A record 857 candidates are standing for the 21 European Parliament seats allotted to the Czech Republic in May’s elections, the ČTK news agency reported on Thursday. This compares with the 708 candidates five years ago and 800 in 2004. The number of seats this time round for Czech MEPs has fallen to 21 from 22. The elections are being held on May 23 and 24.
Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek said the ČEZ tender to build two reactors at the same time and site was perhaps over ambitious and simply not just possible under current electricity prices. The minister added that the question of whether a wholly owned state company should take over nuclear power plant construction should be asked. The focus of shareholder companies like ČEZ is often on every increasing short term profits and not on projects with a return over 60 years. A new tender could also have the advantage of opening up to new bidders, he added.
Changes in the constitution which would curb the president’s power have been suggested by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Sobotka told the CTK news agency that a 30 day limit from the parliament’s first meeting after elections should be put on the head of state to appoint a prime minister. This would avoid the situation of a former government staying in power with no mandate, he said. Sobotka also suggested that the upper house, the Senate, should have the right to agree presidential appointments to the board of the Czech National Bank. President Miloš Zeman waited until mid January to appoint Sobotka as prime minister following early elections in October 2013.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has challenged Russia to withdraw its troops currently lining the Ukraine border. Speaking on a visit to Prague and after a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Rasmussen said the around 40,000 Russian soldiers weren’t on an exercise but were combat troops ready for battle. Withdrawal of the troops would contribute to easing tensions and help start talks with Ukraine, he added. Rasmussen added that NATO countries should take more advantage of opportunities to jointly buy equipment since they could not meet all their equipment needs on their own.
Czech utility ČEZ has cancelled the tender to build two new nuclear reactors at its Temelin site, adding that it had informed the remaining bidders, US based Westinghouse and the Russian-Czech MIR 1200 consortium. The move comes a day after the Czech government explicitly stated that it would not give any state guarantees for construction of the nuclear new power plants. At the same time, the Cabinet reiterated its general support for nuclear power and called for the ministries of industry and trade and ministry of finance to plan the country’s next steps for its development by the end of this year in the context of redrawing its long term energy policy. ČEZ Chief Executive Daniel Beneš said in a statement that future development with the state would be necessary to develop nuclear energy given the fact the country could face an electricity shortage in 20 years time.
NATO should not deploy its troops in Ukraine even in the event of further acts of aggression on the part of Russia, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in a statement for the ctk news agency on Thursday. The prime minister stressed that since NATO’s character and role are essentially defensive the alliance should only respond with military force if one of its member states comes under attack. The statement is in sharp contrast with the view expressed by President Miloš Zeman who has urged the toughest possible EU sanctions and even a NATO military presence in Ukraine should Russia try to annex any other parts of the country. The crisis in Ukraine is expected to be high on the agenda of Thursdays talks with the visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’.
Regional Development Minister Věra Jourová has won a 2.7 million compensation claim for loss of trust and loss of profit in connection with her month-long detention in 2006. The then-deputy regional affairs minister was arrested and charged with bribery and abuse of office. She was suspected of having accepted a two million crown bribe from the mayor of the town of Budišov for allegedly securing an EU grant for the reconstruction of Budišov Chateau. In 2008 she was cleared of all charges.
A foreign man found in Norway suffering from memory loss and speaking five languages including Czech is very probably a 36-year-old Czech citizen. The Czech police said on their website that a number of members of the man’s family had recognised him. On Tuesday the police in Norway appealed for information as to the identity of the man, who was found in a snowdrift in Oslo in mid-December. There were indications that his hands had been bound for some time and he told the news agency AFP that he been robbed and sexually assaulted.
The secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is due to hold talks with the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, in a visit to Prague on Thursday. The two men are expected to discuss the country’s role in NATO, the Ukraine crisis and extending a Czech military mission in Afghanistan. A local newspaper reported on Wednesday that Mr. Rasmussen would also deliver a report saying the Czech army would be incapable of taking part in NATO missions unless military spending increased markedly. The Danish politician will also meet Czech President Miloš Zeman and other senior officials.
The governing parties have agreed to raise more money for the healthcare system by raising payments to state health insurers. The fees should increase from the start of July and bring some CZK 2.1 million. That sum would compensate for a fall-off in health care funding caused by the centre-left government’s abolishment of fees for hospital stays. Some six million people will see their contribution to the state insurers increase from CZK 787 to CZK 845 a month. In the run-up to Wednesday’s decision the coalition parties had expressed disagreement on the matter.
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