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02-05-2014 19:48 | Jan Richter

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Czech Muslims stage prayers outside Interior Ministry

Some 300 Muslims staged a prayer in Prague’s Letná Park outside the Czech Interior Ministry on Friday, in protest against last week’s police raid of two Islamic centres in the capital. The police raided a mosque and a prayer room during last week’s Friday prayers over the publication of a book which allegedly incited religious hatred; one man has been charged with hate speech crimes and faces up to 10 years in prison. On Friday, the head of the Czech Muslim community, Muneeb Hassan Alrawi warned against a surge of islamophobia which could have been triggered by the raid. The police operation has also come been criticized as inadequate by some politicians and public figures.

State school-leaving exams begin at secondary schools across Czech Republic

Over 87,000 final year students at Czech secondary schools began taking their state school-leaving exams on Friday. The examination, which began with a math test, is scheduled to conclude on May 13. Students are required to take a test in the Czech language and literature and are free to choose between maths and a foreign language; some 64 percent opted for the language test, a vast majority of them choosing English, the news agency ČTK reported. Students also sit exams in two additional subjects. Unified school-leaving exams are taking place for the fourth year but the Education Ministry plans to make the system simpler and cheaper in the coming years.

Strong storms hit Czech Republic

Storms with hail and strong winds hit the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. In parts of northern and central Bohemia, heavy rain has swollen local rivers and flooded houses. In the Zlín region, a lightning hit the roof of a family house on fire. Up to 30 mm of precipitation is expected in parts of the country which could swell smaller rivers in central Bohemia and the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands on Friday night, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said.

Court cancels dismissal of former totalitarian studies institute director

A court in Prague on Friday cancelled last year’s dismissal of Daniel Herman as the director of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Mr Herman, who now serves as the Czech minister of culture, said he welcomed the verdict. The institute’s board dismissed Daniel Herman last April over what his opponents saw as a series of mistakes; however, Mr Herman said the move was politically motivated. A new director of the institute, which administers the files of the former Communist secret police, was appointed last month.

ANO party ahead in new European Parliament elections poll

The ANO party has come on top of a new poll ahead of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. Nearly 25 percent of Czech voters would support ANO at the polls, according to the survey conducted by the STEM agency last month. The Social Democrats would win around 18.5 percent of the vote, followed by the Communists with nearly 12 percent and the TOP 09 party with 10.7 percent. The Civic Democrat and Christian Democrat parties would also win seats in the European Parliament, according to the poll.

Unions ask for coalition meeting over health care funding

Health care workers’ trade unions have asked Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka for coalition talks over health care funding. After a meeting with the prime minister and the health minister, the head of the unions, Martin Engle, said heads of the coalition parties should discuss issues such as doctors’ overtime and education as well as possible cost-cutting measures. Doctors complain that on average, they annually work more than 1,000 hours overtime while EU legislation only allows for 416 hours a year. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček said earlier this week his ministry would like to save around 1.5 billion crowns this year.

Most Czech entrepreneurs support euro adoption

Over three quarters of entrepreneurs in the Czech Republic would support the country’s accession to the euro zone, according to a survey made in connection with the tenth anniversary of the Czech Republic's entry in the EU. A quarter of those polled believe that the country should have adopted the euro already, nearly 30 percent support its adoption in 2018 to 2020 and some 22 percent think that the country should join the euro zone after 2020. Only 23 percent of the entrepreneurs are against euro adoption. Around three quarters of the entrepreneurs think that joining the EU was favourable for their company. They praise mostly free movement in the Schengen Area, EU subsidies and support instruments, the internal market and higher chances for trade. As for the main disadvantages of EU membership, domestic entrepreneurs cite higher bureaucracy and excessive regulation.

Ivo Schwarz, head of the Czech Foreign Intelligence Service, is to be the country’s new ambassador to Israel

Ivo Schwarz, head of the Czech Foreign Intelligence Service, is to be the country’s new ambassador to Israel, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Friday. The paper said that the appointment still needed to get official approval from President Zeman and the Israeli authorities which, given his qualifications, should not present a problem, the paper said. Ivo Schwarz has worked for the Foreign Intelligence Service since 1999. His scope of duties involved cooperation with partner secret services abroad, and intelligence diplomacy. In 2003, he was appointed a deputy director responsible for logistics, later he held the post of security director and in 2007 he was appointed head of Foreign Intelligence. He has an education in economics.

Top court upholds prison term for ex-boss of EU funds distribution agency

The Czech Supreme Court has upheld a sentence of five years in prison for Petr Kušnierz, the former head of the country’s regional operational programme North-West, the news agency ČTK reported on Friday. Along with two accomplices, Mr Kusnierz was in 2012 found guilty of demanding bribes from applicants for EU funding, and sentenced to 7.5 years in jail. An appellate court later lowered his sentence to 5 years. His two accomplices landed suspended sentences. Pertr Kušnier also faces charges of manipulating the selection procedures of projects to receive EU funding; prosecution claims he and his collaborators manipulated funding of around 1.4 billion crowns.

New director of Šumava National Park appointed

Pavel Hubený was on Friday appointed the acting director of the Šumava National Park. Mr Hubený, who has served as the head of the surrounding Šumava Protected Landscape Area, replaces Jiří Mánek. His predecessor was dismissed last week over disagreements with the Environment Ministry about the future of the park. After his appointment, the new director told the news agency ČTK he was going to review the projects planned by the park administration some of which could be halted. The Šumava National Park has for years been at the centre of controversies between proponents of logging and development and those who believe that as much of the park’s area as possible should be off limits for interventions.

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