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PM: Toll system tender is Transport Ministry’s priority

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Prague, Nov 14 (CTK) – The priority of the Transport Ministry is an open tender for the Czech toll system that should be declared in the first half of next year, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said after his talks with Transport Minister Dan Tok (ANO) on Monday.

Sobotka said the talks set the main goals that the ministry should achieve by the general election scheduled for next autumn. He said he wants all ministries to keep working hard until the last moment.

Last week, Sobotka criticised Tok. He said he would have considered Tok’s replacement if he had the power to dismiss him.

According to the coalition agreement of the CSSD, the ANO movement and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), each party has the right to make a decision on its own ministers. In reaction to Sobotka’s criticism, ANO leader Andrej Babis and KDU-CSL chairman Pavel Belobradek said they do not intend to sack any of their ministers.

On Friday, Sobotka announced that Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek and Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier will be replaced by Miloslav Ludvik and Jan Chvojka (all CSSD), respectively. Sobotka made the decision following the October regional and Senate elections, in which the CSSD failed, and ahead of the CSSD national congress, at which he will be defending the post of chairman next spring.

Tok said his meeting with Sobotka had a friendly atmosphere and focused on the work of his ministry.

Sobotka said they talked about the drawing of subsidies from the European budget and the preparation of crucial transport construction projects, including the planned opening of the D8 motorway.

Tok said the drawing of EU subsidies seems the weakest point in the work of his ministry. However, the goals will be achieved, he added.

The state toll collection contract with the Kapsch company will expire at the end of the year. Since there was not enough time to choose a new provider, the Transport Ministry extended the contract with Kapsch by three years, Tok said previously.

“It is vital that we make use of these three years and that a new contract is signed in time,” Sobotka said.

He said Tok assured him that the toll system will smoothly operate next year as well.

Tok said the ministry would not be able to declare a public tender for the toll system unless the contract with Kapsch was extended. The old contract with Kapsch did not deal with cooperation between Kapsch and the system’s new provider, he said.

Babis, who is finance minister, said the problems with Kapsch started in 2006 when the state signed the contract and when Sobotka was finance minister.

Sobotka plans to have meetings with all members of his cabinet this month. He said he would talk about possible personnel changes only afterwards, with Babis and Belobradek.

Babis said his meeting with Sobotka is scheduled for December 7.

Earlier on Monday, Babis said Sobotka is meeting ANO ministers in order to divert attention from the problems that the Social Democrats have recently been facing.

He said it is unfortunate that Sobotka has been dragging ANO into the internal disputes of the CSSD.

“I can understand the marketing campaign of the prime minister, but his communication is very unusual. I would at least expect him to let me know that he is going to invite ANO ministers (for talks),” Babis said.

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