once the alert at the NATO base was lifted.
The General Director of Czech Television Petr Dvořák has terminated the work of a special panel which was meant to determine if there news coverage was influenced by editors for political purposes. Mr. Dvořák, who was supposed to inform the board of the public broadcaster about the findings of the panel, said that he was disbanding it because two of the five members of the panel resigned. He also said that he has determined that Czech Television’s reporting broke no laws or the broadcaster’s ethics code and that the head of news department has his full support and confidence. In early October a 23 member of the news staff at Czech TV signed a petition saying that on a dozen occasions a senior editor had interfered with their work, to the benefit of certain politicians, in particular President Miloš Zeman.
The Ombudsman of the Czech Republic, Pavel Varvařovský, has told his colleagues that he will be stepping down from his post on December 20. Mr. Varvařovský made the announcement on Wednesday without giving exact reasons for his departure. His deputy Stanislav Křeček will head the office until a new ombudsman is elected, which has to happen within 60 days of the resignation. Mr. Varvařovský was a Constitutional Court judge between 1994 and 2004, and took up the post of ombudsman in September 2010.
Viktoria Plzeň have qualified for continental soccer’s second-tier competition the Europa League after beating CSKA Moscow in their final Champions League group game. Plzeň left it late to guarantee their place in European football in the New Year; after coming from behind they took the lead in the 90th minute through a Tomáš Wágner goal and held to on seal a 2:1 win that was enough to see them finish third in the group. It was a dream send-off for manager Pavel Vrba, who is about to become Czech national team boss.
Jiří Rusnok’s cabinet has approved a set of seven measures drawn up to help avoid future conflicts in and around socially excluded areas in the Czech Republic. The measures include changes in housing benefits, and an increased number of social workers and social services offered in high-risk localities and ghettos. The measures were supposed to include changes in social housing, but Regional Development Ministry failed to come up with the documentation. The new measures are meant as a response to the growing number of ghettos, populated mostly by Romanies, and an increasing number of violent protests by extremists and local citizens against the Roma minority.
The Budějovice Budvar beer producer has won a dispute with the international group Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) in Portugal over the use of the brand name Budweiser in the country. The Portuguese trademark authority turned down an appeal by InBev in which it challenged a 2003 decision to block the registration of four of its products with the name Budweiser. The Czech beer maker has been selling its own traditional Budweiser brand in Portugal since the 1990’s. Budvar and Anheuser-Busch have had legal disputes over the use of Budweiser in most countries around the world for more than a century.
Former deputy of the Prague High State Prosecutor, Libor Grygárek, has been charged with abuse of office. The Olomouc High State Prosecutor Ivo Ištvan, who filed charges, claims that Mr. Grygárek had information about money laundering, but failed to order an investigation. The prosecutor also suspects that he may have been done so for a financial compensation. Czech media reports indicate that the person behind the money laundering operation is most likely the well-know lobbyist Roman Janoušek, who is allegedly a personal friend of Mr. Grygárek. The accused became the deputy for the High State Prosecutor Vlastimil Rampula in 2007, becoming the interim head prosecutor in June 2012, having resigned from the post in August.
A family-owned newsagent’s shop in the west Bohemian Karlovy Vary has become the first store in the region to accept Bitcoins for payments. There are only around a dozen businesses in the Czech Republic outside of Prague that accept the electronic monetary unit, and few of them are shops. The Bitcoin was traded at around 19,000 crowns on Wednesday, though the exchange rate is very volatile.
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