News ČEZ boss avoids questions about jewellery purchases for Jana Nagyová
ČEZ boss Daniel Beneš did not appear at the power company’s press conference on Thursday due to illness. Company officials refused to answer media questions about his reported purchase of expensive jewellery for Jana Nagyová, the former head of ex prime minister Petr Nečas’ private office. They said it was a personal matter. The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported Wednesday that Beneš bought Christmas and birthday gifts for Nagyová, now Nečas’ wife. The ČEZ boss said that the sums involved were from his own funds and had been exaggerated by the media. The former Civic Democrat leader fell from power last year after it was revealed that Nagyová had used to state surveillance machinery to spy on the prime minister’s wife at the time.
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Ministers of defense of the Visegrad Four countries meeting outside Prague have agreed to propose the dispatching of an army contingent to the Baltic states in 2017. The proposal will be formally made at the Warsaw Summit of NATO countries in July. The Baltic states have called for a reinforced NATO presence in their countries. The contingent could be rotated between the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Details are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks ahead of the summit.
The ANO party of leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš continues to head the preferences according to the latest poll by the STEM agency released on Wednesday. It gives ANO 27.1 percent of support compared with the second-placed Social Democrats with 20.1 percent. The communists bolstered their position in third place with 14.5 percent of support. Another three parties would make into parliament according to the poll, the centre-right TOP 09 party, Civic Democrats, and Christian Democrats, all with around 7.0 percent support. ANO would on the basis of the poll win 72 seats in the 200-seat lower house.
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament failed to back a blanket ban on smoking in restaurants on Wednesday. The move, promoted by minister of health Svatopluk Němeček, failed to win sufficient support even after the minister offered to make some concessions. The vote means that the Czech Republic remains a bastion of smoking in Europe. Government parties failed to give the proposed ban sufficient support with the ANO party splitting three ways in the vote much to the anger of coalition partners the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats.
Czech President Miloš Zeman appointed former caretaker prime minister and minister of finance Jiří Rusnok as the next governor of the Czech National Bank. Rusnok, already a member of the central bank board, will take over from Miroslav Singer whose mandate officially ends in June. Zeman highlighted the policy differences with Rusnok over the current low crown policy but pointed out that he had been appointed for his expert and practical public and professional experience. Zeman has called for an ending of the low crown policy as soon as possible while the central bank sees it continuing until at least mid-2017.
Police detained 16 activists from the Klinika social centre in Prague on Tuesday night after they refused to quit the centre. Police returned to the former clinic reoccupied by activists who have turned it into a social centre after a bomb alert. A similar alert sparked clashes between the police and activists on Friday. Police then turned the empty buildings formerly used as a clinic over to the state authority which owns them but activists later returned with the intention of reopening the centre. An original rental agreement between the state agency and activists expired in March.
A Norwegian court on Wednesday started proceedings regarding the appeal of Czech mother Eva Michaláková against the removal of her parental rights and moves to put one of her two sons up for adoption. The fate of her 10 and eight year old sons has become a major media and political issue in the Czech Republic with past interventions by head of state Miloš Zeman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two children were taken into care by Norwegian social services five years ago following suspicions of abuse. Michaláková is seeking to get her sons returned. The court hearing is expected to last until Friday.
Interpol are interested in using a unique database created by Czech police that compares methods of wrapping illegal drugs with similar cases around the world, iDnes.cz reported on Wednesday. The system, named Reliéf, tracks the impressions made by machines compressing drugs into small packages, helping investigators to detect what mafia groups are behind particular cases of smuggling, the news website said.
The Ministry of the Interior is to set up a special team to monitor foreign propaganda, Czech Television reported on Wednesday. The group, comprising around 30 people, will be tasked with curbing the influence of Russia and other states on media and social networks in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told the broadcaster that it was necessary to react to such propaganda and to at least be aware of what direction such activities were taking.
The Czech Republic’s Tomáš Berdych has reached the second round at the French Open in Paris. The seventh seed advanced after beating Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-2 6-1 on Tuesday. His compatriot Radek Štěpánek, who was a qualifier at Roland Garros, led Andy Murray 2:0 on sets but – despite at one stage finding himself two points from victory – was eventually defeated in five.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is to send a proposal to the government to increase the minimum wage in the Czech Republic from next year, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told a gathering of trade union leaders on Tuesday. The plan envisages a rise from the current figure of CZK 9,900 a month to CZK 11,000 at the start of January. While the unions would like an increase of CZK 1,500 from the present level, employers say they regard a rise of CZK 600 or CZK 700 as realistic.