Daily news summary
Hamáček: President ready to accept culture minister's resignation by end of July
Social Democrats chairman Jan Hamáček says that President Miloš Zeman communicated that he is ready to accept the resignation of Culture Minister Antonín Staněk by July 31 and will await the result of the Social Democrat leadership meeting on Monday in regard to who Mr. Staněk's successor will be. The statement was made after a joint meeting between the three men at the president's Lány residence on Friday.
Mr. Hamáček reaffirmed his intention to replace the Social Democrat minister with fellow party member Michael Šmarda and said he expects the party leadership to confirm this decision. However, he admitted that the president did not give a clear statement that he will respect the decision of the Social Democrat leadership.
Antonín Staněk confirmed his party leader's statement, saying that both of them understood the president had agreed to his resignation. Mr. Hamáček said that the alternative conclusion to the Monday Social Democrat meeting would be that his party will resign from government.
Mr. Šmarda has been the party's proposed replacement for some time already since the current culture minister announced his resignation in May. Despite this, the president has until now refused to accept the resignation and, according to Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who met with him on Thursday, does not have a good opinion of Mr. Šmarda.
Lower-house approves the implementation of digital vignettes for motorway tolls
The Chamber of Deputies has voted for the implementation a of digital motorway toll system that should give drivers the opportunity to purchase vignettes online or via an application by January 2021. The new system is set to completely replace the paper coupons which are in use now. Furthermore, hybrid cars, as well as those using electric or hydrogen instead of regular fuel, are exempt from the charge.
Another proposal, which planned to increase the cost of digital vignettes from CZK 1,500 to CZK 2,000, did not pass.
iRozhlas: Transport Ministry partly admits to one EU audit conclusion on conflict of interest
The Ministry of Transport, which is currently reviewing one of the two preliminary EU audits that point to a conflict of interest of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, has partly admitted to one of the conclusions in the report, news site iRozhlas reports.
The specific case concerns the transfer of CZK 2 billion from the Ministry of Transport to the Ministry of the Environment in 2016. The auditors claim this is one piece of evidence of the PM’s conflict of interest because the changes were made in order to support the country’s chemical industry, which is dominated by Agrofert, a company founded by Mr. Babiš. At the time the cabinet argued that the Transport Ministry’s plans were not sufficient and a potential loss of the amount of granted subsidies could be limited.
However, in an interview with Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál, Deputy Trade Minister Tomáš Čoček said that this year’s statistics prove that the concern was unfounded and the ministry’s plans were sufficient.
Press: Czech Republic interested in digital economy spot in future EU commission
The Czech Republic is likely to push for the post of new digital economy commissioner, Lidové Noviny reports, citing a source close to the prime minister. The reserve option is the position of commissioner for the internal market. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has not yet commented on what position the Czech Republic will try to secure. However, he tweeted on Friday that he has spoken to the future commission president Ursula von der Leyen and told her his government’s preferred portfolio, while stressing the need for adequate Visegrad Four representation.
New EP committee vice-chair Niedermayer stresses EU’s powerful negotiating position when united
EU member states should act in a uniform manner when combating the threat of looming trade wars, TOP 09 party MEP Luděk Niedermayer told Czech Television in an interview following his selection as vice-chair of the European Union’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Mr. Niedermayer is one of three Czech MEP’s who have gained deputy positions in newly formed EU committees. The Civic Democrats’ Jan Zahradil was chosen as vice-chair of the Committee on International Trade, while Martina Dlabajová from the ANO party has the same role in the Committee on Budgetary Control.
Mr. Niedermayer, who served as the director and vice-governor of the Czech National Bank before he entered politics, is known for his positive stance on closer European integration and his country’s adoption of the Euro.
Madame Tussauds opens its first Central and Eastern European Branch in Prague
The famous wax figure museum Madame Tussauds opened its first branch in Central and Eastern Europe in the centre of Prague on Friday. Visitors can look forward to seeing 40 figures ranging from Jim Carrey and Bruce Willis to David Beckham, as well as Czech historical and mythical characters.
The opening is the result of a license deal between Madame Tussauds operator Merlin Entertainments and the Czech Wax Museum Prague, which has been running a wax museum on Prague’s Celetná street since 1997.
There are currently 24 Madame Tussauds wax museums in the world.
Rare porcupine born in Prague zoo
A rare North American porcupine was born at Prague zoo in mid-June, the zoo has announced. The breeders have not yet been able to determine the sex of the animal.
The large rodents, native to North America and Canada, are reminiscent of porcupines due to their coat of needle-like quills, but in fact they are closely related to guinea pigs and spend much of their life on trees.
Prague zoo has been breeding the North American porcupines since 1958.
Archaeologists discover ancient Germanic graves in East Bohemia
Archaeologists from the East Bohemian Museum have announced the discovery of six ancient graves around the village of Sendražice near Hradec Kralové. The graves are believed to have been made by a Germanic tribe in the 6th century during the migration period.
One of the graves, which was not robbed in the subsequent centuries, contained tens of pieces of jewellery, including two brooches. A seax sword was also found in the grave.
Scientific tests on the skeletons are now underway as the archaeologists are hoping to identify the age of the bodies and the tribe they belonged to.
Meteorologists expect frequent rain this weekend, with storms in East Bohemia and Northern Moravia. Temperatures are likely to hover around 20 degrees Celsius.