Wednesday News Briefing
Government approves draft budget for 2013; ÚOHS verdict buys Areva time in Temelín bid
Posted: November 21, 2012
The Czech government has rubberstamped a third draft budget proposal offered by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek.
The Czech government has approved a new draft proposal for the 2013 budget, the Czech News Agency (ČTK) reported Nov. 21, citing unnamed sources. Under the latest proposal, submitted after a raft of tax hikes were passed in Parliament earlier this month, the government projects a deficit of 100 billion Kč, which equates to 2.9 percent of GDP and brings the deficit within the 3 percent limit set by the European Union. Net revenue and expenditure have both decreased by 4.1 billion Kč compared with the previous proposal, with revenue at 1.08 trillion Kč and expenditure at 1.18 trillion Kč. The new proposal will be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies Nov. 28.
Milan Štĕch of the Social Democrats (ČSSD) has been re-elected as chairman of the Czech Senate, ČTK reported Nov. 21. He was supported by 74 of the 79 senators present during the first meeting of the country's Upper House since elections in mid-October. The Senate also chose three deputy chairpersons: Alena Gajdůšková, Zdeněk Škromach (both ČSSD) and its former chairman, Prĕmysl Sobotka (Civic Democratic Party, ODS), who is also his party's candidate for next year's presidential election. Jiří Čunek of the Christian Democrats was not considered after failing to receive enough votes in either of the two rounds of voting. His party says this is in breach of Senate rules. Following last month's election, the ČSSD strengthened its dominant position in the Upper House, gaining 13 seats to bring its total number of senators to 46, an absolute majority.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has reiterated his stance that the use of S-Cards to obtain welfare payments should be voluntary, ČTK reported Nov. 20. The controversial scheme, which was the brainchild of former Social and Labor Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek, has encountered strong criticism from disabled and human rights groups, who have branded it anti-social and discriminatory. In view of the widespread opposition, Nečas said the electronic card should only be compulsory for those welfare recipients who were suspected of abusing their benefits, but added it would still be used for identification purposes. Negotiations are underway with savings bank Česká spořitelna, which has a contract to operate the scheme for 12 years, to modify the existing agreement.
Musicians Bono, Sting, Yoko Ono Lennon, The Edge and Peter Gabriel have donated a total of 1.5 million Kč to pay for a tapestry honoring late Czech President Václav Havel, a spokesman for Prague airport said Nov. 20. The tapestry will be displayed next month at the airport that now bears Havel's name, and is set to be unveiled during a special ceremony Dec. 9. Bill Shipsey, the founder of Art for Amnesty, came up with the project, while Petr Sís, the Czech-born artist from New York, designed the piece. Havel died in December last year at the age of 75.
The Czech antitrust office (ÚOHS) has taken out a temporary injunction to prevent utilities giant ČEZ from signing a contract to build two new nuclear reactors at its power plant in Temelín while a dispute over the tender continues, ČTK reported Nov. 20. French company Areva is currently appealing ČEZ's decision to disqualify it from the $10 billion dollar tender, which left U.S. firm Westinghouse and a Czech-Russian consortium as the only bidders, and filed a complaint with the ÚOHS earlier this month. While the injunction gives Areva some breathing space, the ÚOHS has not suspended the tender, meaning ČEZ is still free to carry on with the selection process.
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