The Central Bohemian region announced on Monday it has cancelled tenders and contracted projects worth some Kč 2 billion in the wake of the arrest earlier this month of the high-profile Czech politician David Rath, the region’s former governor, on charges of corruption.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is the leader least beloved by EU governments and institutions. Should European governments and officials be concerned that Hungary’s neighbor Slovakia has just elected another firebrand, former Prime Minister Robert Fico, to lead its government? Tomáš Valášek of the Centre for European Reform (CER) examines whether Orbán a sign of a broader trend: the economic crisis lifting populists to power in Central Europe.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) has downplayed his government’s decision not to sign the EU fiscal discipline treaty. Speaking at the “Economic Interests of the Czech Republic in the EU” conference on Monday, the center-right politician also said he was working towards closer EU integration in the form of finalization of the single market — which he lamented was not completed decades ago.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says cabinet ministers in the three-part coalition government have given him a mandate not to sign the EU’s new budgetary discipline treaty at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. Nečas admits, however, that the cabinet remains divided over the treaty while again stressing that the Czech Republic could always on to sign on to it later.
Following a move by EU foreign ministers to widen sanctions on Belarus state officials — including by imposing a travel ban — Minsk threatened Tuesday to recall its ambassadors from the European Union and Poland, which holds the rotating EU Presidency. In line with the EU-wide response agreed later in the day, the Czech Republic has said it will recall its ambassador to Belarus, Jiří Karas.
The Czech Republic has long been loyal to a Kafkaesque, inefficent and in many ways corrupt framework of rules governing for its civil service. After many promises of change repeated over the last decade, the Cabinet has called for new rules aimed at creating an efficient, expert and non-political service to be formulated by the fall.
Following a meeting with Czech Minister of Education Josef Dobeš in Brussels on Friday, EU Commissioner for Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor confirmed that the European Commission had found “serious faults” with Czech education and development programs that depend on EU funds. The EC has already suspended payment of Kč 1.2 billion earmarked for Czech projects.
Activists from two Czech-based initiatives, the Independent Social Ecological Movement (NESEHNUTÍ) and Civic Belarus, staged a protest in front of the Belarus embassy in Prague on Monday morning held under the slogan “Belarus: human rights evicted.” Their aim is to draw attention to the closure of rights organization VIASANA and imprisonment of its founder, Ales Byalyatski.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš has faced intense criticism in recent weeks over planned reforms of the Czech higher education and an announcement by the European Commission that it is suspending the payment of Kč 1.2 billion of EU funds earmarked for several programs within the Education for Competitiveness Operational Program (ECOP). Now with the threat of losing Kč 53 billion, Dobeš’ position appears untenable.
More Czech councils look like they will follow Prague in failing to get substantial EU support to improve their water treatment plants. The main problem for the councils is that they sealed long-term contracts with private companies, often under dubious circumstances, and the EU grants are primarily aimed at public operations.