The National Security Council met on Tuesday evening to discuss a planned reform of the police force which has divided the governing coalition and sparked concerns regarding its possible impact on the investigation of ongoing corruption cases. Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman, Prague High State Attorney Lenka Bradáčová and Olomouc State Attorney Ivo Ištván presented their reservations which the police president said would be taken into account. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said he would not sign the proposed reform plan ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of coalition leaders and the reform should take effect a month later than planned, i.e. as of August 1st.
The Prague State Attorney’s Office has confirmed that the firm Agrotec which is part of the Agrofert group owned by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has been charged in connection with manipulated tenders at Czech Post, the state-owned postal service. Charges have been brought against three firms and ten individuals.
President Miloš Zeman has appealed on the leaders of the ruling coalition not to let the row over the planned police reform bring down the government. The president met with Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and the main critic of the reform Andrej Babis on Monday in what his spokesman described as a “mediating role”. The president likewise criticized the Police Presidium for poor communication of the planned changes expressing surprise that the Supreme State Attorney had not been properly informed about them in advance.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has dismissed claims that his Agrofert holding had influenced the rules of the distribution of EU subsidies in the Czech Republic. The German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Monday that Mr. Babis’ Agrofert company may have influenced where European funds are directed in the Czech Republic. The magazine pinpointed in its article a meeting at the Czech parliament in May last year at which the rules for drawing funds under one programme were redrawn so that it would not be restricted to small and medium sized companies. Der Spiegel added that investigations into Agrofert’s influence are complicated by the fact that Babiš has placed many supporters in key positions in EU institutions in Brussels. Babiš said the claim was utter nonsense and was the result of a personal animosity against him harboured by the German MEP Ingeborg Graessle who was using him as a target to make herself visible.
Some Czech hospitals re-use disposable instruments as many as five times over, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes claims, citing hospital employees. According to doctors and nurses expensive single-use instruments, such as scalpels for laparoscopic surgery, are repeatedly sterilized and re-used in order to save money. Hospitals, which knowingly break the law by this practice, blame the system which forces them to economize in all areas. Recent audits by hygiene officers have also confirmed the practice, Mlada fronta Dnes says.
The police have charged two people in connection with a massive fire at Czech refiner Unipetrol's Litvinov plant last year. Two employers –one in a managerial position – reportedly failed to effect crisis measures which would have mitigated the impact of a propylene leak and significantly reduced the impact of the initial accident, preventing the spread of the fire to other units. The petrochemicals plant was shut down for several months after an explosion. The employees, who were charged with neglecting their duties, could face up to eight years in prison.
The Czech banking sector's ability to deal with potential shocks is strong and banks could cope with a severe recession, the central bank said in a yearly health check of the sector on Tuesday. According to Governor Miroslav Singer in a worst-case scenario only seven banks would fall under the eight percent regulatory minimum and would have to top up their capital by approximately seven billion crowns. Highlighting one potential risk, the bank said in its annual financial stability report it would tighten mortgage lending rules from October due to "highly relaxed" conditions, although it did not assess any overheating in home loans, which have been a strong driver of loan growth in recent years.
One in five teachers say they have been the victim of a cyberattack. According to a survey conducted among 5,000 primary and secondary school teachers these attacks are increasingly widespread; teachers are insulted on social networks, via email or on their mobile phones. In the majority of cases the perpetrators of these attacks are students, in eight percent of cases they are the work of dissatisfied parents. Many of these attacks never get reported and 15 percent of teachers say they ignore them completely.
Nine percent of Czech firms plan to take on more employees in the third quarter, according to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup. The survey was conducted among 750 employers in the public and private sector. Three percent of firms said they would be laying off staff in that period. According to the director of Manpower Group Jaroslava Rezlerova there is a growing demand on the market not just for highly qualified workers but for low-skilled workers as well.
ANO leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš met with president Miloš Zeman late Monday over a proposed police shake up which has divided the ruling government coalition and appears to threaten its future. The meeting, in which Babiš called for the reforms to be halted for further discussion, lasted for just over an hour. Babiš later said he had also called for the financial police division to be recreated. It was disbanded under Civic Democrat interior minister Ivan Langer. The head of state made no pronouncement son the police reform afterwards. He is expected to meet with Supreme State Attorney Pa vel Zeman on Wednesday. President Zeman earlier on Monday met with interior minister Milan Chovanec and police president Tomáš Tuhý.
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