Zaorálek calls on Moscow to aid crash investigation and cease sending weapons and gunmen to eastern Ukraine
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, says the Russian Federation should provide assistance to an independent investigation into the crash of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine and also cease sending weapons and gunmen to the region. He said if Moscow failed to do so in a matter of days an extraordinary EU summit should adopt strong sanctions targeted at sectors of the Russian economy. Mr. Zaorálek was speaking in Brussels, where EU foreign ministers have been meeting for the first time since Thursday’s incident, in which almost 300 people died when a Malaysian Airlines flight came down in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.
Euro commissioner nominee: Prague eyeing regional policy, transport and administrative affairs portfolios
The Czech Republic has its sights on three potential European commissioner posts, the country’s nominee Věra Jourová said on Tuesday. Ms. Jourová, who has up to now been Czech minister for regional development, said the country was primarily interested in the portfolios of regional policy, administrative affairs and transport. She said she would not be involved in negotiations on her future position and was preparing for a “grilling” of candidates at the European Parliament in September.
Government nominates army chief Pavel for senior NATO post
The Czech government has approved the candidature of the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Petr Pavel, for the post of chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday night, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said General Pavel had a “very solid chance” of obtaining the position, which is second only to the secretary general in the NATO hierarchy. For his part, the general said if he wins the post in a vote in mid September it will be a great honour for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust on the part of the country’s allies.
Minister unveils bill that would make national parks more accessible to hikers
A bill being prepared by the ministry of the environment is aimed at making Czech national parks more accessible to hikers, giving more powers to municipalities and simplifying regulations, Minister Richard Brabec said on Tuesday. He described the planned amendment to the law on the environment, the most extensive in two decades, as revolutionary. However, the proposed opening of zones of national parks that are now closed to the public could put represent a threat to wildlife, a representative of the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth said in response to Tuesday’s announcement.
Government report on human rights says country needs children’s Ombudsman
The Czech Republic is one of the last remaining EU states which does not have a children’s Ombudsman, according to a government report on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic. The report says that while cases relating to minors are dealt with by the Ombudsman’s Office, the institution lacks the staff and money needed to deal with the vast amount of requests for help it gets annually and children’ cases deserve priority. The Czech Republic has come under fire from international institutions for failing to give Romany children equal access to education, failing to secure the right of children from divorced families to be in contact with both parents and keeping them in children’s homes for years in order to protect the rights of their biological parents.
Černý loses appeal against paying damages to ex-National Gallery chief over insult
Sculptor David Černý must pay a former director of the Czech National Gallery, Milan Knížák, CZK 100,000 in damages for defaming him in a Czech Television interview. The Prague Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal lodged by Mr. Černý, upholding a previous decision it made. The artist also has to pay Mr. Knížák’s court costs. Mr. Černý used abusive language to describe the then National Gallery head in an interview for a 2011 documentary on an award for young artists. Mr. Černý caused controversy with a sculpture for the 2009 Czech presidency of the EU that was considered offensive by some member states.
Man charged with death of homeless man “over 350 crowns”
Police have charged a man with an attack on a homeless man in Prague that resulted in the latter’s death. The accused, who is 34, faces a charge of grievous bodily harm resulting in death in connection with the incident, which occurred near the Hradčanská tram stop in Prague 6 on Monday, and faces up to 16 years in jail if found guilty. The motive for the attack, in which the victim was beaten and kicked, was a debt of CZK 350, a police spokesperson said.
Police charge man over hit and run injury of six pedestrians
Prague police have filed charges against a foreign man who drove onto a pavement in central Prague at the weekend, seriously injuring six pedestrians. The man, who is 26, then fled the scene. He has been charged with failure to provide assistance, endangerment while under the influence and bodily harm; if found guilty, he could face up to eight years in prison. The incident occurred on the city’s Hybernská St at 6:30 AM on Sunday. The driver abandoned his car but left personal documents in the vehicle.
