Daily news summary

Lower house strips PM of immunity, opening way for criminal prosecution

The lower house of Parliament has voted to strip Prime Minister Andrej Babis of his parliamentary immunity, opening the way for prosecution. The motion was supported by 111 deputies, 69 deputies of the prime minister's ANO party voted against. Mr. Babis, who is suspected of EU subsidy fraud, has denied any wrongdoing. He told the lower house on Friday that the charges against him had been fabricated by the mafia and political opponents who wanted to remove him from politics. We live in a country where it is possible to commission criminal charges against someone and have them thrown in jail, the prime minister noted.

PM’s claim about judiciary evokes storm of criticism

The prime minister’s claim that it was possible to arrange a criminal prosecution against someone has elicited a storm of criticism from the opposition benches.

Deputies accused Prime Minister Babis of undermining trust in the judiciary without having any proof to back his claim and said that if he really believed what he said he should sack Justice Minister Robert Pelikan.

They moreover pointed out that after having spent almost four years in government he should consider himself co-responsible for the state of the country.

Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman also issued a strong protest against the prime minister’s claim saying that if the prime minister had any proof to back his statement he should inform him in person.

Prague’s Libeň bridge closed after warning it’s in dangerous state

Prague authorities closed the Libeň bridge over the Vltava river on Thursday night to cars and trams saying it was in a dangerous state.

The closure is expected to last at least three weeks while checks are carried out. City authorities said no other major bridge across the river currently faces closure.

Local mayors have said that repairs to the bridge should have been carried out long ago. Reconstruction has been mooted in the past but one of the problems is the bridge’s unique Cubist architectural status. It was opened in 1928 and has not undergone any major reconstruction since.

Maintenance crews struggling to deal with damage caused by gale-force winds

Maintenance crews and firemen have been struggling to deal with the damage caused by the gale force winds that swept through the Czech Republic on Thursday night, bringing down power lines and stopping trains. Fire brigades were called to 700 emergencies in the wake of the storm and 30,000 homes were left without power.

Most rail routes were cleared in the course of Friday morning although over 5,000 households in the northern and western parts of the country were still without power. Many roads remain impassable and drivers have been asked not to set out on longer journeys if at all possible.

The Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the north-western parts of the country is closed to tourists because of the danger of falling trees. Thousands of trees were uprooted by the storm and many others are damaged.

Czech president Miloš Zeman undergoes minor surgery

President Miloš Zeman has given details of minor surgery he underwent at a Prague hospital during the week.

The Czech head of state said he was operated on Tuesday evening for a small abscess in his mouth. He said in a television interview Thursday night that it still hurt and he had trouble concentrating.

Zeman’s health and ability to carry on for a further five years is being followed closely as the 73-year-old head of state faces a second round vote against challenger Jiří Drahoš in a week’s time.

PM Orban: V4 summit to focus on regional development bank

A meeting of the Visegrad Group in Budapest next week will focus on the establishment of a Central European Development Bank, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian public radio on Friday.

Mr. Orban praised China for its plans to invest in the region and stressed the need for Central European states not to be dependent on EU funds alone, but to look for sources outside the European Union. China’s financial conditions are better than those offered by the EU, Orban noted.

Weather forecast

The weekend should be partly cloudy to overcast with snow showers, particularly in the eastern parts of the country, and day temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.