Finance Minister Andrej Babiš’ alleged collaboration with former Czechoslovakia’s communist secret police, the StB, is irrelevant to his position in the government, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said. A court in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday heard a lawsuit filed by Mr Babiš against the country’s National Memory Institute, demanding he be erased from a list of StB collaborators. The institute says the Slovak-born minister in the 1980s informed on some of his colleagues in the company he worked at that time, a claim denied by Mr Babiš. Prime Minister Sobotka said Czech voters were aware of the allegations ahead of October’s election in which Mr Babiš’ party won nearly 19 percent of the vote, becoming the Czech Republic’s second strongest party.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he would punish an employee of the Social Democratic party secretariat who made several mistakes in a formal document addressed to President Zeman requesting the appointment of the new government. Mr Zeman highlighted the errors at the appointment ceremony on Wednesday; the document stated wrong names of two ministers, and requested the appointment of two health ministers, omitting the agriculture portfolio. Mr Sobotka said the errors occurred because the staff was overworked, and said the author of the document would have their salary cut.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka ushered 10 out of 16 ministers of the new Czech government in office on Thursday, a day after the cabinet was appointed by President Zeman. Among the officials who assumed their offices on Thursday are Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, Lubomír Zaorálek who took over the Foreign Ministry, Jan Mládek who is charge of the industry and trade portfolio, Agriculture Minister Marián Jurečka, Justice Minister Helena Válková, and others. The remaining six ministers will be ushered in office on Friday.
The appointment of a new center-left coalition government to office on Wednesday has ended a six- month power vacuum during which the country was ruled by an interim administration handpicked by the president. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s three party coalition has promised to boost economic growth, streamline state administration, raise pensions and bring the country back to the EU mainstream. But commentators are already predicting hard times ahead for an alliance of parties as politically diverse as the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian
President Miloš Zeman appointed a new centre-left government to office on
Wednesday. The new administration, led by Social Democrat prime minister
Bohuslav Sobotka is a coalition of his party, Andrej Babis’ ANO movement,
and the Christian Democrats. The new cabinet will have 17 members with the
Social Democrats controlling eight ministries, ANO six and the Christian
The new administration has pledged to stimulate economic growth, raise pensions and the minimum wage while keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP. The incoming finance minister claims improved tax collection will help provide the state with the extra funds needed. The government has 30 days to win a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament but coalition leaders said they would seek a vote around February 18.
The Czech upper house, the Senate, has opposed giving greater nuclear safety supervision powers to the European Commission. Senators took the same stand Wednesday as the Czech government and said that calls for reinforced rules following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan were premature. One change called for is that independent supervisors replace the safety checks made by national authorities. An evaluation of member states compliance with existing safety rules is not due until July this year. Speaking to the Senate, outgoing prime minister Jiří Rusnok said he doubted whether the Czech Republic could win sufficient among other EU states to oppose the Commission proposal.
A Czech betting company has offered odds that prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s government will probably last its full four year term. The Fortuna betting office was giving odds Wednesday of 1:0.95, meaning that a bet of 100 crowns would recoup 195 crowns if the government fulfilled its mandate. Odds were also being offered on which ministers would be sacrificed first in reshuffles.
President Zeman called on party leaders of the incoming government to make the passing of a new civil service law its highest priority. The proposed new law was already approved at first reading in the lower house of parliament, a step which the head of state demanded for ANO leader Andrej Babis to become minister of finance. Zeman stressed that the Czech Republic is the last EU country to implement rules guaranteeing an independent and professional civil service. He said such a law was the only way to protect citizens against those who sought to traffic state power.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Petr Fiala denounced the promises of the incoming coalition government as vague and irreconcilable. The recently selected leader of the centre-right party said that the government was promising more social spending but had failed to spell out where it will make savings. Fiala added that the self employed are likely to suffer the most from the new government’s measures and also highlighted the possibility of sector taxes on banks or big energy companies. But Fiala welcomed that a government composed of political parties would replace the caretaker administration installed by president Miloš Zeman.
A new Czech coalition government has assumed office after being sworn in by President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Wednesday. The centre-left cabinet, formed by the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats, comes to power 95 days after the general election, promising to ease austerity, boost economic growth, and return the country to the EU mainstream.
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