Czech anti-corruption police and the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) are looking into allegedly suspicious sales of property belonging to the state railways Český dráhy (ČD), the business daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday.
The Executive Council of Public Affairs (VV) reportedly agreed on Tuesday to put forward Jiří Nantl (nonaffiliated) as their nominee to take the ministerial post in the Ministry of Education, recently vacated by Josef Dobeš (VV). Another party member thought to be a strong potential candidate, the former teacher Dagmar Navrátilová, is said not to be interested in the post.
Having resigned as education minister on March 31, Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV) is returning to the same ministry as an advisor to his former deputy, now acting education minister, Ladislav Němec. On first sight the news may appear like a late April fool’s joke, but Dobeš has been “presented” to the top officials at the ministry as an advisor and confirmed the report.
Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV) has resigned as education minster — ostensibly in protest of the government’s decision to the ministry’s budget by Kč 2.5 billion, which he said would trigger an unacceptable cut in teachers’ salaries. Czech media, however, say his days were numbered, and the unpopular austerity package a convenient excuse for him to exit a “hero.” Dobeš was widely criticized for mismanaging and failing to secure EU funds, and over his unpopular draft law on universities, which led to mass student protests.
The European funding post at the Czech Ministry of Education has never looked more like a turbo-driven revolving door come hot seat after the sixth person in the job under Education Minister Josef Dobeš announced her departure. The move does little to dampen expectations that Brussels’ threats to freeze billions in program payments to the ministry will not be carried out.
The charismatic Vít Bárta and his entourage had been waiting for judgment day for almost a year and undoubtedly prepared for it well. Following the first half of court hearings, however, the predicament of Public Affairs (VV) — the smallest of the three parties in the governing Czech coalition — appears not serious but hopeless. Last week the party experienced the darkest hours yet in its short history.
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.
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.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš’ draft plan to reform the university system would see public universities financed in accordance with their quality, merge many smaller schools, and introduce tuition fees, among other things. Academics see the need for reform, but university officials surveyed by Czech Position have grave reservations above all with respect to the proposed law on financial support.
The Ministry of Education has received notification from the European Commission that it will not pay out at least Kč 1.2 billion allocated to finance Czech projects within the Education for Competitiveness Operational Program (ECOP) managed by the ministry. Earlier this month, Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV) said he would step down if the ministry failed to draw all EU funds available.