The Finance Ministry is planning to reduce the state budget deficit to 30 billion crowns by 2019, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said at a press conference in Prague on Friday. Mr. Babiš said that next year he would aim for a deficit of 60 billion, 50 billion the year after, and 30 billion in 2019. The finance minister said he expected tough negotiations over finances, stressing that investment would be a chief priority.
According to the weekly Respekt, the Office for Protection of Public Officials headed by Jiri Komorous was behind a highly publicized incident at Prague’s Film Faculty FAMU when two police officers allegedly asked the dean of the faculty to remove a Tibetan flag hoisted during a recent visit to Prague by the Chinese president. The weekly claims that the order came from a hi-placed officer at the Office for Protection of Public Officials. Komorous has denied the allegations saying the office would shortly make a statement. The incident has aroused fierce criticism and there have been demands for a thorough investigation.
The Czech Republic will not for the time being take back the 25 Iraqi refugees who left the country for Germany last week on the grounds that the German readmission request has formal shortcomings and in not fully in line with European legislation, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Friday. The group of 25 Christian refugees from Iraq arrived in the Czech Republic within a government supported relocation program for 150 refugees initiated and financed by the NGO Generation 21. However after a few weeks here they gave up their refugee status and hired a bus to take them to Germany where they asked for asylum. The government later decided to cancel the program.
The Czech Women’s Lobby has appealed to Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlova for her government to desist from its plan to support a total ban on abortions. In an open letter to the Polish prime minister the Czech Women’s Lobby points out that this would present a significant health risk for Polish women. They further argue the right to abortion is a woman’s fundamental right. Thousands of Poles took to the streets on Sunday to protest against a possible tightening of the law, already one of the most restrictive in Europe. Critics say a total ban would only lead to women dying in illegal abortions and fuel abortion tourism.
Several deputies from the right-wing opposition TOP 09 and Civic Democratic Party have filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court over the manner in which the ruling coalition pushed through the lower house a bill on the introduction of electronic cash registers. The deputies claim that the ruling parties unlawfully cut short a debate on the proposed law, restricting their rights and preventing them from performing their mandate. Finance Minister Andrej Babis, who initiated the legislation as an effective instrument against tax evasion, said the bill had been debated for 260 days and he was confident that the Constitutional Court would find no reason to support the complaint. The law on electronic cash registers was approved by the Senate and signed by the president at the end of March.
Czech and Polish cabinet members held a joint session in Warsaw on Friday. The meeting focused on defense and security issues, the migrant crisis, bilateral infrastructure projects and the agenda of a NATO summit due to be held in Warsaw in July. The eight-member Czech ministerial team is headed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. The tradition of holding joint cabinet sessions on matters of common interest once a year was established in 2011 and they alternately take place in Prague and Warsaw.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he would like the countries of the Visegrad group states to negotiate a common stand to the EC’s asylum proposals unveiled this week. Mr. Sobotka said he would propose rejecting both a permanent system of redistribution of migrants and a more centralized asylum process within EU institutions which would detract powers from national governments. The Czech prime minister discussed the matter with his Polish counterpart Beata Szydlova during Friday’s joint cabinet session in Warsaw and said she fully backed this position. He is to bring up the issue at a meeting with the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico next week. As the country currently presiding over the Visegrad group the Czech Republic will also initiate consultations with Hungary on the matter.
The Social Democratic Party has lodged an appellate review request with the Supreme Court regarding a verdict by the Prague Municipal Court which ordered it to pay a contractual fine of 337 million crowns to lawyer Zdeněk Altner. The request does not however suspend the enforcement of the verdict and the party has taken out a loan in order to be able to pay the money. The Social Democrats lost a drawn-out dispute with Altner regarding the fee for his services in a court case over the ownership of Lidový Dum, the party’s long-time headquarters in Prague. The 337 million crown contractual fine is the result of interest building up over the past 16 years. The verdict is a blow to the Social Democrats whose annual budget is around 200 million crowns. The party’s management recently approved austerity measures which should enable it to repay the loan within 20 years at the latest.
The head of the Block against Islam Martin Konvička has been charged with inciting racial hatred. České Budejovice state attorney Josef Richter filed the charges on the grounds of racist remarks that Konvička posted on his Facebook page in recent years. Konvička stated online that Muslims should be detained in concentration camps and in another case, be ground into bone meal. If convicted he will face up to three years in jail.
Czech investor EPH is set to acquire Vattenfall's loss-making German lignite coal mines and associated power plants in Germany, the Reuters news agency reported on Friday citing three people familiar with the matter. The deal is expected to be signed next week, while Vattenfall's supervisory board is expected to give a final nod in about 10 days. Vattenfall and EPH both declined to comment.
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