A flurry of political activity is taking place Tuesday ahead of an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament. The special session has been called by the government to push through a new civil service law. The law has been demanded by the European Commission for the last 10 years with the threat now being made that EU funding to the Czech Republic could be blocked. Centre-right opposition parties are warning they will launch delaying tactics during the debate to try and get some last minute changes to the proposed law. The government should be able to push the bill through given its comfortable majority.
Civic Democrat chairman Petr Fiala said it had more than 50 changes it wanted to push through to the civil service bill and would do everything in its power to reshape the proposal. Ministers should be given the chance to appoint deputy ministers from the business sector and outside the civil service Fiala said, adding that no negotiations with the government had taken place so far. He said the Civic Democrats were working on a strategy to challenge the bill with the main opposition party, TOP 09. Civic Democrats also said they will also try to cut current Value Added Tax rates to 20 and 14 percent thanks to an unexpected surplus in earnings from the tax.
The Czech Ministry of Culture has been fined almost half a billion crowns for a series of accounting and spending mistakes. The fine has been imposed by financial watchdogs over mistakes made between 2009 and 2013. These include using European funds for the restoration of some buildings when in fact it was diverted for others. For one of the lowest funded ministries, the fine is a major blow adding up to around 5 percent of its total yearly budget. The ministry says it will seek to appeal the fine though its chances of recouping the cash appear slim.
The Czech Labour Office has been cleared to take on around 600 new staff by the end of the year. Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Michaela Marksová has said many of the new staff will be directed to make sure that increasing social welfare payments are not being abused. State spending on emergency welfare payments rose by around a third last year to total more than 10 billion crowns. The ministry estimates that the extra checks could results in 5-10 percent savings on the budgets of some welfare payments.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico jointly opened Czech arms producer Česká Zbrojovka’s new factory in Central Slovakia on Tuesday. The factory at Nováky should employ an extra 200 people by the end of the year. The Czech manufacturer said its decision to site the new capacity in Slovakia was caused by the skilled workforce at hand and had nothing to do with the fact that the Slovak government is looking for a supplier of new army rifles.
Parties within the country’s centre-left coalition on Monday evening failed to find agreement on a nominee for the post of Czech EU commissioner. The three parties – the Social Democrats, TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats – have all pushed for their own nominees. The prime minister said that on Monday that former finance minister Pavel Mertlík and ANO’s Věra Jourová were the most discussed; negotiations on the matter are set to continue late Tuesday.
A bugging device was uncovered in the office of the chairwoman of Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková, financial news website iHned reported on Monday. The item may have been installed around the time of this year’s Easter holidays. The head of the office said she would be discussing the matter with the police president. The listening device was reportedly located in an area where new legislation as well as steps taken by the bureau are discussed. The bureau’s spokesman declined to comment.
Prague will be the ninth most visited city in Europe this year and the 22nd in the world according to a survey released by the credit card company MasterCard. Prague is expected to host 4.9 million visitors, placing it behind London, Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome and Vienna but ahead of Berlin, Madrid, and Warsaw. The survey estimated that visitors will spend in Prague every day a total of around 3.8 million dollars. Five years ago, in 2009, Prague had 3.8 million visitors and in 2013 4.5 million, the credit card company said. London topped the list of most visited world and European cities.
Czech javelin thrower Barbora Špotákova has been chosen as the best woman European athlete in June by European Athletics, the federation of national athletics associations. It said Špotákova had enjoyed an excellent return to serious competition in her sport after maternity leave in 2013. The Czech has won three competitions on the run including a record throw of 66.43 metres at the Diamond League meeting in Rome on June 5. One of the targets of the two times Czech olympic gold winner is to win the European Championships being held in Zurich in mid-August.
In football, Czech league and cup champions Sparta Prague take their first step towards playing in the prestigious Champions League on Tuesday night. Sparta take on Estonian league champions Levadia Tallinn at home in the first leg of the second round prequalifying stage. Sparta are favorites to go through although the Estonia champions are now in the midst of their league season which runs from March till November.
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