Wednesday, April 4, 2012

News 4.4.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

By: Jan Richter

* The Czech government will step down if no agreement among the
coalition parties is reached by next Tuesday, Prime Minister Petr Necas
has said.

* The trial continues against the Public Affairs unofficial leader Vit
Barta over corruption charges.

* President Vaclav Klaus has questioned the government's plans for
church property restitution.

* A number of Czech NGOs have called for a parliamentary investigation
of links between organized crime and politics.

* Swiss authorities have extradited Tomas Pitr, a businessman convicted
in the Czech Republic for tax fraud.

PM Necas: coalition has six days to reach agreement

The Czech government will step down if no agreement among the coalition
parties is reached by next Tuesday, Prime Minister Petr Necas said
after a meeting of the Civic Democrat party leadership. Mr Necas said
his party was ready to accept some of the demands made by the junior
coalition Public Affairs party which triggered the latest government
crisis; namely, to reduce the number of ministries by three and to
revise the coalition agreement. Leaders of the three government parties
are to meet on Tuesday; if no agreement is reached, Mr Necas said the
country would head for early general elections that could take place in

The prime minister's announcement came a day after the Public Affairs
party threatened to quit the coalition if their demands are not met by
the end of the month. Both Civic Democrat and TOP 09 party leaders
however rejected the ultimatum and said they would rather opt for snap

Opposition parties call ready for talks on early elections

In related news, the opposition Social Democrats and Communists said on
Wednesday they were ready for negotiations about early general
elections with the coalition parties. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav
Sobotka has been authorized to approach the leaders of the Civic
Democrat and TOP 09 parties to reach agreement on calling snap
elections which could take place in June. Communist chair Vojtech Filip
also said his party was ready to support such a motion in the lower

Trial against Public Affairs de-facto leader

The trial against Public Affairs de-facto leader Vit Barta continued on
Wednesday. Mr Barta faces corruption charges related to payments he
made to Public Affairs deputies. The hearings continued on Wednesday
with the testimony of MP Josef Novotny and a reporter for the weekly
Respekt who broke the story last year. If convicted, Mr Barta will face
up to six years in jail. The court is expected to deliver a verdict on

President Klaus questions church property restitution

President Vaclav Klaus has questioned the government's plans for the
restitution of church property confiscated by the communist regime in
the 1950s. Speaking at an economic forum in Prague on Wednesday, Mr
Klaus said there were several issues that still needed to be clarified,
and that he had doubts about whether the government had chosen the
right concept for the restitution, particularly in relation to its

The government plans to return physical property worth around 75
billion crowns to Czech churches which would receive some 59 billion
crowns as reimbursement for the rest. The respective legislation is
awaiting debate in the lower house of Parliament.

Government approves proposals to regulate lobbying

The Czech government on Wednesday approved proposals to regulate
lobbying. The cabinet assigned deputy PM Karolin Peake to draft a bill
that would define lobbying and introduce sanctions for illegal lobbying
activities while lobbyists would have to register. The cabinet rejected
plans to introduce 'public diaries' in which officials would be
required to register all contacts with lobbyists. The bill should be
ready by the end of August.

NGOs call for parliamentary probe into links between organized crime
and politics

A number of Czech NGOs on Wednesday called for the establishment of a
"civic parliamentary committee" that should investigate links between
organized crime and politics. Entitled You Stole Our Country, Give It
Back, the initiative also called for any related materials collected by
the Czech intelligence services to be declassified. The organizers said
the initiative was a reaction to the latest wiretapping scandal which
revealed that former Prague mayor, Pavel Bem, consulted some of his
decision with lobbyist Roman Janousek.

Policemen face disciplinary charges over handling lobbyist car crash

Six police officers are facing disciplinary charges over the way they
handled the car crash of lobbyist Roman Janousek earlier this month. Mr
Janousek crashed into another car and then ran over its driver and fled
the site before he was arrested. However, the officers allowed Mr
Janousek to make phone calls, he was interrogated while still under the
influence of alcohol, and was released just hours after the accident.
The deputy chief of the Prague police force earlier resigned over the

Czech soldier wounded in Afghanistan

A Czech soldier, serving in the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the
Logar province, sustained light injuries on Wednesday after an
anti-tank grenade attack, a spokeswoman for the Czech Army said. The
soldier, who suffered a leg fracture and lighter injuries to his arm,
was taken to a military hospital in the capital Kabul. Some 600 Czech
troops now serve in Afghanistan as part of NATO's ISAF mission; five
Czech soldiers have been killed since the start of the operation.

Fugitive businessman extradited to Czech Republic

Swiss authorities on Wednesday extradited fugitive Czech businessman
Tomas Pitr who fled the country after being sentenced to five years in
prison for tax fraud. A spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry said
Mr Pitr arrived in Prague in the afternoon, accompanied by three Czech
police officers. Tomas Pitr was arrested in Switzerland two years ago;
his extradition was made possible after he voluntarily withdrew a
petition for asylum in that country following a Prague court decision
to allow his case to be re-opened.

Hockey: Pardubice and Kometa Brno reach playoffs' finals

In the Czech hockey league playoffs, Pardubice beat Liberec 4:2 on
Tuesday night and won the semifinal best-of-seven series 4:2. In the
finals, Pardubice will play Kometa Brno which had earlier booked their
spot after defeating regular season's runners-up Plzen. The first game
of the final series is scheduled on Monday in Pardubice.


Overcast skies and rain showers are expected in the coming days, with
daytime highs of around 10 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Ahold CEO Jan van Dam on soaring egg prices, expired foodstuffs and the
(un)changing taste of Czech customers

Czech supermarket chains have taken a lot of criticism recently over a
series of issues. They are being blamed for the soaring price of eggs,
and they have found themselves under increased scrutiny from food
inspectors for selling poor-quality and even expired foodstuffs. With
the hike in VAT rates and plummeting consumer trust, it seems that 2012
is set to be a tough time for the big retailers. Radio Prague spoke to
Jan van Dam the CEO of Ahold Czech Republic which runs one of the
biggest supermarket chains in the country, and asked him whether Ahold
was cashing in on the soaring price of eggs ahead of Easter.
Public Affairs put themselves and the government on the edge of collapse

The Czech government is teetering on collapse as the junior coalition
party, Public Affairs, has said it will pull out unless a number of
major concessions are met. Reactions to the demands from its coalition
partners were no less than furious, and even if the party backs down -
as it has on similar occasions - it seems that either the coalition or
Public Affairs itself will soon collapse under the tension. Christian
Falvey has this report:
Analyst: early elections not to advantage of any of the coalition

The latest flare-up between Public Affairs and the two senior parties
Civic Democrats and TOP 09 appears to have taken the continued
existence of the centre-right cabinet to the very brink. Are we close
to early elections or did the smallest party in government, in trying
to gain concessions, simply overplay its hand?

This e-mail is sent to you automatically according to the settings you
chose at To change the settings, click
here. (C) 2012, Radio Prague - the international service of Czech Radio,
all rights reserved., E-mail: