Daily news summary


Cabinet reshuffle possible this year, says Babiš

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš does not rule out a cabinet reshuffle this year, Czech Television reported. The ANO leader said he would definitely be speaking to some ministers in the party’s minority coalition with the Social Democrats.

The Communist Party, who support the government on key votes, are dissatisfied with the work of ANO nominee Dan Ťok as minister of transport and the Social Democrats' Tomáš Petříček as minister of foreign affairs.

Mr. Babiš told Czech Television that Mr. Ťok needed to get tougher and deliver results, adding that he would also get tougher.

Social Democrats leader Jan Hamáček says he is opposed to any of the junior coalition partner’s ministers being replaced.

Ministry sends documents relating to subsidies for Agrofert to Brussels

The Czech Ministry of Agriculture has sent documents to the European Commission pertaining to subsidies received by the Agrofert conglomerate. A ministry spokesperson told the Czech News Agency that European Commission auditors would visit Prague to investigate suspected conflict of interest involving Prime Minister Andrej Babiš later this month. The former owner placed Agrofert in trust funds; however, critics say they are under Mr. Babiš's control.

The European Parliament voted last month to suspend subsidies to Agrofert until the matter is cleared up.

Mr. Babiš is facing criminal charges in the Czech Republic of EU subsidy fraud over CZK 50 million received by a hotel and conference centre near Prague that previously belonged to Agrofert. He denies any wrongdoing.

PM Babiš confirms he will seek re-election as ANO party head in February

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has confirmed that he will seek re-election as chairman of ANO, the centre-right party which he founded in 2011.

In an interview with Czech Television that aired on Tuesday evening, Babiš also said he fully backs ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltýnek. He did not rule out a cabinet reshuffle in the coming months but declined to comment on the work of any particular minister.

ANO is due to hold its national party congress in February during which members will vote on leadership positions.

At ANO’s last national congress in February 2017, Babiš, then finance minister, easily defended his post, enjoying the support of 195 of 210 delegates present.

Babiš and Faltýnek have consistently been ranked the country’s most popular politicians in polls of eligible voters over the past six months.

A CVVM poll released just ahead of the Christmas holiday break suggests ANO would have won elections in December with 33.5 percent of the vote.

Court throws out motion against forced handover of certain goods to food banks

Supermarket chains in the Czech Republic have to keep providing certain unsold goods to food banks free of charge. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected a motion from a group of senators to have the obligation cancelled.

Twenty-five senators took the matter to the court in 2016, saying that the provision represented an infringement of ownership rights. They also argued against fines of up to CZK 10 million for failing to hand over such goods to food banks.

The items in question may have damaged packaging or incorrect markings but are safe to consume. They are distributed by NGOs.

Prague fireworks reference Velvet Revolution anniversary

A municipal fireworks show in Prague on New Year’s Day referenced the fact that this year the Czech Republic will be marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The 11-minute display, which began at 6 pm on Tuesday on the city’s Letná Plain, included five images meant to represent phases on the path to freedom in 1989, the Czech News Agency said.

The individual parts were named Prayer, Bare Hands, Unity, Forbidden Fruit and Freedom. The show was conceived of as the story of 1989 being explained to a child by a father.

Plíšková advances in Brisbane while Kvitová exits in second round

Fifth seed Karolína Plíšková has reached the fourth round at the Brisbane International tournament. The Czech advanced after overcoming her compatriot Marie Bouzková, a wild card in the tournament, 7-5 6-2.

By contrast, Petra Kvitová crashed out of her first tournament of 2019 in the second round. She lost in Brisbane to fourth seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 5-7 6-7.

Weather forecast

Snow is forecast for the Czech Republic on Thursday, with temperatures expected to reach a maximum of -1 degree Celsius. More snow is due through to the middle of next week.