The Social Democrats and ANO of the emerging centre-left government say they will not use the threat of cancelling tax benefits for churches in order to get them to be more cooperative on the matter of church restitutions. The two strongest parties in the future government are critical of the church restitution law passed under the former centre-right government of then prime minister Petr Nečas and have appealed on church dignitaries to consider a less generous settlement that would not put so great a burden on the state budget. Lawyers have advised the country’s future leaders negotiating the matter to use the threat of heavily taxing the money to be paid out as compensation for property that is not being returned and taxing the state contributions to churches which are to he handed out for another 17 years before they become fully independent from the state.
The leaders of the future coalition government have welcomed the president’s announcement. ANO leader Andrej Babis said it was good news for the whole country that a government could be in place by the end of the month and that he was certain his party’s nominees would convince the president in due time that they were up to the tasks ahead. Pavel Belobradek of the Christian Democrats welcomed the president’s intention to meet with all ministerial nominees in person.
President Miloš Zeman has announced he would appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister next Friday. At a press briefing in Prague the president said Mr. Sobotka had fulfilled the task set, which was to put together a government which would have a stable majority in the lower house. As regards the appointment of the new government, Mr. Zeman said he believed this could take place by the end of January on condition that the lower house approved the draft civil service law in its first reading. This particular condition was given in view of the fact that the nominee for finance minister in the new government, ANO leader Andrej Babiš, has been unable to produce a clean screening certificate proving that he did not actively collaborate with the communist secret service. The new civil service law which is expected to replace the screening law would not address the issue.
Czechs are increasingly interested in discounts and 40 percent of Czech households study retailers´ flyers and compare prices before shopping for food, according to the results of a poll conducted by Incoma GfK. This is the highest number since monitoring started in 1997. The popularity of discount shops is on the rise, while interest in small shops is decreasing. Twenty-five percent of households say they shop exclusively at discount stores, 17 percent cite supermarkets, and only 12 percent of households said they buy food mainly in smaller shops, the lowest share since 1997.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has sent the Czech Foreign Ministry a diplomatic note in which it says that the twelve weapons found by police on the embassy’s premises had never been used and had merely been in storage on embassy grounds since the 1980s. The note does not say why they were never registered with the Czech authorities. Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Johana Grohova says the ministry does not find the explanation satisfactory and that by failing to register the weapons the embassy violated Czech law.
The country’s future prime minister met with President Zeman later on Friday to hand over a copy of the coalition agreement signed on January 6th. After the meeting Mr. Sobotka said they had further discussed the prime minister’s reservations regarding some ministerial nominees, but that he did not consider those objections serious enough to warrant a change of plan.
Czech international soccer captain Tomáš Rosický appears likely to be offered a contract extension by the English Premier League side Arsenal. His current deal expires in the summer. Describing him as marvellous, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday that the midfielder, who is 33, would be staying at the club. There have been reports that a number of club’s in the MLS in the United States were interested in signing Rosický, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2006.
Doctors who removed a 36-kilogramme malignant tumour from the stomach of a 47-year-old woman said the patient was recovering well and could be released from hospital within a week. During the seven-hour operation performed in December doctors had to deal with severe bleeding, repeatedly giving the patient blood transfusions. Doctors say they will publish a report on the case which is unique in this country and as far as they know abroad as well. The chief surgeon said he could not understand why the woman had not sought treatment earlier or why the family had not responded adequately to her problem since the weight of the tumour confined her to bed and she was unable to live a normal life.
The Social Democrat leader called a meeting of the party’ s leadership on Friday for a debate on the present political situation. The meeting focused on the president’s objections to a number of ministerial nominees with which the prime minister is acquainted. Lubomir Zaoralek, who is nominated to the post of foreign minister in the nascent government, said the president’s stated reservation were petty and none of them justified making changes to the government line-up.
The president cited objections to several ministerial nominees, such as not being properly qualified for the job or getting a suspect fast-track law degree at the Pilsen faculty of law within just nine months, which refers to the nominee for interior minister Milan Chovanec. Mr. Zeman said he hoped the prime minister in waiting would address his objections.
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