Storms batter south-western Bohemia
Storms and heavy rain complicated traffic and flooded cellars in many parts of the country, particularly in south-western Bohemia. Rail traffic between Prague and Mariánské Lázně was disrupted for several hours on Monday night and fire crews worked around the clock clearing away uprooted trees and pumping water from cellars. In some places the rain amounted to 67 liters per square meter, causing flash floods which temporarily closed down the lobby of Prague’s Mustek metro station. The ABC theatre in Prague was flooded for the third time this year.
Coalition chooses Jourová to be next Czech EU commissioner
The ANO movement's Minister for Regional Development, Věra Jourová, has been nominated by the ruling coalition for the post of Czech EU commissioner. The coalition, led by the Social Democrats, made the announcement before Monday’s cabinet meeting. Ms Jourová’s nomination received a boost last week after it became apparent that a female nominee to the new commission headed by new head Jean-Claude Juncker was preferred. For weeks, parties in the coalition had pushed their own candidates, with the the Social Democrats, for example, originally getting behind former finance minister Pavel Mertlík.
Social Democrats support Jourová’s candidacy in return for higher minimal wage growth
According to inside sources close to the government, the Social Democrats traded their support for Věra Jourová’s nomination to the post of EU commissioner for a higher minimal wage growth and more money for the social services sphere in 2015. The ANO party, which holds the finance ministry portfolio, has nodded to both. The Social Democrats want a minimal wage hike by 700 crowns a month, as opposed to the proposed 500 crown increase, and want to pump 750 million crowns more into the sphere of social services.
ANO debating candidate for regional development minister
The ANO party of the ruling coalition is to debate who should replace Věra Jourová in the post of regional development minister following her nomination to be the country’s next EU commissioner. According to party leader Andrej Babiš one of the candidates being considered is deputy regional affairs minister Klára Dostálová who is in charge of the EU operation programmes agenda. The Czech Republic has in the past had problems with drawing of EU funds and the question who should replace Ms Jourová, who is an expert in the field, is seen as being of utmost importance.
President emphasizes need to push ahead with economic diplomacy
President Miloš Zeman who attended Monday’s cabinet meeting praised the ruling coalition for its willingness to spend money on investment projects, saying it had given the public “reason to hope” in a better future. Mr. Zeman took part in the government session primarily to emphasize the need for the government to strengthen the sphere of economic diplomacy and push ahead with plans to expand Czech business interests beyond EU borders. He mentioned in particular Russia, China, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as offering considerable potential.
Government approves wage freeze for top public officials
The Czech government has approved extending a freeze on the wages of top public officials up until 2018. The proposal, put forward by the Labour Ministry, would see the wages of the president, government ministers, senators, deputies and judges kept on their present level for another four years after a previous freeze expires at the end of 2014. The only exemption is a one percent valorisation due to inflation. The proposal, which still has to pass through Parliament, would affect some 4,000 people.
Hundreds attend funeral of servicemen killed in Afghanistan
Several hundred people on Monday attended the funeral of Sergeant Ivo Klusák, one of the five Czech servicemen who died in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. The 34-year-old soldier was given a funeral with military honours attended by Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, army chief-of-staff Petr Pavel and members of the Chrudim special forces. He was awarded a medal for bravery in memoriam. Sergeant Klusák served in six foreign mission, four of those in Afghanistan.
Olomouc State Attorney’s Office cracks down on tax evasion
The State Attorney’s Office in Olomouc has filed charges of tax evasion against a dozen people in the region. According to Olomouc State Attorney Karel Studený the case involves a number of companies and two lawyers who masterminded the tax scams. The damage is said to have reached tens of millions of crowns. The Czech government recently set up a special team, made up of experts from different fields, to crack-down on large scale tax evasion which is costing the country billions of crowns in lost revenues.
Police searching for aggressor who killed homeless man in Prague
Police are searching for a man who brutally beat up a homeless person in the streets of Prague in the early hours of Monday. The homeless man died of grievous internal injuries shortly after. The incident happened shortly before 7am at a Hradčanská tram stop. The police have released a description of the aggressor and asked potential witnesses to come forward. If convicted the man could face a sentence of up to 16 years.
