The Czech Republic has made significant progress in tackling corruption and increasing transparency in party financing, according to a report by the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). The report says that Prague has now fulfilled 9 of the 13 recommendations it was given by the council but regrets the lack of progress in implementing its recommendations concerning the criminalisation of corruption. These are to accelerate the process of signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and to clarify that all public sector employees, in particular those exercising ancillary jobs, fall within the scope of the bribery and trading in influence provisions. GRECO has consistently monitored the situation in the Czech Republic and says the country has made significant progress in the field.
Czechs trust in the army and police is the highest in 15 years, according to the results of a January survey conducted by the STEM polling agency. Seventy-four percent of respondents confirmed trust in the army and 61 percent said the trusted the police force. The only time that trust in these institutions was higher was in 2002 when the police and army actively helped to deal with devastating floods, saving lives and helping with clean-up work. It took the army and police years to build up public trust after the fall of communism. In the 1990s their trust rating was deeply under 50 percent.
The Czech agency tasked with preparing for a deep underground repository to take the country’s highly radioactive waste has been told to apply again for permits to carry out geological research at seven possible sites for the storage site. The Ministry of Environment said that an application to continue the survey process arrived late and the previous permit expired at the end of 2016. That means in effect that the application process to start surveys will have to begin again from scratch. The hitch has been welcomed by opponents at the seven sites who hope that surveys could be blocked altogether. The government is supposed to decide on a deep storage site by 2025 with its completion targeted for 2065.
The head of president Miloš Zeman’s foreign affairs office, Hynek Kmoníček, has been confirmed as the next Czech ambassador to the United States. The spokesman for the president announced confirmation of the appointment on Wednesday. Kmoníček has previously said that a new Czech ambassador should be in place in Washington to prepare the way for Zeman’s planned trip to see US president Donald Trump in April. Kmoníček will remain an advisor to the head of state on foreign affairs.
An out of court settlement has drawn a line under a dispute between the supplier of horse fodder and the winning owner, jockey, and trainer of the Czech Republic’s main steeplechase event. The settlement was approved Wednesday by a court in Přerov. The dispute dates back to 2015 when the winner of Pardubice steeplechase, the horse Nikas, was later disqualified after banned substances were found in tests. The owner, trainer, and jockey, lost around 2 million crowns in winnings. They maintained that the banned drugs were result of the food supplied by a company. The supplier agreed the settlement which will be shared out by the three claimants. It was the first time that the fastest finishing horse had been disqualified.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has suggested that the state will have to soon weigh up its options for action over the hard coal mining company OKD if a serious investor does not come forward. The prime minister temporarily took over as minister of industry and trade on Wednesday following the dismissal of previous incumbent Jan Mládek. Sobotka refused to elaborate on what the government’s options could be. The coalition Cabinet in mid-February refused a proposal from Mládek to buy up the mining company for one crown. OKD employs around 11,000 people with one mine, Paskov, due to close at the end of the month. The government has been seeking to close the remaining mines gradually so that environmental and social issues can be properly dealt with.
The lower house of parliament has rejected Senate proposals that would have watered down the rules for national parks and given local councils and inhabitants more room to push for development. The proposed upper house changes were backed by just 28 lawmakers with 109 opposed. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the original rules offered sustainable development for parks and increased the role of local authorities. The original version of the law backed by the lower house will now go to president Miloš Zeman. He repeated Wednesday he would veto the law.
A court has ruled that the daughter of war hero Josef Mašin should be able to inherit the family farm at Lošany outside Kolín in East Bohemia. In its ruling delivered Wednesday the court said it was clear that Josef Mašin was the rightful owner of the farm and that his daughter, Zdena, stood in line to inherit. Mašin was a member of the leading opposition group to the Nazi occupation before and during WWII. He was captured by the Nazis in May 1941 and shot on June 30 a year later at the age of 45. The court decision can still be appealed. The farm was later confiscated by the communist regime with the inheritance question complicated by the question of whether two sons, who dramatically fled to the US, also had claims.
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