Daily news summary

CT: Minister Dostálová key suspect in CzechTourism investigation

The minister for regional development, ANO appointee Klára Dostálová, is a key suspect in a police investigation into the state agency CzechTourism, Czech Television reported. It said a court order for a search of Ms. Dostálová’s home indicates that she is suspected of handing out contracts without following due procedure while she was a deputy regional development minister.

Ms. Dostálová denies any wrongdoing and has received the backing of ANO chief Andrej Babiš. Opposition politicians have called for her to resign.

Last month police raided the Ministry of Regional Development, CzechTourism and other venues in connection with the case.

MEPs to discuss Babiš conflict of interest accusation Wednesday

The European Parliament will debate possible conflict of interest on the part of the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, next Wednesday. The motion was submitted by the European Greens with the support of the European People’s Party.

MEPs are expected to hear the positions of the European Commission and the Council of the EU on the matter. However, they will not pass a resolution on it.

A leaked European Commission report found that the Czech PM was in conflict of interest over moneys handed out to his Agrofert conglomerate.

Critics say that although Mr. Babiš placed Agrofert in a trust fund, he remains the beneficial owner, in breach of Czech and EU law. He denies any wrongdoing.

Question time halted when no cabinet members show up

A question time session of the Chamber of Deputies was abandoned on Thursday morning when no members of the ANO-Social Democrats cabinet turned up, Novinky.cz reported. Government ministers excused their absences by citing work commitments or international trips.

Around 90 members of the 200-seat lower house had been there for the 9 am start. One minister, culture department chief Antonín Staněk, arrived after the session had been suspended.

Some members of opposition parties joked that the government was “slogging away”, a reference to a slogan frequently used by ANO.

Ministers to debate extremism report with purported reference to Okamura party

The State Security Council has taken note of a 2017 report on extremism in the Czech Republic in the original wording drafted by the Ministry of the Interior, the minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, said on Thursday. The study will now be debated by the government.

There have been media reports that discussion of the document was delayed after President Miloš Zeman’s office objected to its purported linking of extremism and Tomio Okamura’s anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy party.

In the past the annual report on extremism was discussed in May. However, Mr. Hamáček has denied that political intervention caused a delay this year.

Students criticise Ovčáček university lecture

A group of students has criticised that fact that Jiří Ovčáček, the spokesperson of President Miloš Zeman, was invited to give a lecture at a university. The head of a faculty at Prague’s University of Economics invited Mr. Ovčáček to speak about fake news and introduced him as “the most educated” presidential spokesperson ever.

However, the student Facebook group Club of Young Political Scientists said that inviting Mr. Ovčáček to discuss fake news was deliberate provocation. He frequently speaks to the pro-Russian Parlamentní listy website, which has long been monitored by the Ministry of the Interior, the students said.

Press: Coalition parties touting different visions of free school lunches

The two coalition parties are in favour of free lunches at elementary schools and kindergartens but have different conceptions of which children should receive them, Právo reported on Thursday. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO wants to bring in free lunches for all elementary school pupils and final-year kindergarteners. However, the Social Democrats’ former education minister Kateřina Valachová has put forward a bill promising to feed all kindergarten children and elementary school first graders.

Právo said that whichever version is adopted free lunches look set to come in the year after next. Critics say taxpayers will foot the bill in any case and that it is a populist gesture.

Weather forecast

It should be overcast and rainy in the Czech Republic on Friday, with temperatures of up to 8 degrees Celsius. Precipitation is expected for much of the next week, with daytime highs likely to gradually fall to around freezing point.