Actor Václav Sloup dies at 78
Czech actor Václav Sloup, known for his work in TV series such as Chalupáři and Ulice (The Street) has died at the age of 78. The news was confirmed on Sunday by fellow actor Jiří Krampol. As a young man, Sloup originally studied to be a carpenter but applied to the DAMU academy after military service. He originally joined the famous Theatre on the Balustrade in Prague. In his career, he appeared in numerous films, with roles in Frantíšek Vláčil’s Markéta Lazarová and Jaromil Jireš’ 1963 film The Cry, one of the first films of the Czech New Wave.
Meteorologists issue storm warning
Meteorologists have issued a storm warning for the south-western parts of the country where heavy rain on Monday night and Tuesday morning may swell smaller rivers. Day temperatures should not drop below 22 degrees Celsius but the southern parts of the country may be hit by heavy storms with hailstones and high wind. The week is expected to be hot and humid with plenty of rain and temperatures gradually rising back to the 30s.
Police president says he will come forward with plans for new cybernetic crime unit
Czech Police President Tomáš Tuhý has said he will present plans for a new cybernetic police unit by the end of the year. He made the statement on a Sunday TV debate programme. According to the police president, while police specialists were currently successfully combatting internet crime, in the future they required their own crime unit or risk falling behind hackers. It is unknown what the new unit could cost. Police President Tuhý repeated that he would be asking for a budget increase of three billion crowns for next year. The new unit could become operational by 2016.
Six hurt as vehicle strikes parked car
Six pedestrians were injured in Prague in the early hours of Sunday when a driver lost control of his vehicle at he sped on a city street, striking a parked car which hit them. The accident took place at around 7:30 AM. The driver fled the scene. The police found ID belonging to the car's owner, a 26-year-old foreign national, and are investigating whether he was the person behind the wheel. They caught up with him later on Sunday. Those injured in the accident were two women and four men, between the ages of 22 and 48.
Heavy thunderstorms to snap heat wave
The heat wave that has lasted over the last several days in the Czech Republic will be snapped on Monday with the coming of heavy thunderstorms across the country, meteorologists have warned. Bohemia is expected to be hit by storms on Monday morning, with Moravia and Silesia being affected later in the day and Tuesday. Warnings for Prague and elsewhere are in place between 9 AM and 8 PM; in Moravia, until the next day. Public pools and swimming areas saw major interest this weekend as temperatures rose well above 30 degrees Celsius.
Construction of final stretch of D11 to begin
After an eight year delay, road construction crews will begin work to complete the D11 highway to Hradec Králové. In 2006, a 2.5 kilometre stretch of highway remained unfinished due to the state failing to agree with landowners on a price for owned property. A deal was later reached. The project was also delayed by the construction firm so additional contractual issues could be resolved. Construction is set to begin on Tuesday and is expected to wrap up in August of 2017.
Lansfeld to pay 16,000 crown fine
The head of the police in Usti, Tomáš Lansfeld, has been given a 16,000 crown fine and six-month ban from driving by the country's police president Tomáš Tuhý. His subordinate was caught in May behind the wheel with a low amount of alcohol in his blood while on vacation. The Czech Republic has a zero tolerance policy. Police President Tuhý said in this case the punishment was stricter than it would have been for a regular citizen.
Sixteen-year-old patient given artificial heart, reports TV Nova
A 16-year-old boy has become the first minor in the Czech Republic to be given an artificial heart, commercial broadcaster TV Nova reported on Saturday. The youth, who comes from the Hodonin area in South Moravia, had suffered from a serious heart defect since he was a baby. He is among dozens in the Czech Republic who have received an artificial heart while waiting for a biological donor. The chief physician at the children's cardiac centre at Motol Hospital in Prague, where the procedure took place, said it was unique that the device was wholly implanted in the patient's body and that the patient had been able to return home and was allowed, for example, to walk.
Czech men's softball team wins championship title
The national men's softball team on Saturday crushed Denmark 8:0 to defend their European Championship title from the Netherlands two years ago. The Czechs have now won the European title eight times but no team had won the championship on home soil in 15 years. The competition this year took place in Havlíčkův Brod.
