News Czech five percent barrier for EP elections could be lifted

25-06-2014 09:55 | Jan Velinger

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court will recommend to the Constitutional Court that it cancel the current five percent threshold in the elections to European Parliament valid in the Czech Republic, judge rapporteur Tomáš Langášek told journalists on Tuesday. The court panel complied with the complaint lodged by the Green Party; the Czech Pirate Party also presented a similar case in its complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court will suspend both proceedings, awaiting the verdict by the Constitutional Court. In the May elections to the European Parliament, both parties finished not far below the 5 percent threshold with 4.78 percent for the Pirate Party and 3.77 percent for the Greens.

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Press: Police tapped two journalists’ phones in army corruption case

26-07-2014 09:39 | Jan Richter

The Czech police tapped the phones of two journalists as part of their investigation of the 2009 purchase of the Austrian-made Pandur armoured vehicles for the Czech military, the daily Právo reported on Saturday. The investigators tapped the phones of reporters for the newspapers Právo and Mladá fronta Dnes in 2011 in an effort to determine the origin of leaked documents in the case, the daily said. The police, which acted with the consent of the court, also tapped the phones of several top police officers and prosecutors, according to the report. The Czech army in 2009 bought 107 Pandur APCs for 14.4 billion crowns. Marek Dalík, a former aide to then prime minister Mirek Topolánek, faces criminal charges over allegedly demanding a bribe from the producer of the vehicles. 

Deputy expresses interest in top ministerial post

25-07-2014 16:55 | Jan Velinger

The deputy minister for regional affairs, Klára Dostalová, confirmed on Friday her interest in the post of minister for regional development following the departure of Věra Jourová to the European Commission. Ms Jourová has backed the deputy for the job but Dostálová otherwise had not been contacted. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who reviewed the Ministry for Regional Development on Friday, said it was up to coalition partners in ANO to propose a nominee. 

Finance minister calls steps taken by MPs in lower house "an embarrassment"

25-07-2014 16:09 | Jan Velinger

The head of the ANO movement, Andrej Babiš, vented disgust in the media on Friday over the recent behavior of some in the lower house, saying he would prefer to resign as an MP if he had a capable successor. The finance minister was reacting to the handling of a fuel tax reduction bill for farmers on Wednesday, which was modified by a fellow coalition MP and former minister for industry and trade to be across the board. The bill, which initially passed but was subjected to a new vote on Friday following a complaint, would have thrown a spanner in government plans. The opposition Civic Democrats say they will petition the Constitutional Court over the matter. 

New football season begins with Sparta vs Bohemians

25-07-2014 15:56 | Jan Velinger

This Friday sees tthe start of the new football season, with Sparta facing Bohemians 1905. There will be two matches on Saturday in the top flight. Saturday will see Příbram face off against Plzeň while Jablonec will face Slavia. Last season, Příbram long had to stave off possible relegation before improving to a solid overall 34 points. Plzeň finished second behind season champions Sparta. 

Customs officers detain foreign national for ivory smuggling

25-07-2014 15:47 | Jan Velinger

Customs officers detained a foreign national at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport earlier this week, who had tried to smuggle 24 kilos of ivory on the Prague – Seoul route. The information was released on Friday by the spokeswoman for the Czech Environment Inspection office. The ivory, tusks from the protected African elephant, had been sawed down to size: fifteen pieces which had been wrapped individually and hidden in two pieces of luggage. It is the third time this year that an ivory smuggler at Václav Havel Airport has been caught. 

Political parties with fewer female candidates could lose out

25-07-2014 15:33 | Jan Velinger

Political parties fielding fewer female candidates in communal and regional elections this autumn could receive less money from the state per mandate gained, according to a draft amendment to the election law, the daily Právo reports. According to the newspaper, 30 percent of women candidates could be the minimal requirement to avoid the consequences of the provision initiated by Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier of the Social Democrats. Právo writes that government coalition partners, ANO as well as the centre-right opposition parties and the Communists, are not in favour of the legislation which the Interior Ministry has now sent to ministries and other institutions for feedback. A Czech NGO backing equal representation for women in politics, by contrast, has strongly welcomed the initiative, saying the number of women in politics in the Czech Republic has long been low. 

ČEZ says monopoly office charge unfounded

25-07-2014 15:16 | Jan Velinger

The power utility ČEZ has been asked to issue a stance on an accusation by Bulgaria’s antimonopoly office charging the company abused its dominant position on the local market, the company’s spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová told the Czech News Agency. She stressed that there was no new accusation but that it was related to an inquiry from last March. The spokewoman repeated that ČEZ rejected it as unfounded. Besides ČEZ, Bulgaria's anti-monopoly office on Friday also accused Czech energy company Energo-Pro and Austrian firm EVN of abuse of their dominant position on the market. The companies have been accused of making it difficult for corporate clients to switch electricity supplier or buy electricity on the free market. 

Komárek to step down as head of anti-corruption unit

25-07-2014 14:10 | Jan Velinger

Milan Komárek will step down as the head of the country’s anti-corruption and financial crime unit on July 31st, his superior, Police President Tomáš Tuhý, told reporters Friday. Komárek took over as head of the unit last June and oversaw the founding of team Kobra, targeting tax crimes. Before, he had worked as a regional deputy chief of police in Central Bohemia. Police President Tuhý said he respected Komárek’s contribution and made clear the unit head was stepping down for personal reasons. The job will be filled in the interim by deputy head Jaroslav Vild. A successor should be found by the autumn. 

Fuel tax bill voted down in lower house

25-07-2014 13:57 | Jan Velinger

The Chamber of Deputies on Friday voted anew on a bill aimed at lowering the excise duty on fuel. This time MPs voted down the proposal, which first passed in the lower house on Wednesday - to the surprise of the ruling coalition. One of its members had inserted changes into the bill that lowered the tax on petrol and diesel across the board rather than just for farmers, which would have negatively impacted the state budget. After another coalition MP on Wednesday, however, challenged the result, arguing his vote had been incorrectly recorded by the electronic system, a new vote was scheduled. The centre-right opposition, which had threatened to petition the Constitutional Court if a new vote was held, walked out of the chamber. 

Fortieth Uherské Hradiště film school starts

25-07-2014 08:47 | Chris Johnstone

The 40th Uherské Hradiště summer film school starts Friday with thousands of film fans expected and more than 200 short and full length films being screened. Some of the stars making appearance will be US independent film director and script writer Todd Solondz, who has won prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The main guest is British director Peter Greenaway. Spanish films are one of the main themes of the summer school this year. 

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