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Posts tagged ‘Central Land of Koruna’

Former Czech PM Topolanek announces presidential candidacy

November 05, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has announced he is running for in the presidential election scheduled for January. Topolanek confirmed his candidacy to Czech public television on Sunday. The colorful and outspoken politician is set to say more on Tuesday, the deadline for entering the race.

Topolanek served as prime minister of the Czech Republic during 2006-2009 as the head of the conservative Civic Democratic Party. He was a staunch supporter of a U.S. missile defense plan President Barack Obama ultimately abandoned.

Topolanek often made headlines, such as when he called Obama’s economic recovery plan a “road to hell.” He left politics for business in 2010. Czech President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Russia views and anti-migrant rhetoric, is seeking re-election and currently favored to win.


Populist billionaire’s party wins big in Czech Republic

October 21, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — The centrist ANO movement led by populist Andrej Babis decisively won the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election Saturday in a vote that shifted the country to the right and paved the way for the euroskeptic billionaire to become its next prime minister.

With all votes counted, the Czech Statistics Office said ANO won in a landslide, capturing 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament. “It’s a huge success,” the 63-year-old Babis told supporters and journalists at his headquarters in Prague.

Babis is the county’s second-richest man, with a media empire including two major newspapers and a popular radio station. Although he was a finance minister in the outgoing government until May, many Czechs see him as a maverick outsider with the business acumen to shake up the system. With slogans claiming he can easily fix the country’s problems, he is, for some, the Czech answer to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Since the leader of the strongest party usually gets to form a new government, Babis could be the country’s next leader despite being linked to several scandals — including being charged by police with fraud linked to European Union subsidies.

The charges will likely make it difficult for Babis to find the coalition partners he needs to build a parliamentary majority. He didn’t immediately say which parties he preferred but has invited all parties that won seats in parliament for talks.

In a blow to the country’s political elite, four of the top five vote-getting parties Saturday had challenged the traditional political mainstream. Some have exploited fears of immigration and Islam and have been attacking the country’s memberships in the EU and NATO.

The opposition conservative Civic Democrats came in a distant second Saturday with 11.3 percent of the vote, or 25 seats. They were the strongest mainstream party. The Social Democrats, the senior party in the outgoing government, captured only 7.3 percent — 15 seats — while the Christian Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, won only 5.8 percent support or 10 seats.

“It’s a voting hurricane,” analyst Michal Klima told the Czech television, referring to the poor results for the mainstream parties. The Pirate Party won seats for the first time, coming in third with 10.8 percent of the vote, while the most radical anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party, the Freedom and Direct Democracy, was in fourth place with 10.6 percent support. The two parties won 22 seats each.

Babis’ centrist movement stormed Czech politics four years ago, finishing a surprising second with an anti-corruption message. Babis has also been critical of the EU and opposes setting a date for when his country would adopt the shared euro currency.

Like most Czech parties, ANO also rejects accepting refugees under the EU’s quota system. But Babis played down his euroskeptic views after his victory. “We’re oriented on Europe,” he said. “We’re not a threat for democracy. I’m ready to fight for our interests in Brussels. We’re a firm part of the European Union. We’re a firm part of NATO.”

Still, some experts saw a strong shift to the right for the Czech Republic if Babis works out a coalition government with Tomio Okamura, head of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, who wants to ban Islam and organize a referendum to exit the EU.

“Should (Babis) join forces with Okamura, the Czech Republic would be facing difficult times,” Klima said. A record nine parties and groupings made it into Parliament. Those included the Communists, who got 7.8 percent of the vote and 15 seats, the pro-EU conservatives with 5.3 percent and seven seats and a group of mayors who won 5.2 percent support and six seats.

Czechs rally against country’s president, finance minister

May 10, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of people rallied on Wednesday in the Czech Republic’s capital and other major cities against President Milos Zeman and Finance Minister Andrej Babis. The protesters gathered at Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague demanded Babis’ firing and Zeman’s resignation in the latest development of the Czech political crisis.

