The outgoing Czech interim government on Wednesday approved a civil
service bill which overhauls the rules for the employment of public
officials, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said. If passed by Parliament, the
legislation will protect officials from the influence of elected
politicians. Under the bill, government ministers would be exempt from
legislation preventing former collaborators of the communist secret police,
StB, from holding high public posts. It will also establish the position of
the director general of public administration who will be appointed by the
president. The introduction of the civil service act would cost the state
budget around six billion crowns, according to the government.
The passing of the bill in a first round of debate in the lower house is a condition set by President Miloš Zeman for appointing ANO leader Andrej Babiš finance minister; Mr Babiš faces allegations he worked for the StB in the 1980s. MPs are set to discuss the legislation next week.
The Czech tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has advanced to the third round of the Australian Open in Melbourne, after beating France’s Kenny De Schepper on Wednesday. It took the 28-year-old less than an hour to dispatch the Frenchman 6-4 6-1 6-3. Meanwhile, in an all-Czech duel, Lucie Šafářová beat Lucie Hradecká 6-7 6-3 6-0 to book her place in round three. Also exiting the first Grand Slam of the season is Karolína Plíšková, who was beaten by 3-6 6-3 6-7 by Daniela Hantuchová of Slovakia.
The Czech army has purchased 4,000 pocket editions of the Bible with sand camouflage covers, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Wednesday. The military paid some 1.8 million crowns for the books which were bought without a tender. A spokeswoman for the General Staff of the army the Czech Biblical Society was the only firm that holds the rights for publishing the ecumenical edition of the Bible; that is the sole translation that can be used by all Christian denominations in the military.
The Social Democrats are looking for a new candidate for labour and social affairs minister after their nominee for the post, Petr Krčál withdrew over family reasons. Party leaders met on Wednesday to discuss the nominations; deputy party chair Lubomír Zaorálek told reporters after the meeting that most candidates for the post are women. The news agency ČTK reported that Zlín regional councillor Taťána Valentová Nersesjan, former central Bohemian councillor Zuzana Jentschke Stöcklová and the party’s human rights and family policy expert Michaela Marksová Tominová were among the candidates.
The Platform of European Memory and Conscience has suspended the membership of the Czech Institute for the Study of the Totalitarian Regimes. In a letter to the institute’s director, Pavla Francová, the European association of totalitarian research institutes said its Czech associate had been infiltrated by Communist collaborators. The Platform warned it would take the step last November when it criticized the election of five former Communist party members to the institute’s board of experts. The Czech Institute for the Study of the Totalitarian Regimes is one of the founding members of the platform which associates 43 institutes from 13 EU states as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Iceland, Canada and the United States.
Tea sales in Czech supermarkets have been decreasing over the last three years, the Czech News Agency reported on Wednesday quoting supermarket chains, tea retailers and the Nielsen consultancy firm. Between December 2012 and November 2013, 3,362 tonnes of tea were sold in the Czech Republic, which was 1 percent more than in the previous period but one percent less than two years ago, according to Nielsen. However, sales of loose tea in specialized shops have grown; the largest Czech loose tea retailer, Oxalis, reported a 12-percent rise in turnover last year. Black and fruit teas remain the most popular with Czechs accounting for 75 percent of all sales, with lemon-flavoured tea topping the list.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition has for the second time halted a 4.6-billion crown tender by the Interior Ministry for telecommunications services for public administration, a spokesman for the office said on Wednesday. The anti-monopoly agency is acting on the basis of complaints filed by two of the ministry’s current suppliers, T-Systems Czech Republic and GTS Czech which objected to the conditions of the tender. The anti-monopoly agency also halted the tender last July, forcing the ministry to change the tender’s conditions.
The anti-corruption unit of the Czech police on Wednesday raided the Prague headquarters of the state-owned Czech Export Bank and the Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation. The police have not disclosed any details of the operation; however, the news website idnes.cz reported the police were gathering evidence related to suspicious loans and guarantees for Czech firms exporting to Russia. A spokeswoman for the Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation said the officers were interested in 15 older cases including the financing of a glass works in Russia. The police also raided the premises of the companies PSJ Jihlava and Sklostroj in Turnov later on Wednesday.
Member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, has complained to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, about the activities of the Czech ambassador to Israel, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. In a letter to Baroness Ashton, Mr Erekat denounced ambassador Tomáš Pojar’s visit to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week. The visit undermined the EU’s support of the peace efforts and a settlement based on the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, according to Mr Erekat. In a reaction, Ambassador Pojar told the news agency ČTK his activities were in line with EU policies.
According to a new study, thousands of pieces of unexploded ordnance is scattered across hundreds of hectares in the Šumava National Park, its director Jiří Mánek told the Czech News Agency. The ammunition dates from the period prior to 1989 when the Czechoslovak Army used the area for exercises. Mr. Mánek said there were plans to reclaim the area with a view to introducing bison to the national park in the future.
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