Press Advisories

23. 11. 2020 18:30

Government to propose President appoint Petr Mlsna as new chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition, discusses plan for new vaccines

Press conference after the government meeting, 23 November 2020.
Press conference after the government meeting, 23 November 2020.
The new chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition should be current Deputy Minister of the Interior Petr Mlsna. The Andrej Babiš cabinet discussed proposing his appointment on the basis of a completed selection procedure at its meeting on Monday 23 November 2020.

Should the President appoint Petr Mlsna as chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition, the current Deputy Interior Minister for the Section of Legislation, State Administration and Territorial Government will replace Petr Rafaj, who resigned effective 1 December 2020. "Eleven applicants applied to the selection procedure by the stipulated deadline, all of whom met the qualification requirements. The candidates were of high quality and after the conducted interviews and individual evaluations, Mr Mlsna was chosen as the most suitable candidate, having obtained the most points in the evaluation – 86 out of a possible ninety," stated Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. "We will now ask the President and I presume that the President will consent and the new chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition will be able to take office on 2 December," PM Babiš added.

The government also addressed adjustments to the measures in force. It amended the crisis measure ordering students to work so that regional governors and the mayor of Prague could give priority to ending the work obligation of students in their final year of secondary school or higher vocational school. The purpose of this change is to allow students to start preparing for final exams. The second change is lifting the ban on in-patient medical facilities conducting non-urgent operations due to the risk of overloading their capacity. It is still the case, however, that hospitals must maintain reserve capacity for patients with COVID-19 in case their numbers grow.

The government also approved earmarking up to CZK 7.493 billion from the government budget reserve for shoring up the expenditures of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The ministry will utilise these funds along with its own savings to cover the growing mandatory expenditures for paying out sickness insurance benefits and unemployment support. Both these items have risen beyond the planned budget, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government furthermore acquainted itself with the Health Minister's information on the steps the ministry is taking to ensure sufficient volume of COVID-19 vaccine. The Czech Republic has currently secured vaccine doses for a total of 5.5 persons for CZK 1.8 billion. Doses for all countries of the European Union are being secured by the European Commission, which is negotiating with all potential manufacturers. Currently the Commission has binding preliminary contracts in place with five companies and is still in talks with three potential producers. The Czech Republic could then obtain doses for another 10.6 million persons for CZK 4.6 billion.

During their video conference, cabinet members also approved an increase in the volume of funds for remuneration of members of the Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic for 2020 of CZK 54 491 000. This is money paid out for being on-call and overtime worked by professional firefighters as a key component of the Integrated Rescue System in the fight against COVID-19 based on the needs of the Central Crisis Staff, the government, regions and municipalities. Among other things, firefighters have been distributing protective equipment and helping out at social care facilities stricken by the coronavirus.

The government also approved a draft amendment to the Act on Excise Duties, meant to help restaurants, hotels, bistros and similar facilities that sell draught beer. The government will propose to Parliament that they pass under legislative emergency an extension to the existing tax break that allows for the return of already taxed but unsold beer to tax warehouses from the current 31 December 2020 to indefinitely. According to the Ministry of Finance, it cannot be expected that the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic will have improved by the end of the year so as to allow full operation of these facilities. Beer, as a rapidly perishable commodity, cannot be stored long-term and not being able to "write it off" would cause restaurants and other facilities even greater financial problems. Making this option indefinite would additionally lead to increased legal certainty for entities and simplify administration of the whole process of allowing beer to be returned to a regime of conditional tax exemption.

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