Philosopher and one-time dissident Jan Sokol is perhaps best-known among the Czech public as a failed presidential candidate, having missed out to Václav Klaus in the final round of voting in 2003, the last time the country’s head of state was chosen by legislators. Professor Sokol has known the current, directly elected president since before 1989 – and offers sharp criticism of Miloš Zeman in this the second half of a two-part interview. But first we discuss the period when, after the fall of communism, he was finally allowed to pursue an academic
The Czech Republic has significantly worsened its standing in watchdog
Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index for 2019.
Under TI’s criteria, the country picked up 56 points compared to 59 in 2018, falling from 38th to 44th spot in the ranking of 180 countries. In Europe, the Czech Republic dropped to 19th spot from last years’ 16th, lagging behind the EU average by eight points.
According to Transparency International, the drop is caused by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ alleged conflict of interest stemming from the multi-billion crown agro-chemical empire Agrofert he owned and later placed in trust funds and EU subsidies to the said holding.
Transparency International’s annual Index has rated countries by perceived levels of corruption since 1995 on a scale of 0 to 2100, with 0 being very corrupt and 100 being very clean.
At present elections in the Czech Republic usually take place across two days. That looks likely to end, however, with the Ministry of the Interior readying legislation for one-day polling. A new survey suggests the majority of voters would welcome the change – though opinion is divided on what day of the week is best.
Three contestants will be vying for the position of chairman of the Pirate
Party at the party's January statewide conference. According to Czech
Television, current Pirates leader Ivan Bartoš will be challenged by
Chamber of Deputies members Vojtěch Pikal and Mikuláš Ferjenčík.
Members were able to nominate candidates on the party's forum website
by the end of Friday.
Ivan Bartoš has led the Pirate Party since 2016, but was chairman during two stints between 2009 and 2014.
The Czech Senate wants to make changes to the amendment on the
government’s Council for European and Structural and Investment Funds.
According to a proposal made by the Senate’s Committee for Public Administration, the amendment should clearly state that the chairman or a member of the Council cannot be in conflict of interest, as defined by the European Union.
Until last December, the Council was chaired by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who, according to an EC audit, is in conflict of interest over EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert holding he founded and placed in a trust fund two years ago.
The proposal should be debated at next week’s session of the upper house.
UK journalist Misha Glenny is an expert on organised crime and cybersecurity and has written a number of books, including the hit title McMafia. He studied in Prague and did a lot of reporting from the city in the late 1980s, including during the Velvet Revolution. At present he also heads a committee guaranteeing the independence of editors and journalists at the Economia group, which publishes titles such as Hospodářské noviny and Respekt. Czech Radio’s Lenka Kabrhelová sat down with Misha Glenny recently and began by asking him about the nature
The EU representative office in Prague has confirmed receiving the final EC
audit on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš‘ alleged conflict of interest
stemming from the multi-billion crown agro-chemical empire Agrofert he
owned and later placed in trust funds and EU subsidies to the said holding.
The audit has been sent to the Ministry for Regional Development. According to EU representatives in Prague the document is confidential.
The EC’s preliminary audit concluded that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest and the Czech Republic may subsequently have to return some 450 million crowns in EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert business conglomerate.
Prime Minister Babiš has dismissed the claims, saying he had fully adhered to the Czech conflict of interest law.
The introduction of a new system under which if an MP becomes a minister
they can be replaced by another member of their party now depends on the
Senate. The introduction of the sliding mandate, as it is called, has the
backing of the Chamber of Deputies, Czech Television reported on Sunday.
The Senate has expressed opposition to this constitutional change but may back it in exchange for other changes. These include extending the term of Constitutional Court judges to 12 years and making it easier to file a petition against the president at the country’s highest court.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said he had asked Jaroslav Faltýnek, head of ANO’s lower house group, to undertake negotiations to push the introduction of the sliding mandate through.
Czech presidential elections are still three years away, provided Miloš Zeman finishes his second term. But candidates hoping to succeed him should already start building their “brand” at least two years before voters head to the ballot box, experts say. A new poll sheds light on the qualities Czechs want in their next head of state.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill that will enable Czech citizens
to communicate with state institutions electronically as of 2020.
According to the proposed law on digital services people will also no longer have to provide the same information to different institutions, and civil servants will be expected to seek it out themselves from electronic registers.
Paper forms will be preserved, mainly for the sake of senior citizens.
The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president. The process is expected to be smooth.
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague