The Senate has returned a conflict of interest bill to the lower house with a proposal that it should come into force as of September 2017 rather than the beginning of the year. The proposed change is based on the argument that the authorities will need more time to prepare a register of income and property declarations. The bill, which caused friction in the ruling coalition, would prevent people with large stakes in companies from becoming ministers, while firms more than 10-percent owned by cabinet members would not be allowed to enter public tenders. It is widely seen as targeting ANO leader, billionaire businessman and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš whose powerful conglomerate Agrofert involves 200 companies as well as several media outlets.
The lower house of Parliament has strongly rejected a resolution by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization which denies any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The UNESCO resolution, called it an exclusively Muslim shrine, sparking protests from Israel. In a resolution passed on Wednesday Czech deputies rejected the UN resolution saying it fuelled anti-Semitic sentiments. The UNESCO resolution coincided with international efforts to calm violence in the region after what Palestinians say are increasingly frequent Jewish visits to the compound that is officially under Muslim administration. Under Israeli law, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site to avoid potential violence, but many Jewish activists still rally there.
Czech fugitive Radovan Krejčíř is seeking extradition to the Czech Republic according to the South African news site News 24. According to the news source Krejčíř has asked for voluntary extradition in return for turning state witness in all cases. According to a letter compiled by his lawyer, Krejčíř had "collusive, corrupt dealings" with former high profile members of the police and a magistrate and was ready to testify to that effect. "My client will plead guilty to all charges if he is given a concurrent ten-year jail sentence in respect of each offence," his lawyer’s letter says. Krejčíř is currently on trial for the murder of a Lebanese national. Earlier, he was convicted on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping in another case. In the Czech Republic he is wanted for tax fraud and conspiracy to murder.
At a gathering in Prague’s Lucerna Palace the Tibetan spiritual leader, who is here at the invitation of the Forum 2,000 Foundation, thanked the Czech people for their support of Tibet. He said he had relinquished his political role years ago and now only strove for the preservation of Tibet’s culture and environment. “Your support of Tibet and the culture of peace is important not only for the six million Tibetans, but for the whole world,” the Dalai Lama told the gathering. Interest in his lecture at Lucerna was immense, with a queue of people forming all the way to Wenceslas Square. On Monday the Dalai Lama was greeted by a crowd of around one thousand people on Prague’s Hradčany Square.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a debt-brake mechanism that would prevent future governments from borrowing and spending beyond their means. The bill sets a debt ceiling at 55 percent of GDP, lower by five percent than that outlined in the EU’s fiscal compact. It also envisages the creation of a fiscal council which would monitor adherence to the criteria set down. According to the proposal regions and municipalities would also need to have balanced budgets. The bill, which still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, should come into force on Jan 1, 2017.
The defence committee of the lower house has recommended that lawmakers support the deployment of a Czech field hospital in Iraq. The team would count around 30 specialists who would help treat allied troops and Iraqi soldiers injured in the fight against Islamic State militants in and around Mosul. The team together with logistics support should be sent out before the end of the year and Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has stressed the need for a fast decision in view of the time pressure. Both houses of parliament are due to vote on the proposal this week.
The Senate has urged the Sobotka government to use all diplomatic means at its disposal in helping to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. In a resolution issued on Wednesday senators expressed grave concern over the increase in violence in the region and the flagrant violation of the terms of the Minsk agreement. The resolution also clearly states that the Czech Republic perceives Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine, and condemns its annexation by Russia as an act of aggression in violation of international law.
The Czech Senate on Wednesday gave official backing to Montenegro's accession to NATO, initiating the ratification process in the Czech Republic. The document, which still has to be approved by the lower house, received support from 39 out of 49 senators present. The Czech Foreign Ministry has consistently supported Montenegro’s efforts to join Western structures with Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek saying that the country’s presence in NATO would have a positive influence on stability in the western Balkans. The accession protocol needs to be ratified by all 28 NATO member states. So far it has been approved by ten countries.
The country’s leading politicians have come under fire for issuing a joint statement underlining the country’s interest in maintaining good relations with China in connection with a visit by the Dalai Lama to the Czech Republic. In a statement released on Tuesday President Miloš Zeman, Senate chairman Milan Štěch, lower house speaker Jan Hamáček and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the fact that some Czech politicians had met with the Dalai Lama did not signal a change in the country’s official policy. Around fifty Czech senators and deputies of the lower house attended an impromptu meeting with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday to distance themselves from the official stand and some universities hoisted the Tibetan flag in a show of solidarity with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Members of the opposition criticized the joint statement as “a shameful show of servility”. Prime Minister Sobotka defended the statement on Wednesday, saying it merely reflected the country's foreign policy line in relations with China.
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