The public demonstrations follow Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka asking the president last week to get rid of the finance minister over his unexplained business dealings, especially charges that he hadn’t properly explained suspicions that he avoided paying taxes.

Babis, one of the richest people in the country, has denied wrongdoing and refused to resign. He owned two major national newspapers, a radio and the Agrofert conglomerate of some 250 companies before he transferred them to a fund earlier this year after a new law limited the business activities of government ministers.

Zeman so far has refused to fire his ally, claiming the government’s three-party ruling coalition first would have to dissolve their coalition agreement. Sobotka’s left-wing Social Democrats are rivals of Babis’ ANO centrist movement in a parliamentary election scheduled for October. ANO is a favorite to win the most seats, paving the way for Babis to become the next prime minister.

Zeman invited the leaders of the coalition parties to discuss the political crisis late Wednesday. Meanwhile, the lower house of Parliament approved a resolution alleging that Babis had “repeatedly lied” to the public and “misused his media” empire to damage his opponents.

The vote on the resolution followed a long and heated debate over recordings recently posted on social media that appeared to capture Babis and a journalist from his newspaper planning a press campaign against his rivals, including the Social Democrats.

Babis said Wednesday he “made a huge mistake” by meeting with the man in the recordings, but claimed it was a provocation to discredit him. The journalist was fired. Babis is sometimes dubbed the “Czech Berlusconi,” a comparison to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon who dominated Italian politics for many years.

Czech lawmakers pass divisive conflict of interest amendment

September 14, 2016

PRAGUE (AP) — Czech lawmakers approved legislation Wednesday that limits the business activities of future government ministers, angering a governing coalition party which says the law is targeting its leader — the country’s finance minister and a favorite to become the next premier.

In a 135-39 vote in Parliament’s lower chamber, coalition and opposition lawmakers agreed to ban ministers from owning media. The law also would bar companies where ministers have more than a 25-percent stake from receiving state subsidies, taking part in public tenders and accessing investment aid.

The legislation was an amendment to the country’s conflict of interest law and was approved despite fierce resistance from the ANO (YES) movement led by Finance Minister Andrej Babis which voted against the law.

ANO accused its government coalition partners, the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, of directly attacking Babis, whose media empire includes two major newspapers and a popular radio station, and whose agriculture and chemical conglomerate Agrofert receives state and EU subsidies.

Babis’ centrist movement came in a surprise second in the 2013 parliamentary elections with an-anti corruption message and is currently a favorite to win the ballot in 2017, paving the way for Babis, the country’s most popular politician, to become the next prime minister.

Agrofert includes about 250 companies and employs almost 34,000 people. “It is against the principles of rule of law to adopt laws which regulate activities of one single person,” ANO lawmaker Jaroslav Faltynek said during a debate before the vote.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka welcomed the lower chamber’s endorsement of the legislation, which still needs Senate and presidential approval. “The oligarchs will have to make a choice: to be in the government or get subsidies, public contracts and media ownership,” Sobotka tweeted.

ANO is considering whether to take legal action, but isn’t planning to leave the government. “It’s a law that prevents businessmen from participating in politics,” said Babis, a billionaire sometimes dubbed the “Czech Berlusconi,” a comparison to Silvio Berlusconi — the Italian media tycoon who until recent years dominated his nation’s politics. “It’s an absurd theater.”

PA: Czech schools to stop defining Jerusalem as capital of Israel

August 17, 2016

The Czech Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports notified the Palestinian Authority embassy in Prague of their decision to stop using educational textbooks that refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement released by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Khalid Al-Atrash confirmed that the textbook used since 2011 would not be used in schools anymore unless the publishers correct the statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The decision was made after the Palestinian embassy contacted Czech ministers and requested that they amend the textbooks.

