Democracy and rights
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Capital cities want their own channel to the EU
The EU-positive mayors in four European capitals sign a joint declaration,
which states that they should seek direct cooperation with the EU, as their
countries are governed by EU-critical parties. Behind this "free cities pact"
are the rulers of Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava. At the
intergovernmental level, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have
their own cooperation forum called the Visegrád Group, which was formed before
becoming EU member states. Several of the governments are now involved in the
EU's tributaries, which consider that the government parties do not respect
basic legal and democratic values.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Czech Republic, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Movement of statue quarrels with Russia
The Czech Foreign Ministry is calling on Russia's ambassador to hand over a
protest against the Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky calling one of
Prague's mayors a Nazi. Emotions are stirred in Russia for the mayor to have
covered a statue of Russian General Ivan Konev and for the Prague authorities to
replace the statue with another monument commemorating the liberation of the
Nazis in 1945. Konev led the liberation of Prague and is a hero in Russia but is
controversial in the Czech Republic as he is also seen as a symbol of oppression
during the communist era. Konev participated in the quake of the revolt against
the Communist regime in Hungary in 1956 and the crushing of the democracy
movement during the Prague Spring 1968 (see Modern history). In August, the
statue was vandalized when someone sprayed paint on it and since then it has
been covered. Russian Foreign Ministry says the decision to move the statue will
have a negative impact on relations between the countries.
Presidential criticism annoys Kosovo
Kosovo announces that it will not participate in a meeting in Prague between
the Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and
the Balkan countries seeking membership in the EU. The reason for Kosovo's
reversal is a comment from Czech President Zeman who accused Kosovo's leader of
being a war criminal and said that he should investigate whether the Czech
Republic's recognition of Kosovo could be revoked. However, the president is a
different view from the government. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček says that
the Czech Republic has no interest in changing the decision to recognize Kosovo.
Prosecution of Babiš is closed
The newspaper Deník N reports that the prosecutor who is handling the
prosecution against Prime Minister Babiš in the suspected corruption over the
construction of the conference facility Storknästet (see April 17, 2019)
has now changed and recommends that the prosecution be terminated. No reason for
the reversal is stated. The news, which is confirmed by the Prosecutor's Office,
causes the opposition to accuse Babiš of having affected the justice system in
his favor. The matter will now be handled at a higher level.
Resolution on ministerial post resolved
President Zeman appoints Lubomír Zaorálek as new Minister of Culture and thus
ends a multi-month long struggle between Zeman and the government's minority
party of the Social Democrats (see July 29, 2019). The knot was
resolved when the Social Democrats withdrew their original proposal and instead
launched Zaorálek, the country's foreign minister in 2014-2017. The Social
Democrats previously threatened to leave the government unless the party's
candidate was accepted.
Fighting for minister can trigger government crisis
President Zeman dismisses the country's Minister of Culture after a two-month
long power poll with the government. The Social Democrats and Prime Minister
Babiš have since May wanted to replace Culture Minister Antonín Staněk. Under
the Constitution, the president is to appoint and appoint ministers on behalf of
the prime minister, but Zeman, who is behind Staněk, has so far stated that
there is no time limit for completing the assignment. Now Zeman falls into
disarray and gives Staněk fired but gives no information on who he intends to
appoint. Earlier in the summer, the Social Democrats, who are the smaller party
in the coalition, threatened to leave the government unless Staněk is replaced
by party candidate Michal Šmarda.
Attempts to topple the government fail
Andrej Babiš's government survives a new vote of no confidence. Eighty-five
members of Parliament vote in favor of the motion of no confidence, while 85
vote against. To topple the government, 101 votes or more had been required.
Demands for Babi's departure are growing
A record-breaking demonstration is being held in central Prague demanding the
departure of Prime Minister Babiš. According to organizers and local media,
about 250,000 people participate. The manifesto is organized by the NGO Million
Moments for Democracy, which says that the next big protest is planned for
November 16, the day before the 30th anniversary of the Samet Revolution, which
ended the Communist Party's single rule in 1989 (see Modern History).
