The Czech government has approved extending a freeze on the wages of top public officials up until 2018. The proposal, put forward by the Labour Ministry, would see the wages of the president, government ministers, senators, deputies and judges kept on their present level for another four years after a previous freeze expires at the end of 2014. The only exemption is a one percent valorisation due to inflation. The proposal, which still has to pass through Parliament, would affect some 4,000 people.
Retired footballing legend Antonín Panenka, the scorer of a famous chip during penalties in the final versus West Germany in the European Championships in 1976, is planning on entering politics with a senatorial run, according to news website iDNES. According to the website, Panenka is likely to be nominated leader of a movement called Independents for Prague 10 ahead of elections to the Senate this autumn. He would run to fill a seat formerly held by Jaromír Štetina, who was elected to the European Parliament in May, for a shortened mandate of two years. An announcement by the former international is expected next week.
The ANO movement's Minister for Regional Development, Věra Jourová, appears to be a step closer to being nominated by the ruling coalition for post of Czech EU commissioner, according to news website iDNES. Social Democrat Interior Minister Michal Chovanec told the daily the Social Democrats would put the interests of the country ahead of their own; the party had been pushing for the nomination of former finance minister Pavel Mertlík. But there was speculation that a female candidate would more likely gain traction within a new commission headed by new head Jean-Claude Juncker. The heads of the three parties in government was to finalise the name before the regular cabinet meeting on Monday.
Former leader of the Green Party and ex minister of the environment Martin Bursík has announced he has been selected to by the centre-right TOP 09 party to stand for the Czech Upper house, the Senate. Bursík said he had been backed by Prague 1’s executive committee to stand in spite of the fact that he is a member and founder of another environmental party, LES. TOP 09 deputy chairwoman Helena Langšádlová said that Bursík was both a democrat and pro-European in explanation of the support. The Senate seat which will be contested in the autumn is currently held by Civic Democrat Zděnek Schwarz.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said Friday that no Czechs appear to have perished on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing B777. There was uncertainty surrounding around 40 names whose nationalities were not yet known, he said, but it appeared that no Czechs had been on board the flight from Amsterdam but 100 percent certainty was not possible. Zaorálek said Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine should give immediate access to independent accident investigators and that relatives of the deceased should also be allowed to the crash site if they wanted. Those were arguments in favour of an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing conflict, he added.
Defence Minister Martin Stropnický on Thursday paid a morale-boosting visit to Czech troops in Afghanistan, following last week’s suicide bomb attack which killed five servicemen. According to military sources the minister thanked the troops guarding the Bagram military base for their good work and discussed the practical aspects of their service in the wake of heightened attacks by Taliban insurgents. The minister also brought messages of support that people sent the Czech unit in the wake of the tragic incident. It took a tragedy of such proportions for people to come to appreciate and admire their servicemen’s great courage, the minister told the troops. For security reasons, information about the minister’s visit was only released on Friday.
The lower house on Thursday approved in its first reading a government-proposed bill which would introduce a reduced 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. A final vote on the bill in the lower house is expected in September, after which it will still have to win approval in the Senate and be signed into law by the president.
After seven hours of debates, Czech MPs on Wednesday night backed the government’s civil service bill which is now set for approval; the final legislative round is to begin in the lower house next week. The opposition has threatened to filibuster the draft legislation; the TOP 09 and Civic Democrat parties claim that if passed, the bill would make it difficult to dismiss public servants currently holding positions in the state administration. The bill is long overdue according to the EU and several anti-corruption NGOs which believe that it should, among other things, curb corruption among public employees.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Wednesday began debating a civil service bill. The legislation, put forth by the centre-left Czech government, should overhaul the rules for the employment of public servants. A similar act was adopted by Czech lawmakers in 2002 as a prerequisite for the country’s accession to the European Union but it has never entered into force. The current bill has come under criticism from the opposition which says the legislation will make it impossible to fire officials nominated by the coalition parties; however, the government claims the European Commission will halt subsidies for the Czech Republic if the bill is not approved.
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