The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, and a group of Czech veterans flew from Prague’s military airport on Friday to Normandy, France, to take part in events marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion by the Allies in mainland Europe and a pivotal moment in the war. The president gave a speech prior to their departure in which he thanked the Czech WW II vets and stated that freedom was not something forever guaranteed but something that needed to be continually fought for. The event was accompanied by military music and a display of Czech and Czechoslovak army standards. Mr Zeman’s spokesman on international affairs said the president will speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Normandy.
The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek is heading for China on Friday night at the head of a delegation of around 30 businessmen and officials. Mládek is due to meet top Chinese officials as well as the leaders of some of the most prosperous provinces. The trip is aimed at not only boosting Czech exports to China but also at trying to stimulate Chinese investment in the Czech Republic, which is currently minimal. The minister added that he hoped for a breakthrough in talks aimed at establishing direct flights from Prague to China with the goal of services to Beijing or Shanghai being launched within 12 months. The centre-left government has sought to reset relations with China by downgrading support for occupied Tibet.
The Foreign Ministry on Friday presented its Gratias Agit awards to those who have worked to promote the good name of the Czech Republic internationally. Among the recipients this year are renowned Polish film director Agnieszka Holland, fashion designer Blanka Matragi, and WW II veteran Otto Pick. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek presented the awards at Černín Palace. The Gratias Agit awards have been presented annually since 1997.
The interim director of Šumava National Park, Pavel Hubený, has halted a number of projects greenlighted by his predecessor Jiří Mánek, writes Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. According to the newspaper, the projects in question could clash with protection of the environment aims. Projects shelved included the construction of a cabin at Plešné Lake for tourism purposes or the construction of a new observation tower at Polom. In all, the shelved projects would have cost a total of 400 million crowns. The interim head of the national park said some of the projects lacked construction permits or had not been assessed for potential impact on the environment. Some projects will go ahead such as the repair of the lookout tower at Poledník.
Prague city councillors decided on Friday that Mayor Tomáš Hudeček will oversee a team looking into the problematic multipurpose Opencard; a contract on the licensing of the card, used by Prague residents primarily as a metro pass, is due to expire this month. The city has been unable to reach a new deal with the company eMoneyservices which owns the license. It is possible that card owners who have pre-paid months ahead will have to queue up for a paper replacement before a new system is approved in a new tender.
The head of the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic, Ivan Bartoš, resigned as leader on Friday, along with deputy leaders Lenka Wagnerová and Michal Havránek. On facebook, Bartoš – who intends to stay on as a regular member – made clear he was accepting political responsibility for the party’s failure to get a candidate elected to the EP in recent European elections. The Pirates finished not far below the five percent threshold with 4.8 percent. With the exception of a half-year break, Bartoš led the Pirate Party since 2009.
A new poll released by the STEM agency suggests that the popularity of ANO leader Andrej Babiš has continued to increase. The survey found that 66 percent of respondents viewed the businessman turned politician positively. The ANO movement clinched its first success last year, finishing a close second in its first Parliamentary elections. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický finished second in the survey, and Social Democrat Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier, third. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was fourth and the leader of the controversial Dawn Party, Tomio Okamura, fifth.
Police are investigating whether a 64-year-old man should be added to the death toll from the so-called methanol scandal. A preliminary analysis suggests that the man from the Kroměříž area could be the 49th victim of toxic spirits but a final autopsy will determine whether that is the case. In spite of dismantling the gang believed to be behind the methanol affair, police say that around 2,000 litres of contaminated spirits are still unaccounted for. Many methanol producers bosses and victims came from the south-eastern Zlín region.
The regional court in Olomouc has sentenced a Přerov woman to nine years in prison for defrauding creditors of more than 11 million crowns. The woman borrowed funds from creditors by posing as a lawyer, businesswoman and investments expert. Lenders were promising attractive returns which never materialised. Earlier, the defendant was sentenced to 8.5 years for similar crimes in Slovakia. Police caught up with the fraudster in Přerov; at the time of her arrest she reportedly owned several luxury cars in her name and was renting several apartments.
The Czech javelin thrower Barbora Špotáková made the perfect return to international athletics after maternity leave with a first place finish at a Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday evening. The reigning Olympic champion, who is 32, did not take part in any major events last year after giving birth to her first child. Špotáková topped the podium in Rome with a throw of 66.43 metres, more than three metres ahead of her nearest rival.