News German MEP says Andrej Babiš faces conflicts of interest as minister
A German Christian Democrat politician has expressed fears that Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš represents such a danger of conflicts of interests that cooperation with Prague will be difficult. CDU member of the European Parliament and member of its budget control committee, Ingeborg Grassle, expressed her concerns during a press conference, adding that Babiš’ companies have been paid 2.6 million euros from EU funds. She added that the Czech Republic’s system for pumping EU funds laid them open to massive abuse. The head of the budget committee later said she was expressing a personal opinion. Concern have frequently been expressed that billionaire Babiš’ media, agricultural and chemical interests make it difficult for him to make objective decisions as finance minister.
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A court in Prague on Friday sentenced a 24-year-old man to seven years in prison for killing a woman in a hit-and-run incident. Last August, Marek Půček drove his black BMW into a bus stop at Prague’s district of Smíchov, hitting a 21-year-old woman who died at the scene. He abandoned the car and fled before turning himself in to the police later that day after his photo appeared in the media. The man received a suspended sentence for breaking into cars and shops in the past.
The cleaning up of toxic sludge left by the former chemical plant Ostramo in Ostrava should be completed by 2022, Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek said on Friday. The most offensive waste is expected to be dealt with already by the end of 2016.The polluted lagoons remain one of the major ecological problems for the Czech Republic. Some 200,000 tonnes of waste was removed in the past but thousands more were unexpectedly uncovered. The winner of a tender to remove the additional sediment should be chosen by the end of March.
The transport of munition from the Vrbětice depot, which was severely damaged last year by a blast, to an army storage site in Květná will continue on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the Zlín police department told the ctk news agency on Friday. Thirty-one lorries with munition belonging to several private companies have so far been removed from the site. According to the Interior Ministry, there were some 7,000 tonnes of ammunition, including some 1,000 tonnes of explosives, in the storage facility at the time of the blast. The ministry expects it will take up to 400 lorries to remove all the material.
Czechs are less inclined to favour Arabs, Romanies and Albanians, suggests a new poll conducted by the CVVM agency, focusing on Czechs’ perception of 17 foreign nationalities living in the country. Slovaks have traditionally been regarded as the most popular foreigners in the Czech Republic, with 84 percent of respondents appreciating their eastern neighbours. And despite a slight drop in sympathies, Greeks and Jews remain among the five best perceived foreign nationalities living in the Czech Republic, along with Slovaks, Germans and Hungarians. On the other side of the scale are Roma, followed by Russians, Ukrainians, Albanians and Arabs.
Czech farmers made a record profit in 2014, according to the figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Friday. Agricultural earnings increased by nearly 40 percent, to 22.9 billion crowns, which represents the best results since 1989, when monitoring started. The record figure is the result of an extraordinarily good harvest and higher subsidies. The value of agricultural production increased by more than eight billion crowns compared with 2013 to 136.6 billion. Revenues from cultivation of crops reached 79.5 billion and livestock production rebounded after several years of decline to total 51.6 billion.
The chief of staff of the Czech army Petr Pavel on Thursday visited Czech soldiers serving in the EU training mission in war damaged Mali. General Pavel, who is set to take a senior NATO post next summer, met with the mission head Alfons García-Vaquero, who thanked him for the excellent work of the Czech soldiers. The Czech Army on Thursday started rotating its soldiers taking part in the mission. The Czech unit in the African state is responsible for guarding the mission’s headquarters, escorting convoys, and the training of new soldiers. The state in Central Africa was the subject of civil strife when Islamic rebels took over a large part of the county.
The mountain rescue service in Jeseníky Mountains has called a third degree avalanche alert on a five point scale. Relatively mild temperatures, strong winds and heavy snowfall over the past few days are reported to have created a highly unstable layer of snow on many slopes. Skiers have been warned not to take risks or stray from marked trails.
The Czech Republic claimed the first gold medal of the 2015 International Biathlon Union World Championships with a victory in the mixed relay in Kontiolahti, Finland on Thursday. Despite facing tough conditions, with soft deep snow and temperatures above freezing, the winning team of Veronika Vítková, Gabriela Soukalová, Michal Šlesingr and Ondřej Moravec finished in a time of 1:20:27.2. The silver medal went to the French team while Norway took the bronze.
Fifty-seven percent of Czechs say they would welcome the introduction of electronic voting, according to the results of a survey conducted by the STEM agency. Politicians are increasingly open to the idea and the Christian Democrats of the ruling coalition have said they would like to see the option introduced as of 2017. Electronic voting was the subject of a seminar in the lower house on Thursday at which MPs could discuss various aspects of this practice. Estonia was the first and so far only European country to introduce electronic voting eight years ago.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has thrown his weight behind Education Minister Marcel Chládek who is radically opposed to a proposed cut in financing for the education sector in 2016. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has proposed slashing the education and research budget by more than a billion crowns next year which the education minister says would have devastating consequences. Following a meeting with Minister Chládek and university rectors on Thursday Prime Minister Sobotka said that he too disagreed with the proposed cuts saying that economizing in the education sector would not increase the country’s competitiveness in the years to come. This year the education sector is operating on 22 billion crowns.