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14-05-2014 18:36 | Ian Willoughby

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Lower house passes declaration reaffirming Czech commitment to NATO

The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday passed a declaration stating the Czech Republic regards NATO membership as a basic pillar of its security policy and is prepared to fulfil all commitments arising from its membership. The declaration was proposed by the minister of defence, Martin Stropnický. Earlier this week he sparked opposition criticism by telling the Reuters news agency that the permanent presence of NATO units on Czech soil would be a problem for a significant part of the population in view of the occupation by Soviet troops in the past.

Court clears ex-defence minister accused of soliciting large bribe

Prague Municipal Court has cleared a former minister of defence, Martin Barták, of bribe-taking in connection with the purchase of Tatra all-terrain vehicles for the Czech army. A co-defendant, armaments manufacturer Michal Smrž, was cleared of attempted fraud. Mr. Barták had been accused of asking the chairman of Tatra’s supervisory board for a bribe of USD 5 million to smooth a deal to buy nearly 600 all-terrain vehicles in 2008 while he was deputy minister of defence. The supervisory board chairman was William Cabannis, a former US ambassador to Prague.

PM: Full accession to EU’s Fiscal Compact would be difficult for coalition

The government would have problems reducing the Czech Republic's structural deficit if it fully signed up to the European Union’s Fiscal Compact, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said on Wednesday. Mr. Sobotka said in order to meet its requirements the coalition would have to make cuts, which his Social Democrats would oppose, or raise taxes, which its partners ANO is against. The government approved accession to the stability treaty in March; however, it envisages taking on board the main planks of the compact only after the country adopts the euro.

Babiš says teachers’ salaries will rise slightly, denying plans for pay freeze

The Ministry of Finance is to recommend that teachers get a 1 percent pay rise as part of next year’s budget. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš told journalists that teachers’ unions’ assertions that the government planned to freeze teachers’ salaries were untrue. Mr. Babiš said that teachers deserved a pay rise, but that the Ministry of Education would need to reduce operating costs. He and the education minister, Marcel Chládek, are due to hold talks. Representatives of teachers’ unions said on Tuesday that their members’ pay would be frozen next year, while other public servants would see higher salaries.

Fresh group of Czech soldiers fly to Sinai Peninsula to take part in observer mission

The first unit of Czech soldiers taking part in an observer mission in the Sinai Peninsula is to be replaced by the end of the month, according to a spokesperson for the general staff of the Czech army. Eleven soldiers who left from Prague’s Kbely military airport on an army plane on Wednesday morning are to serve for six months with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), which oversees the terms of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The troops will use the CASA plane they flew out to carry out their mission.

Eastern regions may see flooding from Thursday evening

Weather forecasters have warned that flooding may occur in the eastern Moravia-Silesia, Olomouc and Zlín regions from Thursday evening as heavy rainfall causes rivers to rise. Small streams in the regions in question could reach the highest level of flood alert, say meteorologists. Water management officials have begun monitoring the situation. Heavy rains are also expected in Bohemia, though flooding is unlikely to occur in the western half of the country.

Conversion of spa into gallery wins 2014 Architecture Grand Prix

The prestigious 2014 Architecture Grand Prix has gone to the SIAL studio for its conversion of an early 20th century municipal spa in Liberec into a gallery and depository. An international jury selected the project from 69 entries in the competition, which is run by the Society of Czech Architects and the Czech Chamber of Architects. The jury said the conversion had succeeded in maintaining the “relationship between the historic and the new at the desired equilibrium”. Architect Zdeněk Edel, who designed the Parkhotel in Prague, received a lifetime achievement award at Tuesday evening’s prize giving ceremony in the city.

Cimrman comic theatre to get first English version of play

Prague’s Jára Cimrman comic theatre is to put on an English language version of one of its plays for the first time. Záskok by theatre stalwarts Ladislav Smoljak and Zdeněk Svěrák will be performed next year as The Stand-In in an English version sponsored by the British Council. A staged reading of the translation, which is by Brian Stewart and Emílie Machalová, will take place at the Žižkov theatre on June 20. Jára Cimrman is a hugely popular fictitious character credited with great inventions and achievements.

Czechs beat Italy 2:0 at ice hockey Worlds

The Czech Republic have beaten Italy 2:0 at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus. The Czechs’ victory on Wednesday came thanks to goals from Jiří Sekáč and Jaromír Jágr, with one each in the second and third periods. The result leaves the Czech Republic on six points after four games in Group A. Their next match is against Denmark on Saturday.

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