According to international frameworks for a two-state solution, East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Czechs protest Polish greenhouse over light pollution

February 23, 2016

FRYDLANT, Czech Republic (AP) — It’s much ado about a greenhouse. A huge and well-lighted greenhouse opened last year on the Polish side of the border with the Czech Republic. The light helps tomatoes grow, and makes Czech neighbors growl.

The dispute has engaged diplomats and the governments. The European Parliament might be the next stage for the spat. The critics say light pollution from the greenhouse risks the future of a rare dark-sky reserve declared in the area, harms the environment and denies people a proper sleep. On the other hand, it creates much-needed jobs.

Members of the Czech Astronomical Society were the first to complain after their measurements confirmed what anyone can see, especially on cloudy nights, that this new installation produces intense light.

“This greenhouse is something completely new for us,” astronomer Martin Gembec said on a recent night. He was on a hill about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the greenhouse, which is on the edge of the Polish town of Bogatynia, next to a coal-fired power plant and a big open-pit brown coal mine.

“We have never seen anything like that and we are honestly shocked by it. It shines like a big city of a 100,000 people,” Gembec said. The regional government has asked the Polish ambassador to Prague and the Czech ambassador to Warsaw for help, while the issue was high on the agenda of last week’s meeting of the environment ministers of the two countries in the Polish capital.

“We will try to find a solution,” said Jacek Krzeminski, spokesman for Poland’s Environment Ministry. Martin Puta, the head of the regional government, has tried to reach the owner of the Citronex company that operates the greenhouse, but with no luck so far.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the company said the project “has been done in accordance with Polish construction law and has all the required permissions.” Citronex also said it has asked a Dutch research institute to work on a “special system of curtains that would limit the emission of light.”

It says on its Web site the project is meant to help develop the region. Puta said he was approaching members of the European Parliament in efforts to set up a public hearing there. In what some already seem as an overregulated EU, there’s no regulation to deal with light pollution.

In Frydlant, a Czech town across the border, Mayor Dan Ramzer said he could understand that companies like Citronex create jobs “and that’s a mantra for the Poles.” But Ramzer wants the Czech complaints to be heard “because there is a night-sky reserve in the Jizerske Mountains and we don’t to lose this unique thing.”

“And another thing is that you have something on the horizon of Frydlant which disturbs the sleeping of the local people. Darkness is one of things we value highly here,” Ramzer said. He expressed hopes that Czech concerns would not go unnoticed as the greenhouse is planned to be expanded.

“We hope that they won’t repeat the same mistake and will block the light from leaking.” The astronomers agree. “We don’t want to ruin anyone’s business,” Gembec said. “The situation is bad in the entire Europe, but they went too far. The best solution would be for this private company to accept (our concerns) and make steps to fix it. That is in this case to put blankets on it.”

Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland contributed.

South Korea offers to participate in Czech nuclear program

Moscow (Sputnik)

Dec 09, 2015

South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered Wednesday to help Prague complete construction of some new units at a Czech nuclear power plant, Czech President Milos Zeman’s press secretary confirmed Wednesday.

Park met with her Czech counterpart on Wednesday, as part of a four-day official visit to the republic.

According to the Ceske Noviny newspaper, Park offered the assistance of Korean firms in the completion of new units at the local nuclear power plant, as well as the supply of helicopters for the Czech Air Force. In turn, the Czech side proposed that the two countries cooperate in the development of new technologies, particularly in the field of nanotechnology.

“Exactly these issues of economic cooperation, including the energy sector, will dominate within the framework of the official visit of the Korean president,” presidential press secretary Jiri Ovcacek told reporters.

The Czech Republic is heavily reliant on nuclear energy for its energy needs. As part of a governmental plan to increase nuclear power production, the Czech government wants to build one more reactor at the Temelin nuclear plant and another at the Dukovany plant, with the option of building another reactor at each site.

Source: Nuclear Power Daily.


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