UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday asked Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to consider sending Czech troops on a planned peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, Mr Ki-Moon told the news agency ČTK. Prime Minister Sobotka said he would ask the Defence Ministry to evaluate the petition; the UN chief reportedly suggested a Czech field hospital as well as Air Force units could take part in the mission. During his visit to Prague,Ban Ki-Moon also praised the Czech Republic for its support of human rights and humanitarian aid efforts. Mr Ki-Moon also received Charles University’s Golden Medal for supporting understanding and cooperation between nations.
The coalition Social Democrat and ANO parties are considering a cabinet reshuffle, the news website novinky.cz reported on Friday quoting sources from the coalition. The parties are reportedly planning to exchange the justice and health care portfolios; the Social Democrats would take over the Justice Ministry while ANO would run the Health Care Ministry. Under the planned reshuffle, Justice Minister Helena Válková would be replaced by Social Democrat Jeroným Tejc; the current deputy health minister Josef Vymazal of the ANO party would replace Social Democrat minister Svatopluk Němeček. However, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has denied such plans were being considered.
The head of the Dawn party, MP Tomio Okamura, has filed a criminal complaint against Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka over his role in the 2004 privatization of the mining firm OKD. Mr Sobotka, who then served as finance minister in a Social Democrat government, faces allegations the company was sold off for much less than the firm’s real value. In a press release, Mr Okamura said cabinet ministers at the time might have made a deal with the buyer not to insist on a higher price. The OKD privation has led to a first major rift in the coaltion government after Prime Minister Sobotka accused ANO leader Andrej Babiš of using his media outlets to put pressure on the Social Democrats.
Justice Minister Helena Válková on Friday dismissed the director of the country’s prison service Petr Dohnal. The minister said she has lost confidence in Mr Dohnal’s capacity to run the service and to push through a planned reform of the prison system. Ms Válková named the head of the Rapotice penitentiary, Pavel Ondrášek, the agency’s acting director. The minister first moved against Petr Dohnal in February over his alleged reluctance to submit the agency to a ministerial inspection; Mr Dohnal later said he felt he was being unfairly treated by the minister.
The police on Friday recommended that charges of attempted fraud be raised against Marek Dalík, a former close aide to ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek, over his role in the 2009 acquisition of armoured vehicles for the Czech army. The anti-corruption unit of the police alleges that in 2007, Mr Dalík asked an employee of the Austrian firm Steyr, which supplied the vehicles, for an 18-million euro bribe to ensure the continuation of the deal. The investigators believe Mr Dalík committed attempted fraud as he had no influence over the contract. Mirek Topolánek’s government eventually approved the purchase of 107 Pandur armoured vehicles for 14.4 billion crowns.
The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka, has released details of his salary. In his online blog, Cardinal Duka wrote that his monthly gross salary was just over 23,700 crowns, or around 1,180 US dollars. After deducting his monthly expenses including rent, energy bills and others, he is left with around 3,000 crowns that he spends on books, travels, and charity, he wrote. The cardinal’s decision came in response to criticism of a controversial restitution deal under which the Catholic Church is set to receive property confiscated by the Communist regime as well as over 47 billion crowns in compensation for property that cannot be given back.
The Czech Interior Ministry has excluded a fringe political party from running in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, a spokesman for the ministry said on Friday. The Czechoslovak Socialist Party failed to pay a 15,000 crown fee to register for the elections, according to the ministry which also excluded three candidates from other parties over their failure to meet the conditions for running. In total, 38 political parties will field candidates for the European elections which will take place at the end of next month.
A total of 148,000 five- and six-year old children have enrolled for elementary school, the highest number in ten years, a spokeswoman for the Education Ministry said on Friday. The ministry expects that around 116,000 of them will start school this September while the rest will have to wait a year. Last year, 112,000 children entered first grade. The numbers of first graders have been rising over the last three years, causing capacity problems in Czech schools.
Russia’s Evraz sells Vítkovice steel works for 5.7 billion crowns
The Russian Evraz group has sold its Czech plant Vítkovice Steel. Its new owners, a group of investors including Martinley Holdings, Nabara Holdings, Vitect Services, Hayston Investments and Dawnaly Investments, paid 278 million US dollars, or over 5.7 billion Czech crowns, for the plant, a spokesman for Vítkovice Steel said, adding that the investors are planning to expand the company’s position as an independent player on the market with rolled products. With 1,100 employees, Vítkovice Steel is the Czech Republic’s third largest metalworking firm. It was acquired by the Evraz group in 2005 for 285 million dollars.
Thousands of pilgrims from the Czech Republic and Poland will go to the Vatican to attend the canonisation of two former popes, John XXII and John Paul II, on April 27, Pavel Dokládal, head of the pilgrim centre of the bishopric in Hradec Králové, east Bohemia, told the ctk news agency. The event will be attended by leading Czech Catholic Church dignitaries: Cardinal Dominik Duka, Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner and Hradec Králové Bishop Jan Vokál. John Paul II, who was of Polish origin, became pope in 1978, when the communist rule in eastern Europe was peaking. His steadfast views, openness and charisma won him many admirers in the Czech Republic which he visited three times during his pontificate.
The defending Davis Cup champions the Czech Republic are leading 2:0 over Japan in Tokyo in their World Group quarterfinal tie. In Friday’s opening match, veteran Czech player Radek Štěpánek defeated Tatsuma Ito 6-7, 7-6, 6-1, 7-5; it took Štěpánek, ranked 47th in the world, nearly four hours to claim victory against Ito, who is 146th in the ATP ranking. In the second singles encounter, Lukáš Rosol beat Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.