Daily news summary Daily news summary

05-01-2018

Prime Minister Babiš in Slovakia on first bilateral foreign visit

Andrej Babiš arrived in Bratislava on Friday for his first bilateral foreign visit as prime minister. He was welcomed by his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico.

Issues due to be discussed in their meeting were Czech and Slovak cooperation in the areas of transport, defense and security, and energy.

One issue which came to the fore at the press event afterwards was that of EU quotas and continuing opposition by the Czech Republic and other countries in the Visegrad 4 to the EU relocation of migrants. Mr Fico said that the migrant quotas “did not work” and had “divided Europe to an unbelievable extent”. Also to be discussed were important anniversaries the Czech Republic and Slovakia are commemorating this year, including the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

After a working lunch and the joint press conference, the prime ministers were scheduled to lay wreaths at a statue of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and a monument to the co-founder of the Czechoslovakia, Milan Rastislav Štefánik.

Mr Babiš is being accompanied on the visit by Defense Minister Karla Šlechtová and Finance Minister Alena Schillerová.

Lawmakers who have read OLAF report say it lines up with findings by the police

Different responses are emerging over the report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of its investigation of alleged EU subsidy fraud at the Stork’s Nest farm and hotel complex, formerly owned by members of the prime minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš' family.

The report has not been published by the Czech authorities but was accessed by lawmakers at the police presidium in Prague. Two of them, the head of the Pirate Party’s deputies’ club Jakub Michálek and the former head of TOP 09 Miroslav Kalousek, maintained the independent investigation lined up with that of Czech police; the police have charged 11 people, including the prime minister and his deputy party leader Jaroslav Faltýnek, with fraud. The two have parliamentary immunity and the Czech lower house will have to decide, for a second time, whether to lift it. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Former education minister Kateřina Valachová of the Social Democrats, said – in her view – there were no new revelations in the report and that it was evident that the police and the European office had shared information over the matter.

No change in wages for bus drivers, PM confirms

There will be no change to a directive by the former Social Democrat-led government which boosted the minimum wage for fixed-route bus drivers, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš confirmed in a tweet on Friday.

Funds for wages will be the responsibility of the regions, he also confirmed, after meeting with the chairwoman of the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic and fellow ANO party member Jana Vildumetzová and Transport Union head Luboš Pombík.

The regions had been asking the government for four billion crowns in funds to cover wages as well as local road repairs. After the meeting, the prime minister confirmed that the government would look for funds for the repairs of secondary and tertiary roads.

Chancellor owns property worth hundreds of millions of crowns - reports

The president’s chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, owns property and other assets worth hundreds of millions of crowns, according to news site iDnes, citing the chancellor’s tax declaration. The story was also reported by Czech Radio on Friday.

According to iDnes, the chancellor owns 125 plots of land, shares in Unipetrol and Pražská teplárenská and has around 13.5 million crowns in the bank. He is owed some 60 million crowns he lent to his own companies. The report confirmed he also owned a building at Prague Castle worth around 70 million crowns, a villa in Strašnice, and property in Brno.

The chancellor has routinely made headlines since the start of his tenure – and faced continued criticism – for not having the level of security clearance required for the post.

Czechoslovak WWII airman Ivan Otto Schwarz dies

Decorated Czechoslovak WWII general Ivan Otto Schwarz, who served in the British RAF during the war, has died at the age of 94.

Schwarz was one of the crew of a bomber which sunk the German cargo ship, Alsterufer, in 1943. During 1200 flying hours, Schwarz also took part in missions against German U-boats and in the invasion of Normandy.

He returned to Czechoslovakia after the war but decided to leave for Britain again in 1946, suspecting the communist takeover which eventually took place in 1948.

Czechs lose in hockey junior world semi against Canada

In hockey, the Czech junior team lost in the semi-finals of the world championships to Canada.

The Czechs went down 2:7. They will play again on Friday for the third place position against the United States, which is hosting the championships.

The Czechs will be seeking their first medal in the championships since the bronze achieved in the 2005 competition. Canada faces Sweden in the final on Saturday.

Weather

Mostly cloudy conditions are expected on Saturday. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of around 7 degrees Celsius.

05-01-2018