Court sends Hrůza's attackers into custody
The district court in Ostrava has sent two youths, aged 18 and 19, who are suspects in a brutal attack on singer and musician Michal Hrůza, into custody. Hrůza underwent brain surgery in the early hours of Thursday after suffering from internal bleeding after allegedly being attacked by the two. His condition remains serious. The state prosecutor overseeing the case said that Hrůza had intervened to try and prevent a fight between the youths and was badly beaten for it. The two are charged with grievous bodily harm, a crime which carries a maximum ten year sentence. Hrůza is a highly-respected singer and songwriter, who wrote hits for his former band Ready Kirken as well as for other performers including Aneta Langerová and for his solo career. The singer had been in Ostrava to perform.
iDNES: footballing legend Panenka planning senatorial bid
Retired footballing legend Antonín Panenka, the scorer of a famous chip during penalties in the final versus West Germany in the European Championships in 1976, is planning on entering politics with a senatorial run, according to news website iDNES. According to the website, Panenka is likely to be nominated leader of a movement called Independents for Prague 10 ahead of elections to the Senate this autumn. He would run to fill a seat formerly held by Jaromír Štetina, who was elected to the European Parliament in May, for a shortened mandate of two years. An announcement by the former international is expected next week.
Website: Jourová a step closer to being nominated as European commissioner
The ANO movement's Minister for Regional Development, Věra Jourová, appears to be a step closer to being nominated by the ruling coalition for post of Czech EU commissioner, according to news website iDNES. Social Democrat Interior Minister Michal Chovanec told the daily the Social Democrats would put the interests of the country ahead of their own; the party had been pushing for the nomination of former finance minister Pavel Mertlík. But there was speculation that a female candidate would more likely gain traction within a new commission headed by new head Jean-Claude Juncker. The heads of the three parties in government was to finalise the name before the regular cabinet meeting on Monday.
Czech mountain climber rescued in Slovakia
A 27-year-old Czech mountain climber had to be rescued by helicopter in neighbouring Slovakia. The climber made a wrong decision in Slovakia's High Tatras, on the Kezmar massif, and became stranded in territory too difficult for his equipment. He contacted the mountain rescue on Friday but could not be picked up until Saturday morning. The climber did not suffer any injuries.
Sports plane pilot killed in acrobatic aerials crash
The 51-year-old pilot of a small sports plane was killed during an acrobatic aerials competition near the airport in Kroměříž on Saturday morning. The accident took place shortly before 11 AM. The plane reportedly caught fire before it crashed. The aircraft hit the ground just 60 metres or so from a family home. The rest of the event, organised by a local areoclub, was immediately called off. Police are investigating.
Over 25 years almost half million Czechs experienced the drunk tank
Over the last 25 years, just under 475,000 Czechs ended up at some point in the drunk tank, under the heavy influence of alcohol or drugs, according to new health care statistics. Some 84 percent of those to held overnight over the 25 years were men. Last year, some 23,000 spent the night in one of 17 facilities, a drop of around 5,500 year-on-year. Last year, the number of minors detained was only two percent, down from nine percent in 2006.
Sparta Prague win Czech Supercup
Czech football club Sparta Prague downed Viktoria Plzeň in the Czech Supercup by a score of 3:0. Sparta got goals from Lafata, Krejčí and Breznaník. The Supercup pits the winners of the Czech top league and the Czech Cup against each other.
Czech defence minister pays morale-boosting visit to Czech troops in Afghanistan
Defence Minister Martin Stropnický on Thursday paid a morale-boosting visit to Czech troops in Afghanistan, following last week’s suicide bomb attack which killed five servicemen. According to military sources the minister thanked the troops guarding the Bagram military base for their good work and discussed the practical aspects of their service in the wake of heightened attacks by Taliban insurgents. The minister also brought messages of support that people sent the Czech unit in the wake of the tragic incident. It took a tragedy of such proportions for people to come to appreciate and admire their servicemen’s great courage, the minister told the troops. For security reasons, information about the minister’s visit was only released on Friday.
