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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Czech Airlines flight attendants will go on a one-day strike on Thursday October 30th in protest of massive lay-offs announced by the management. ČSA is letting go a third of its staff, including 77 pilots and close to 200 flight attendants within a restructuring plan to consolidate the loss-making national carrier. The company has taken steps to prevent the strike action through a court order and says that even if it fails, it will secure replacements for the striking employees so that the airlines’ flights schedule is not disrupted.
Ex-president Václav Klaus is to head the planned National Council for Education which is to be established in 2015, Education Minister Marcel Chládek told journalists on Friday. The 15-member council is expected to issue recommendations and draft a long-term strategy which would improve the quality of education across the country. Vaclav Klaus has in the past expressed serious reservations regarding the national curriculum, the quality of education provided at Czech schools and the manner in which the performance of different learning institutions is evaluated.
The Czech Republic will step-up its efforts to fight all forms of addictions including drinking and smoking, National Anti-Drugs Coordination Centre head Jiří Vobořil told journalists on Thursday. Mr. Vobořil said that in the past the accent was on fighting drug additions with drinking, smoking and gambling getting significantly less attention. The authorities are particularly concerned about the number of young people who drink and smoke regularly ranking the country among the worst in Europe.
The Senate has approved the government’s foreign military missions plan for 2015 and 2016. According to the proposal Czech troops should continue to serve in international missions in Afghanistan, Mali and the Balkans. The lower house should vote on the bill next Wednesday. A decision on whether Czech soldiers should serve in the United Nations mission in the Golan Heights has been shelved for the time being.
Petra Kvitová beat world number two Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-2 in a 75 minute game at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Thursday, keeping alive her hopes of advancing in the tournament. Sharapova started well winning the opening two games, but Kvitová proved to be in top form and quickly turned the match around winning 11 of the next 12 games. Kvitová said she was feeling burnt out during her first-round loss to Agnieszka Radwanska, so decided not to practice ahead of Thursday’s game and spent the time relaxing instead. On Friday Kvitová will play against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacka.
The national air carrier ČSA which earlier announced plans to lay-off a third of its staff started handing out notices on Thursday. The company is planning to let go 77 pilots and close to 200 flight attendants. Flight attendants’ trade unions are threatening strike action.
The ANO party, along with the Social Democrats and the three-way coalition of the Greens, the Christian Democrats and Mayors and Independents, who are holding talks on forming a coalition in Prague, have reached agreement on a division of seats in the City Council. The winning ANO, which will fill the post of mayor, is expected to hold the city’s finances, security, health and housing. The Social Democrats should get transport, social policy and European funds while the three-way grouping should take the environment, culture and infrastructure. ANO’s Adriana Krnáčová is expected to fill the post of mayor. The agreement on the division of posts has yet to be sealed by the parties’ leaderships.
Czech Airlines has a received a commitment for financial support from its biggest shareholder Korean Air to boost its efforts to stabilize the loss-making company. Korean Air has conditioned the promised increase in capital on the full implementation of a restructuring plan unveiled in September. The plan involves selling assets and shrinking the company’s fleet and workforce. ČSA has announced plans to lay-off a third of its staff including 77 pilots and close to 200 flight attendants. Korean Air acquired a 44 percent stake in Czech Airlines in 2013 from the state after the government had made several attempts to sell the airline. The Czech state holds 54 percent shares and the insurance company Česká Pojistovna 2.2 percent.
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has criticized a number of countries, among them Japan, Russia, Brazil and the Czech Republic, for not abiding by an OECD convention on combating bribery in international business transactions. In its 2014 report on fighting bribery in business Transparency said only the US, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland were actively upholding the agreements reached. The fact that some big exporters are tolerating and even exporting bribery in international business is hampering global progress in the field, the IT report says.
The Senate on Thursday approved a government-proposed bill on the introduction of a third 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. The bill still needs to be signed into law by the president.