One of the central figures in the police reorganisation that has sparked a coalition crisis, the head of the special police force for combating organised crime, Robert Šlachta, has said he is willing to reconsider his decision to resign following the postponement of the police shake-up for a month. A meeting of the State Security Council on Tuesday evening agreed to delay implantation of the reform till the start of August. Šlachta complained earlier that he was barely consulted about the reform which would see his unit merged with a similar unit tasked with combating corruption. He announced his resignation at the end of last week.
The parking lot on Malostranské náměstí, one of the city’s historic squares, is to be abolished as of July 1st 2016, the ctk news agency reports. Prague City Hall is planning a major overhaul of the square situated in the Lesser Town. The local administration says it wants to make the square more people-friendly with seating arrangements, greenery and the possibility to hold farmers markets there. The plan has raised the ire of a number of MPs who used the parking lot on a daily basis.
Wednesday’s meeting of coalition leaders over a controversial police reform failed to avert the threat of a coalition break-up. According to Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek the situation is grave and ANO party leader Andrej Babiš made clear his intention to walk out of the coalition if the interior minister signs the proposed reform plan. Mr. Bělobrádek appealed on the Social Democratic Party to reconsider pushing the changes through by force, saying that he tended to agree with Mr. Babiš that a reform of the police force requires consensus within the ruling coalition. The Social Democratic Party has yet to comment on the latest developments.
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.
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