Daily news summary
Regional Development Minister says no reason why Czechia "should not fight to last breath" over audit
The European Commission audit allegedly stating that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is in a conflict of interest is not final and there is no reason why the Czech Republic should not "fight to the last breath" Regional Development Minister Klára Dostálová told journalists during a press conference on Tuesday. She said the Czech Republic will now use the two month deadline set out by the European Commission, to examine the document. Mrs. Dostálová also stressed that if Czech officials do not agree with some of the audit’s conclusions, these could be brought up at a special European Commission hearing. She also did not rule out the possibility of appealing to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
According to a statement provided by a European Commission spokesperson for Czech Radio on Monday, the audit is final and the Czech Republic has two months to tell Brussels how it intends to implement the auditors’ recommendations. However, Mrs. Dostálová said today that the original letter sent with the audit stated that the Czech Republic needs to express whether it agrees with it.
European Commission audit to be discussed in Chamber of Deputies on Thursday
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's ANO Party, which is currently the largest group in the lower-house of Czech Parliament, has agreed to discuss the European Commission audit, which allegedly finds Mr. Babiš in a conflict of interest, in the Chamber of Deputies on Thursday morning, the news site of Czech daily Deník N reports. The news follows the meeting of five opposition parties earlier in the day which agreed to push for the audit to be discussed at a plenary session of the Chamber.
It is as of yet unclear whether this will be a private or public discussion, since the audit is confidential.
CJEU dismisses Czech Republic’s case against EU firearms directive
The Court of Justice of the European Union has dismissed the Czech Republic’s case against the validity of an EU directive introducing stricter rules on the acquisition and possession of firearms, Czech Television reported on Tuesday. The Czech government hoped to cancel the directive, which bans certain semi-automatic weapons and magazines, because it considered it too restrictive on gun owners.
The directive was originally proposed in reaction to a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe and was approved by the European Council and Parliament in 2017. The court stated on Tuesday that the Czech objections were unfounded. EU authorities did not exceed their powers by adopting the directive, nor did they interfere with the rights of arms owners or holders, Czech Television reports.
Deník N: Pirate Party asks European Commission to reconsider classified status of audit on PM’s conflict of interest
The Pirate Party has asked the European Commission to reconsider the classified status of the audit which has allegedly found Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be in a conflict of interest over EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert holding he founded and placed in a trust fund two years ago, Deník N’s news site reported on Tuesday. The chairman of the Pirates Ivan Bartoš also said that Prague City Hall, which is currently led by a mayor from the Pirate Party, has commissioned a legal opinion on the consequences of publicising the European Commission audit.
Social Democrats sitting on fence on EC audit
Jan Hamáček, leader of the Social Democrats, a junior party in the ruling coalition, has said his party will not be taking part in a meeting called by the opposition Pirate Party in response to the EC audit alleged to have confirmed that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest.
The opposition centre-right parties are seeking coordinated action in response to the news and are calling for the audit to be made public.
The Social Democrats are refusing to be drawn into the dispute, with Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček telling journalists that the audit is primarily the problem of the prime minister’s ANO party.
Finance minister: EC audit could lead to court battle
Finance Minister Alena Schillerová has the EC audit which is alleged to have confirmed that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest could lead to a court dispute between the Czech Republic and the EU.
Schillerová told the news site Seznam.cz that although the EU considers the audit to be final, the Czech Republic would use all the available means to defend its position.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš likewise indicated he was ready to fight the issue, telling journalists that the EC did not have the right to interpret Czech legislation.
Czech pupils improve in reading, mathematics and science, PISA ranking shows
Students at Czech schools have improved in their reading, mathematics and science abilities, according to Education Ministry and Czech School Inspection officials, who unveiled the latest Programme for International School Assessment rankings at a press conference on Tuesday.
Out of the 79 countries and economic regions that took part in the rankings, the Czech Republic placed 25 in reading comprehension, 22 in mathematics and 21 in science. Altogether Czech students improved their scores in all categories compared to the last measurement which took place in 2015, also exceeding EU average scores.
However, the results did not reach the scores achieved in the early 2000s and also showed a regional disparity of education quality. According to Chief School Inspector Tomáš Zatloukal, skill differences between pupils in Prague and the Ústí nad Labem Region are equivalent to roughly two grades.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, commonly referred to as PISA is currently one of the largest and most respected education level measurement rankings. Organised by the OECD, it takes place every three years.
Writer Milan Kundera gets back Czech citizenship 40 years after it was revoked
One of the most famous and influential Czech writers, Milan Kundera, has received Czech citizenship, 40 years after it was revoked following his emigration to France, the daily Právo reported on Tuesday. The 90-year-old Mr. Kundera received the official paperwork in his Paris flat from Czech ambassador to France, Petr Drulák, on November 28.
Mr. Kundera was a reform communist writer during the 1960s and remained committed to reforming Czechoslovak communism even after the Warsaw Pact Invasion of 1968. Eventually, however he relinquished his dreams of reform and emigrated to France in 1975. Four years later he was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship.
He remains perhaps the most famous Czech writer currently alive with his works having been translated into a myriad of world languages.
Special exhibit on Czech Olympian Věra Čáslavská opens up in Tokyo
A special exhibit has opened up in the Czech Centre in Tokyo mapping the life of gymnast Vera Čáslavská, who won seven Olympic gold medals in her career, three of them in Tokyo in 1964. Titled “Věra Čáslavská – The Road to Freedom“ it focuses not just on the Czech athlete’s sporting achievements, but also her activity in politics after the Velvet Revolution and her contributions in developing Czech-Japanese relations.
The free, public exhibition will run until January 31, 2020.
Wednesday is expected to be sunny across the Czech Republic, but temperatures will remain cold, hovering around 3 degrees Celsius.