Protesters demand Babi's departure
The news that the European Commission believes Prime Minister Babiš is in an
illegal conflict of interest (see May 31) triggers a major
demonstration in Prague. Around 120,000 take part in the demonstration and
demand Babi's departure. Babiš himself rejects the report that the EU
Commission's auditors are incompetent.
ANO wins EU elections
24th of May
Governing ANO wins election to the European Parliament by just over 21
percent of the vote and increases its mandate from 4 to 6. Worse, it is worse
for the coalition partner Social Democrats, which is falling sharply and losing
its 4 seats. The Communist Party, which serves as a support party for the
government, also loses ground and loses 2 of its 3 seats. The largest opposition
party, the bourgeois ODS, is moving forward. The party gets 14.5 percent and
doubles its number of mandates from 2 to 4. The pirate party becomes third at 14
per cent and for the first time seats in the European Parliament with 3
mandates. Equal mandates are given the alliance between the small parties TOP 09
and the Mayor and Independence. Freedom and direct democracy win 2 seats as does
the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. Voter turnout is just over 28
percent, ten percentage points more than 2015.
Protest against the change of Minister of Justice
Thousands of Czechs walk out onto the streets in protest of the change in the
Justice Minister's post (see April 30, 2019). The organizers
count the number of participants in the tens of thousands, making this the
biggest protest to date against the new Minister of Justice Marie Benešová.
The EU shuts Babiš in preliminary report
According to a report leaked in Czech media, the EU Commission's auditors
have concluded that Prime Minister Babiš is in a conflict of interest because of
his business interests. Under Czech law, companies that are more than 25 percent
owned by a minister may not be awarded public assignments or government grants.
Babi's huge business conglomerate Agrofert has over the years received large
sums of support from the EU. When the law came into force, Babiš transferred
Agrofert to a trust company (trust fund), but the auditors believe it was not
enough to separate Babiš from Agrofert. The report states that, due to the
conflict of interest, Agrofert should not have received EU grants in recent
years. Before finalizing the report, the Czech Government must submit its
Controversial change of Minister of Justice
President Zeman appoints Marie Benešová as new Minister of Justice,
triggering protests in Prague. Benešová formerly belonged to the smaller
government Socialist Democrats and the opposition believes that, unlike her
politically independent representative, she is likely to contribute to sweeping
the corruption charges against Prime Minister Babiš under the rug.
The police want to see Prime Minister Babiš charged
Police recommend that prosecution be brought against Prime Minister Babiš for
fraud and for "damaging the EU's financial interests". The case concerns a grant
of EUR 2 million paid by the EU in connection with the construction of a
conference center, Storknästet, outside Prague in 2007. The grant was earmarked
for small businesses. According to Babiš, the facility was not owned by himself
but by some family members. The fact that the case has become a police case is
due to the fact that the plant was later incorporated into Babiš large corporate
conglomerate Agrofert who would not have qualified for the EU grant in question.
If prosecution is brought and Babiš is sentenced, he risks between 5 and 10
years in prison. Babiš claims he is innocent and that political motives are
behind the charges. In January 2018, Parliament asserted Babiš prosecutorial
immunity at his own request.
Free public transport when the air gets bad in Prague
It will be free to travel with public communications in Prague on the days
when the authorities issue smog alarms, that is, the days when air pollution
reaches a certain high level. Most of the pollution consists of emissions from
car traffic. Tourists will also be able to ride the bus, subway and tram free of
charge on the days of the alarm, usually five to seven days a year.
New tax upsets churches
Parliament approves a law that imposes a tax on the sum to be paid by the
state's churches in compensation for the church property that was seized during
the communist era and which cannot be returned; Under the agreements concluded
between the churches and the state, the country's total 17 Christian and Jewish
congregations will receive around 2.3 billion euros in compensation. The money
must be paid out over 30 years. According to the law, a tax of 19 percent is to
be deducted on the amounts paid. The churches are raging over the proposal
described as unfair. Getting through the law was a requirement of the Communist
Party to support the minority government that took office at the end of June.
The bill now goes on for consideration in Parliament's upper house, the Senate.