The three parties in government have agreed to hold talks with the opposition on the final framework of a civil service amendment. According to the Czech News Agency, two representatives from each of the parties in the lower house will meet on Friday. A number of alternatives regarding parts of the legislation have been proposed for debate; critics have charged quality legislation was needed rather than just meeting the deadline of January 1. The centre-right opposition of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have said they will block the bill unless the proposal sees changes.
According to Czech TV, police have pressed charges against Tomáš Kolinger, the former head of Pražské služby (overseeing waste management in the capital), two days after detectives raided the firm’s headquarters and confiscated material. Police were allegedly searching for documents possibly related to the firm’s multi-billion deals on waste collection as well as a planned acquisition of an additional stake in the company by Prague City Hall. Kolinger faced questioning by the police, his lawyer revealed. The spokeswoman for the state prosecutors’ office in Prague, along with the spokesman for the anti-corruption police unit, said they would not be revealing additional information at present.
The introduction of new civil service legislation by January 1, 2015 is not an ultimatum set by the European Union and a postponing of the deadline could still be negotiated, the Czech candidate for European commissioner Věra Jourová said on Thursday in an interview for Czech TV. She made the statement as it remains unclear whether the coalition government will succeed in pushing through its amendment in the lower house, even though it has a majority, due to the right-wing opposition doing its utmost to preventing a vote on the amendment from taking place. The opposition TOP 09 and Civic Democrats say they will not stop blocking the session unless the coalition accepts a number of changes to the amendment. The ruling coalition Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats discussed the matter on Thursday.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann arrived in Prague on Thursday for talks with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. On the agenda was the discussion of plans to improve cross-border transport infrastructure including the modernization of railway connections between Vienna and Prague. Also on the agenda were candidacies for the European Commission as both the Czech Republic and Austria are hoping to clinch the post of commissioner for regional policy. On Thursday, Prime Minister Sobotka and his Austrian counterpart agreed to meet in the future on a regular basis, also incuding Slovakia's prime minister; the next meeting is expected to take place next spring.
A decision by Russia to halt supplies of spare parts for military helicopters, in response to EU sanctions, would impact the Czech military, financial daily Hospodářské noviny writes. Such a move would, for example, eventually ground the military’s fleet of 16 Mi-171s. Citing analysis by the Defence Ministry, the daily reports the aircraft could only operate for six months without a new influx of parts and supplies. The Mi-171s are highly-regarded within the military, otherwise easy to maintain and capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, the only “flaw” being their dependency on spare parts from Russia, the daily writes. To fulfil urgent tasks, the military needs a minimum of 12 helicopters in operation. A short-term solution, in case of a supply halt, would be the "cannibalisation" or taking parts from some of the aircraft for use in others. In the meantime, the military would have to seek Western-made helicopters to replace the Mi-171s.
The Czech Republic’s biggest bank, Česká spořitelna, has posted a consolidated net profit of 7.78 billion crowns for the first six months of the year which is 4.6 percent less than in the same period last year. The bank’s operating profit remained at 11.47 billion. The bank said the decrease in profit was due to decreasing prices of financial services as well as growing costs of commissions paid for credit and debit card transactions. Česká spořitelna’s parent company, Austria’s Erste Group Bank, has meanwhile posted a loss of nearly 930 million euros for the first six months of 2014.
A court in Prague on Wednesday ruled that a former anchor for the commercial Czech TV channel Nova, Karel Voříšek, was wrongfully listed as a collaborator of the communist-era secret police, the StB. Mr Voříšek stopped working for Nova in 2012 after allegations surfaced that he reported to the StB on his fellow students while studying at the Faculty of Arts of Prague’s Charles University in 1980s.
The state-owned Czech Aeroholding’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, or EBITDA, reached 2.2 billion crowns last year, the firm said in a statement on Wednesday. That is 0.4 billion less than in 2012. The company took in 16.3 billion crowns in revenues last year. The company said the results were affected by the incorporation of the carrier Czech Airlines and Prague’s Václav Havel Airport into the firm.
The opposition Civic Democrats have slammed the centre-left Czech government over what they called a diversion from the country’s policy of supporting Israel. The party criticized the fact that last week, the Czech Republic was one 17 countries that abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution to launch a probe into Israel’s actions in Gaza. Civic Democrat chair Petr Fiala demanded explanation from Foreign Minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, and said Israel deserved the Czech Republic’s full support. In a reaction, Minister Zaorálek said the Czech position on the UN vote had been coordinated with other EU member states.
Social Watch, an international anti-poverty advocacy group, has criticized the Czech Republic over increasing numbers of overpriced and substandard accommodation facilities often used by the poor, and continuing anti-Romany rallies. In its annual report for 2013 released on Wednesday, the group says the country was affected by chaos, incompetence, record-high unemployment and decreasing living standards for a majority of the population. The group has also criticized a lack of women in the lower house of Parliament and other top political positions.
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