Friday, 15 December 2017

Senate calls on parties not to put campaign above Czech interests

ČTK |
12 October 2017

Prague, Oct 11 (CTK) - The Czech Senate approved a resolution urging politicians, mainly those from ANO and the Communist Party (KSCM), not to put their political interests and election campaigning above the interests of the Czech Republic at the close of its debate on current discords on lithium mining on Wednesday.

The resolution was pushed through the upper house by Civic Democrat (ODS) senator Milos Vystrcil after an almost four-hour debate.

Also on Vystrcil's proposal, the Senate called on Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek (Social Democrats, CSSD) and Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) to better coordinate their ministries' steps in favour of the most effective use of raw materials for the benefit of the regions concerned and the whole Czech Republic.

The Senate asked the government to change its directive on the prices of extracted raw materials to make it more advantageous for the state.

If the current prices were applied, the state would get 0.7 percent of the market price for a tonne of extracted lithium, senator Jitka Seitlova, from the Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) deputies' group, said.

PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) said the aim of the current lash out by critics at Havlicek over a lithium memorandum he signed with an Australian firm is to divert attention from troubles faced by ANO head Andrej Babis,

Sobotka drew a link between the lash out and the upcoming general election.

He said he ascribes no weight to Babis labelling the memorandum a theft the CSSD committed in broad daylight.

Babis uses untrue and false arguments, Sobotka said in the Senate debate on the lithium affair.

Similarly, Havlicek said the issue has been misused in the pre-election struggle.

"It is an outrageous attack on me and the ministry I head," Havlicek said.

He said the attack has come from Babis's ANO movement and the KSCM, which have initiated the lower house's extraordinary session to discuss the issue.

Havlicek said ANO and the KSCM's attempts to scandalise the memorandum show how close the two parties stand to each other. It must be clear to everybody that the critics needed to cover up Babis's Stork Nest case of a suspected subsidy fraud, Havlicek said.

Brabec reacted saying no one wanted to misuse the pre-election debate. He dismissed the idea of ANO wanting to cover up the Stork Nest case.

Sobotka said the first steps in prospecting the Czech lithium deposits by the Geomet firm, owned by Australian EMH, were taken by the Environment Ministry when previously headed by Civic Democrats (ODS) Pavel Drobil and Tomas Chalupa, and also under the current Minister Brabec.

The memorandum Havlicek signed with EMH enhances the position of the Czech state, Sobotka asserted.

Brabec objected that there are five holders of Czech lithium prospecting licences, but the state has signed a memorandum with none except for EMH.

Havlicek said the single reason for this that Geomet's licence applies to Cinovec, the only lithium deposit of a potential importance for the Czech economy.

Sobotka said Geomet has the right to the Cinovec lithium deposits, north Bohemia, by 2025. No one else can launch mining there until that date. It the state Diamo company took up the prospecting, it may continue with it until 2025, he said.

Under the law, extracted raw materials do not belong to the state but to the miner. The state thus has no chance to influence the way the raw materials are used, Sobotka continued.

The memorandum is a strategic chance to enable lithium to be not only extracted but also processed in the Czech Republic, Sobotka said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the cabinet, comprised of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), refused to annul the memorandum on ANO's proposal.

The Czech Republic has some 3 percent of the world deposits of lithium, according to estimates. Most of them are situated in Cinovec, and a small deposit in the Slavkovsky les area, elsewhere in northwest Bohemia.

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