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20-05-2014 16:47 | Ian Willoughby

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Sobotka : Medium-term target for defence spending 1.4 percent of GDP

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, says the government's medium-term target is to raise spending on defence to the equivalent of 1.4 percent of the country’s GDP. He said it was not aiming for the 2 percent encouraged by NATO, of which the Czech Republic is a member. Nevertheless, the country will reduce its military spending in 2015, Mr. Sobotka told reporters on Tuesday. On a recent visit to Prague the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called on the Czech Republic to boost defence spending.

News sites: Ex-East Timor president Ramos-Horta listed as collaborator in StB files

Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta is listed as a collaborator in the files of Czechoslovakia’s communist era secret police, the StB, the news sites iDnes and Echo24 reported on Tuesday. According to the StB records, Mr. Ramos-Horta provided StB officers with information against the United States in New York in the 1970s, when he was at the UN representing the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor. Mr. Ramos-Horta, who was president of East Timor until 2012, denies having spied for Czechoslovakia; he says he was approached by StB agents but refused to cooperate with them.

Intelligence report: Growing crossover between football hooligans and neo-Nazis

There is a growing crossover between football hooligans and neo-Nazi groups, according to a newly published report from the BIS intelligence service. The trend has been observed at anti-Roma demonstrations. The report said that in general political extremists did not represent a genuine threat to democracy in the Czech Republic last year. However, the number of crimes committed linked to political extremism grew slightly in 2013. The most common such crime was “supporting groups aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of others”.

Brno opens the way for Amazon warehouses

Brno councillors on Tuesday approved changes to the city’s local development plan which will enable e-commerce giant Amazon to build a long-disputed distribution centre on the outskirts of Brno. The decision approved by 29 votes out of 55, comes after weeks of controversy and protests from some of the locals regarding the presence of warehouses in relatively close proximity to Brno’s housing estates. In order to facilitate the deal, which is expected to create 1,500 new jobs, the government recently removed a clause banning the use of land being offered to Amazon for warehouses. At the start of April Amazon representatives indicated that they had given up on investing in Brno; however, after talks with the Czech prime minister they said they would reconsider.

Press: Police believe Nečas knew Nagyová ordered spying

The police believe that then prime minister Petr Nečas was aware that his chief of staff Jana Nagyová had ordered the intelligence services to monitor people, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday. Ms. Nagyová, who is now married to Mr. Nečas, is accused of having military intelligence officers spy on his then wife. A document from the police’s organised crime unit obtained by Mladá fronta Dnes says that all their information indicated that Mr. Nečas was one of at least three other people who knew about Ms. Nagyová’s actions. Mr. Nečas’s government collapsed in the wake of the arrest of Ms. Nagyová and others last year.

Czech president begins state visit to Romania

Czech President Miloš Zeman begins a two-day visit to Romania on Tuesday at the invitation of his Romanian counterpart President Traian Băsescu. The Czech head of state is expected to meet with Romanian government officials and business leaders with economic interests high on the agenda of the talks. The two sides are also expected to discuss EU matters and security issues in the light of the Ukraine crisis. Bucharest recently announced it wanted to join the Eurozone by 2019. The Czech Republic has yet to set a time frame for euro-adoption.

Thieves make off with millions of crowns worth of watches from upmarket Pařížská St.

Thieves made off with watches worth CZK 4.5 million after a robbery at a shop on Prague’s upmarket Pařížská St. at lunchtime on Monday, a police spokesperson said. The police have posted a video of the incident on their website and appealed for witnesses, particularly a taxi driver who may have driven the Russian speaking thieves to the Audemars Piguet branch that was robbed.

Manuscript of The Trial among highlights of Prague exhibitions marking Kafka anniversaries

Two exhibitions at Prague’s Old Town Hall will mark the 90th anniversary of the death of the author Franz Kafka next month and the 100th anniversary of when he began writing his novel The Trial. The centrepiece of an exhibition entitled The Trial will be the original manuscript of one of the greatest works in world literature, while a concurrent exhibition will focus on the portrayal of Kafka and his work in comics by artists such as Robert Crumb and Jaromír 99. Both begin on May 23 and run until June 30. Theatre performances and lectures are also planned in connection with the anniversaries.

Winds and rain destroy over 3 percent of forestry agency’s annual output

Heavy winds and rain in the last week destroyed almost 250,000 cubic metres of wood owned by state forestry agency Lesy ČR, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. The wood lost amounts to over 3 percent of Lesy ČR's annual output. Removing and processing the trees blown down could take weeks or even months. People have been warned to be careful if they visit forestry hit by the recent adverse weather conditions, which had a particularly strong impact in Moravia.

Rosický missing Finland friendly due to illness

Captain Tomáš Rosický will miss the Czech Republic’s soccer friendly against Finland on Wednesday due to illness. Rosický, who on Saturday won England’s FA Cup with Arsenal, joined the Czech squad on Monday afternoon but on Tuesday reported gastroenteritis and has not travelled to Helsinki. Coach Pavel Vrba said he was disappointed but in any case wanted to experiment without the creative midfielder for part of the game.

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