Daily news summary

Former member of communist riot squad elected head of committee overseeing police

Communist Party deputy Zdeněk Ondráček has been elected head of the lower house’s committee overseeing the General Inspection of the Security Services.

Ondráček was supported by 79 MPs from ANO and the Communist Party in a second round of voting, after failing to acquire enough votes in the first round.

His rivals for the post Zuzana Majerová Zahradníková from the Civic Democrats received 32 votes and Mikuláš Ferjenčík from the Pirates Party 29 votes.

Controversy has surrounded efforts to install Mr. Ondráček in the post, given the fact the inspection body oversees the police and that as a young man he was a member of a Communist-era riot squad.

In an address to the lower house Ondráček said he had joined the police because he “liked uniforms” and denied claims that he had taken part in the brutal crack-down on students on Národní třída in 1989.

Right-wing parties have denounced his election to the post as "scandalous" calling it "a sad day for the country". Justice Minister Robert Pelikán from ANO told the news site Novinky.cz he is considering resigning in protest.

EMH pushing ahead with lithium mining project

The Australian-based mining company European Metals Holdings has said it will continue with preparations for lithium mining in the Czech Republic despite the fact that the Czech government does not consider the memorandum on the extraction and processing of lithium, signed last year, legally binding and wants to a Czech state run company to mine and process the deposit.

EMH said it was not the memorandum which guaranteed its rights but the prospecting license for natural resources held by the firm Geomet, which is part of EMH.

Economic growth at 5.2 percent in 4Q

Czech economic growth in the fourth quarter accelerated to 5.2 percent year-on-year, up from 5.1 in the previous quarter, according to data released by the Czech Statistics Office.

GDP growth in 2017 rose to 4.5 percent. The economic growth was driven largely by consumer demand which rose to 4.3 percent year-on-year.

Chinese energy company CEFC reportedly taken over by state agency

The management of CEFC China Energy, a leading Chinese Energy company, has been taken over by the state agency Shanghai Guosheng Group, the news site South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

There have been reports that the energy giants CEO Ye Jianming is being investigated for economic crimes. The company itself has denied the claims saying its own management was in charge.

CEFC is active in the Czech Republic where it has assets worth 1.5 billion euros. The company’s CEO is also one of President Zeman’s advisors.

Smog regulation enforced in parts of Moravia-Silesia

Smog regulations have taken force in some parts of the Moravian-Silesian region which is suffering from severe air pollution. This means that producers in the region have had to scale down production until there is a significant improvement.

The situation is reported to be worst in Ostrava, Karvinná and parts of Frýdek-Místek where levels of dust particles are three times higher than the permitted limit.

Children, older people and people with chronic health problems have been advised to stay indoors. Air pollution has long been a serious problem in the region due to heavy industry, traffic and coal heating.

President grants pardon to man who killed his wife and child in accident

Czech President Miloš Zeman has granted a pardon to a man who killed his wife and son in a traffic accident, arguing that further punishment would be excessive and cruel, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said in a press release.

The convicted man was in prison for causing death by negligence and endangering the public while under the influence of an addictive substance. According to Ovčáček, the president took the decision with regard to the convict’s other child, who lost his mother and sibling in the accident.

The Czech head of state has granted nine pardons since taking office. Prior to his election he said he would only grant pardons in very exceptional cases and transferred the power to conduct clemency reviews to the minister of justice.

Weather forecast

The bout of Arctic weather should gradually come to an end. The weekend is expected to bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with scattered snow showers and day temperatures between -3 and 1 degrees Celsius.