Czech Bagram contingent reinforced with replacements
Five replacements for the soldiers killed in last week’s suicide attack also flew out to Afghanistan on the special flight from the Czech Republic on Thursday. The five will be given three-days of special training at the Bagram air base before taking up their duties. Around 150 Czech soldiers are tasked with patrolling the perimeter of the massive base with the main goal to stop rocket attacks being launched on it. The Czech contingent has been particularly successful in the past in collecting information about possible attacks.
Funerals of two soldiers to take place in East Bohemia
The funerals of two of the Czech soldiers were due to take place on Friday. Full military honours were given for 39-year-old corporal Jan Šenkýř at Hradec Králové in the morning. He was promoted in memorium to rank warrant officer. Around 1,000 people attended the ceremony. The funeral of 19 year old corporal Libor Ligač was due to be held not far away at Týniště nad Orlicí on Friday afternoon. Funerals of the remaining two soldiers still have to take place.
Czech Airlines re-routes all eastern-bound flights to avoid Ukrainian airspace
Czech Airlines has confirmed that it had changed the flight paths of all its eastern-bound flights in order to avoid Ukraine’s airspace following the downing of a Malaysian plane that killed close to 300 people on Thursday. A spokesman said all late night Flights on Thursday and all flights on Friday had been rerouted though some may take slightly longer as a result of the changed route. Passengers have been advised to contact information.
Foreign minister says no Czechs appear to have been on Malaysia Airlines flight
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said Friday that no Czechs appear to have perished on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing B777. There was uncertainty surrounding around 40 names whose nationalities were not yet known, he said, but it appeared that no Czechs had been on board the flight from Amsterdam but 100 percent certainty was not possible. Zaorálek said Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine should give immediate access to independent accident investigators and that relatives of the deceased should also be allowed to the crash site if they wanted. Those were arguments in favour of an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing conflict, he added.
Members of Czech kidnapping and murder gang given life sentences
The two ringleaders of a gang whose kidnapping of wealthy Czechs sometimes ended up with murder have been given life sentences by a Prague court on Friday. Michael Šváb and Libor Skopalík were given life sentences for their roles in the five-man gang. The court heard how they picked their targets from rich Czech businessmen when they were abroad. One of the targets though was said to have been killed in the Dubai desert after being suffocated and hit on the head with a stone. Another businessman was shot in Italy after being first abducted in Nice. Members of the gang were said to have met in prison where they planned their future actions after they were released.
Former minister Martin Bursík backed by TOP 09 for Senate seat
Former leader of the Green Party and ex minister of the environment Martin Bursík has announced he has been selected to by the centre-right TOP 09 party to stand for the Czech Upper house, the Senate. Bursík said he had been backed by Prague 1’s executive committee to stand in spite of the fact that he is a member and founder of another environmental party, LES. TOP 09 deputy chairwoman Helena Langšádlová said that Bursík was both a democrat and pro-European in explanation of the support. The Senate seat which will be contested in the autumn is currently held by Civic Democrat Zděnek Schwarz.
High temperatures and fire warnings issued for weekend
Temperatures climbed on Friday to above 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the Czech Republic with even hotter weather and temperatures of up to 33 degrees Celsius expected on Saturday. One of the hottest spots is expected to be Southern Moravia. The heat spell has been accompanied by fire warnings, especially in the south of the country. The hot weather is expected to break on Monday night when heavy storms are predicted.
Sparta Prague takes on Viktoria Plzeň in super cup match
Czech league and cup double winners Sparta Prague take on Viktoria Plzeň in the Czech super cup on Friday night in the traditional curtain raiser to the league season. Sparta go into the game keen to follow up from their mid-week 7:0 demolition of the Estonian champions in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier. Viktoria Plzeň will be looking to avenge in particular the costly mistakes against Sparta that robbed them of their chance of winning the cup at the end of last season.
Czech clubs notch up wins in Europa League qualifiers
Czech football clubs Slovan Liberec and Mladá Boleslav both won the opening legs of the Europa League qualifying games on Thursday night. Slovan Liberec beat Slovakia’s Košice 1:0 away and Mladá Boleslav bet Bosnia and Herzegovinian club Široki Brijeg 2:1 at home. Both matches were goalless at half time. The return legs will be held in a week’s time.
