President Miloš Zeman appointed 24 new judges to office at a ceremony at Prague Castle on Tuesday. In a brief address the president urged them to resist political pressure and try to speed up the generally slow pace of the Czech judiciary. The new judges, 15 of whom are women and 9 men, will take up their posts in February of next year, replacing those who are retiring or leaving the judiciary for other reasons.
One of the country’s most respected music critics Lubomír Dorůžka has died at the age of 89. Mr. Dorůžka, who studied music as well as English and American literature was a respected journalist, writer, teacher and translator. He worked for the Prague Spring Music Festival, was an active member of the Syndicate of Czech and Slovak Writers and the State Music Publishers. He worked for years with Czech Radio where he presented a programme devoted to jazz music.
During its time in office the Rusnok interim government has approved contracts to the tune of 2.8 billion crowns without holding public tenders, according to the NGO Oživení. The organization which monitors government commissions says this is six-fold more than that commissioned without tenders by the preceding centre-right government in a similar time frame. The Rusnok government has defended its decisions, saying it had not violated any laws and had speeded up the process of commissioning work wherever possible in order to secure well-functioning public administration. Oživení has called the situation alarming and urged the government to make public details of the contracts awarded.
President Miloš Zeman has warned that his chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, has only days to apply for security clearance needed to hold the post. The spokesman for the Office of the President, Jiří Ovčáček told the Czech news website iDnes that Mr Mynář would do so this week. The president has made clear that if fails to do so, he will be let go. There has been speculation in the media that Mr Mynář could be denied clearance due to former allegedly controversial business contacts, iDnes points out.
Representatives of churches and the two strongest parties of the emerging coalition, the Social Democrats and ANO, met for talks on Tuesday to discuss the process of church restitutions. The two sides agreed that the return of property, should be transparent and are considering setting up a working group to monitor the process. The Social Democrats and ANO are determined to try to push for an agreement which would lower the amount of money to be paid out by the state for property which cannot be returned. A meeting is to be held in January to discuss the possibilities with church representatives. The third potential coalition party, the Christian Democrats, are against changes to the restitution law.
The amnesty called by ex-president Vaclav Klaus at the start of this year pardoned over 111,000 people including 20,000 serving unconditional sentences at the time. The remainder has been given suspended sentences or community work. Besides this, the amnesty halted the prosecution of 265 people on the grounds that the procedure was excessively long, according to statistics provided by the Justice Ministry. The amnesty was highly controversial since it applied to a number of high-profile corruption and financial fraud cases only a fraction of which could be challenged.
The leaders of three parties negotiating on forming the next government met for a little over an hour on Monday to begin discussing ministerial posts; but, the likely next prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, indicated many issues remain unresolved and will only be tackled over the course of a number of meetings. Members of the individual parties are to meet on their own Tuesday, before resuming three-party talks a day later. Asked about the possibility of the smallest party in the coalition, the Christian Democrats, heading the Agriculture Ministry, Mr Sobotka replied it was one of the options being discussed.
The central bank board on Tuesday voted to keep interest rates at an all-time low and continue forex interventions designed to keep the crown’s exchange rate close to 27 crowns to the euro. The bank has sold 200 billion crowns ($9.94 billion) since the start of interventions two weeks ago, with the crown now trading at around 27.62 to the euro. Interest rates have been at a historic low for over a year with the basic rate at 0.05 percent. The central bank forecasts that GDP will rise by 2.1 percent in 2014 with the help of interventions and inflation will return to the bank's 2 percent target, from below 1 percent seen in October.
Dušan Uhrin Jr. has been named coach of Viktoria Plzen following the departure of Pavel Vrba who has taken over the Czech national team. Plzen says Uhrin has been given a 2-year contract. The 46-year-old Uhrin was previously in charge of clubs in the Czech Republic, Romania and Cyprus. Earlier this month, Uhrin cut short his contract at Georgian club Dinamo Tbilisi to be able to join Plzen. He will lead the team into their Europa League last-32 tie with Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in February.
Car maker Škoda Auto has won the Czech exporter of the year contest, ahead of the companies Foxconn and Panasonic AVC. Skoda Auto also won the category measuring the volume of exports in the course of the past decade. The awards were presented to company representatives by President Miloš Zeman on Monday night. The president stressed the importance of economic diplomacy in promoting Czech national interests saying the country’s ambassadors and honorary consuls should be highly qualified in this respect. The annual contest is open to all exporters whose turnover exceeds 100 million crowns.
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