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03-06-2014 17:43 | Ian Willoughby

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Sobotka: Czechs will not call for increased NATO presence in Europe

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says the Czech Republic will be calling for an increase in the presence of NATO troops in Europe. Mr. Sobotka made the comments in reaction to American President Barack Obama’s announcement on a visit to Poland that the US was planning to invest USD 1 billion in increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe in view of the situation in Ukraine and instability in the region. Speaking on a visit to Vienna, the Czech leader said he understood why Poland or the Baltic States were in favour of a greater US military presence. But he said he believed there would be no need to increase the number of NATO soldiers on the ground in Europe for some years if things remained as they were now.

ANO boss Babiš wants to change coalition agreement and bring back hospital fees

The minister of finance, Andrej Babiš of ANO, says he wants to hold talks with coalition partners the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats on reintroducing a fee for overnight hospital stays. The three parties agreed to abolish the fees in a coalition deal signed in January. However, Mr. Babiš said on Czech Television on Monday night that doing away with the CZK 100 a night fee was a mistake. He also wants to discuss bringing back a second pillar of the pension system, another legacy of the previous centre-right cabinet abolished by the current government. The Social and Christian Democrats have reacted coolly to the ANO chief’s call.

Deal reached to keep Prague’s Opencard in operation till end of June as city tries to strike deal with operator over price

Prague’s Opencard electronic card system will remain working as it is until at least the end of this month after the city authorities reached a deal with the company that operates it. There had been a threat that the firm eMoneyServices would stop issuing new cards from June 18. The two sides are in dispute over the cost of the service and councilors have threatened to do away with the Opencard entirely and return to paper travel passes only. Prague’s transport authority has said if no agreement on continuing with the card is reached it would be ready to have a paper ticket only system in place within weeks. eMoneyServices has significantly reduced its original price for continuing to operate the Opencard and talks with City Hall are still taking place. The card is used for transport and other services.

Sobotka suggests joint Czech-Austrian cabinet sessions on Vienna visit

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says Czech and Austrian ministers should hold regular meetings, following the model of joint sessions that the Czech cabinet hold with their Slovak counterparts. Mr. Sobotka made the comment in Vienna on Tuesday after talks with the Austrian president Heinz Fischer. The two men discussed deepening cooperation between the Visegrad Four and Austria and the crisis in Ukraine. The Czech leader said his country could take inspiration from Austria’s public transport and active approach to combating unemployment.

Institute overseeing secret police files under threat, says director

The future of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which oversees the files of the communist-era secret police, is under threat, its recently appointed director Zdeněk Hazdra said on Tuesday. Speaking at a Senate hearing prior to the election of a new Institute board, Mr. Hazdra said the agency was suffering from internal divisions and a lack of interest on the part of the public. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was set up by a right-wing government in 2007 and has come under pressure since the left have gained the upper hand in the Senate, which selects its board. Critics say it has been poorly managed and unprofessional in the digitisation of historical materials.

Police investigating car explosion in central Prague

A bomb placed under the car of a Russian speaking driver exploded in Prague’s Nusle district on Monday night. The explosion was triggered when the driver started the car, but it only damaged part of the vehicle and the driver escaped unhurt. Bomb experts were called to the scene and police are searching for a possible motif.

Films from several former Eastern Bloc states to feature in main competition at 49th Karlovy Vary IFF

A number of pictures from the former Eastern Bloc will be among the dozen in contention for the Crystal Globe for Best Film at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival next month, organisers said on Tuesday. They include Corn Island by Georgian director George Ovashvili, Welkome Home [sic] by Russia’s Angelina Nikonova and Free Fall by Hungarian helmer Gyorgy Palfi. There will be two Czech films in the main competition: Nowhere in Moravia, the directorial debut of actor Miroslav Krobot, and Fair Play by Andrea Sedláčková. The festival runs from July 4 to 12.

69th Prague Spring comes to close with performance by Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra

The 69th Prague Spring International Music Festival will come to a close on Tuesday night with a performance by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Smetana Hall of Prague’s Municipal House. The ensemble will play Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major featuring US soloist Hilary Hahn. This year the Prague Spring has featured more Czech compositions than usual as part of its involvement in the Year of Czech Music.

Berdych beaten in French Open quarter-finals by Latvia’s Gublis

The Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has been knocked out in the quarter-finals at the French Open in Paris. The 28-year-old, who had been seeded sixth, lost 3-6 2-6 4-6 on Tuesday to Ernest Gulbis of Latvia, who beat Roger Federer in a previous round. Though Berdych lost in less than two hours, reaching the quarter-finals still represents his second best placing at Roland Garros.

Temperatures expected to reach 30 degree Celsius mark at weekend

Forecasters say the Czech Republic can expect a marked increase in temperatures at the end of the week. While on Friday temperatures should reach around 25 degrees Celsius, thermometers could hit the 32 degrees Celsius mark on Sunday, a representative of the Czech Meteorological Institute said on Tuesday. If the mercury climbs as high as expected temperature records may be broken, the official said.

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