Hundreds attend soldier’s funeral
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of one of the five soldiers killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Sergeant David Benes was laid to rest in his home town of Chomutov, north Bohemia, on Thursday. A mass served in the Church of St. Ignac was for family and friends only but the funeral at the local cemetery was open to the public. The soldier was buried with military honours.
Bill on reduced 10 percent VAT passed in its first reading
The lower house on Thursday approved in its first reading a government-proposed bill which would introduce a reduced 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. A final vote on the bill in the lower house is expected in September, after which it will still have to win approval in the Senate and be signed into law by the president.
Aero Vodochody signs sales deal with Draken International on 28 L-159 planes
The plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody has signed a contract with the American firm Draken International on the sale of 28 of the Czech army’s surplus L-159 combat aircraft. The deal is being brokered by Aero Vodochody since under Czech law the Defence Ministry cannot sell off its surplus equipment directly. The company did not say how much Draken is paying for the aircraft. According to earlier reports the price is from 16 to 18 million crowns for one plane.
PM looks at problems and priorities of human rights portfolio
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday met with the Minister For Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier to discuss problems and priorities in the given portfolio. He praised the minister’s strategy in fighting social exclusion and integrating the Roma minority. Minister Dienstbier is pushing ahead with plans to establish social housing and is currently working on a bill that would increase the powers of the Ombudsman.
Višegrad Group and South Korea to broaden cooperation
The Višegrad Group states and South Korea have agreed to broaden bilateral cooperation in the areas of business, science and culture, the ctk news agency reports. At a meeting in Bratislava on Thursday Czech, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian and South Korean officials discussed potential areas of cooperation. The Višegrad Group countries have attracted plenty of South Korean investors. Most recently the tire manufacturer Nexen chose the Czech Republic for its 23 billion crown investment, a tire plant that is expected to create over 1,000 new jobs.
President refuses to appoint Judge Jan Veselý chief justice of the regional court in Ustí nad Labem
President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint Judge Jan Veselý chief justice of the regional court in Ustí nad Labem, the ctk news agency reports. According to the president’s spokesman the head of state based his decision on the negative stand of the Czech Judges Union to the nomination as well as the poor performance of the court in Mělnik where Judge Veselý is currently chief justice.
Civil service bill set for approval in lower house next week
After seven hours of debates, Czech MPs on Wednesday night backed the government’s civil service bill which is now set for approval; the final legislative round is to begin in the lower house next week. The opposition has threatened to filibuster the draft legislation; the TOP 09 and Civic Democrat parties claim that if passed, the bill would make it difficult to dismiss public servants currently holding positions in the state administration. The bill is long overdue according to the EU and several anti-corruption NGOs which believe that it should, among other things, curb corruption among public employees.
Some charges against Barták to be reviewed
The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced physician Jaroslav Barták to 12 years in prison for sexual assault and blackmail, reducing an earlier sentence by two years and ordering the Prague municipal court to review some of the charges against him. Mr Barták was convicted of assaulting 10 women between 2006 and 2011 who worked as his assistants. The 54-year-old, who co-owns a well-known Prague clinic and served as the head of a local branch of Lions Club International, has consistently denied the charges and may once again appeal the verdict. He has in addition been charged with conspiracy to murder.
Singer Michal Hrůza in critical condition
Czech singer Michal Hrůza, who was due to perform at the Colours of Ostrava music festival tonight, is hospital in critical condition after getting into a fight outside a bar in the city in the early morning hours of Thursday. A hospital spokesperson said Hrůza had suffered severe brain damage and the prospects were uncertain. The police is investigating the incident.
Colours of Ostrava music festival kicks off on Thursday
The 13th edition of the annual international music festival Colours of Ostrava kicks off in the eastern city of Ostrava on Thursday. One of the biggest such events in central Europe, the festival’s line-up this year features more than a hundred bands and artists including the singer Robert Plant, the US bands The National and MGMT and as well as a number of Czech performers. The festival, which is held in a former mining and industrial complex in Dolní Vítkovíce, runs until Sunday; some 35,000 people are expected to attend.