Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has said security will be beefed up at public places with a high concentration of people in the wake of what is feared to have been a terrorist attack at a Christmas market in Berlin. The minister said he had no knowledge so far of Czechs having been hurt in the attack on Breitscheidplatz Square in west Berlin where a lorry ploughed through a crowd of shoppers killing 12 people and injuring forty-eight. The driver has reportedly been apprehended, his accomplice did not survive the attack. Emergency security consultations are to take place in Prague on Tuesday morning to assess the situation and consider the need for special measures.
The Czech government has decided to sue the European Commission over the new denaturated alcohol guidelines that are to come into effect as of August 2017. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the government’s decision was a last-ditch effort to prevent their introduction. He said the new guidelines create space for tax-evasion and need to be revised. According to the new EU guidelines denaturated alcohol would be exempt from excise duties.
Prague’s Supreme Court has overruled the verdict in the David Rath corruption case on the grounds that the wiretapping used as key evidence in the case was illegal. The judge ruled that the court order licensing the wiretapping was not adequately justified. The case will now go back to the city’s Regional Court to be heard again. The verdict was made public earlier but not the reason for the court’s decision. David Rath, a former minister and regional governor, was last year found guilty of bribe-taking and sentenced to 8.5 years in prison and the forfeiture of CZK 20 million in property.
The collecting and filing of DNA samples by police should in future be governed by law, according to an amendment to the law approved by the government on Monday. At present the decision whether or not to collect a sample and file it is in the hands of the police, a state of affairs that has been criticized by human rights activists and NGOs as potentially dangerous. A database of DNA samples was established in 2002 and it now contains over 200,000 samples. The draft law will now go to the lower house for debate.
President Zeman has signed into force a tougher new law on terrorism. Under the new legislation expressing public support for a terrorist act will be a crime punishable by three to twelve years in prison. Aiding or financing terrorist activities will also merit tougher punishment than in the past. Newly, the threat of a terrorist act will also be judged as a crime. The amendment reflects the present international situation and is in line with legislative changes made in other EU member states.
President Milos Zeman has invited Pope Francis to visit the Czech Republic. In a congratulatory telegram on the occasion of the Pope’s 80th birthday, Mr. Zeman spoke highly of the head of the Catholic Church, saying that while the Czech Republic was regarded as an atheist country the Pope was held in high regard by Czechs and viewed as a moral authority. Mr. Zeman said it would give him great pleasure to welcome Pope Francis in Prague. The Czech President was received in the Vatican last year.
President Miloš Zeman has vetoed a conflict of interests bill designed to rein in potential conflicts of interests among public officials. The bill would ban ministers from media ownership and would bar companies where ministers have more than a 25-percent stake from receiving state subsidies, taking part in public tenders and accessing investment aid. The legislation was set to have a major impact on finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš, whose many business and media interests have long come under fire from opponents and anti-corruption activists. The president’s spokesperson said Mr. Zeman had numerous reservations to the law which he considered to be in violation of the constitutional order. It is expected that the president’s veto will be overturned by the lower house.
Major outlets across the country reported a pre-Christmas spending spree with sales up by as much as 17 percent on normal over the weekend. Many retailers say spending far exceeded the amounts on the last weekend before Christmas in 2015. More money in people’s pockets is one reason for the spree, wages rose 4.0 percent in the third quarter, a figure last seen in 2009. But shoppers are also preparing for the fact that a new law will close large shops on December 25 and 26.
The general director of the state roads and motorways authority, Jan Kroupa, has said there is no danger from using the newly opened D8 motorway from Prague to Dresden. Kroupa, interviewed on Czech Radio Monday,said the ground at a problem section of the motorway is being monitored continuously and there are signs that instability is decreasing. A major landslide at the section delayed completion of the motorway, which was opened Saturday, with expensive consolidation work carried out afterwards. One lane of the motorway is still closed as a temporary measure.
Beijing ends agreement with Prague – but can spat harm Czech capital?
Czechia now ahead of Spain in GDP per capita, but still below EU average
Czechs observe day of mourning for pop idol Karel Gott
Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott
In memoriam: Karel Gott, the ‘Bohemian nightingale’