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06-08-2014 17:21 | Jan Richter

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President Zeman invites new Israeli head of state for official visit

Czech President Miloš Zeman has invited the recently elected President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, for an official visit of the Czech Republic, a spokesman for Mr Zeman said on Wednesday, adding that the Israeli head of state had accepted the invitation. The date of the visit has not been set. The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s closest allies in the EU while Mr Zeman is an outspoken critic of Islam. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is set to visit Israel by the end of the year.

Czech industry accelerates growth in June

The Czech industrial sector grew in June by 8.1 percent year on year, after a 2.5 percent growth registered in May, according to figures by the Czech Statistics Office released on Wednesday. The growth was mainly fuelled by increased output of the country’s automotive industry; the biggest Czech car manufacturer, Škoda Auto, posted an 74.9 percent surge of its operating profit in the first six months of the year which reached 11.7 billion crowns. The Czech Republic’s construction sector, meanwhile, returned to growth in June when it rose by 5.1 percent year on year.

Ministry: Czech Republic to fail to source over 24 billion in EU funds this year

The Czech Republic will this year fail to source up to 24.4 billion crowns in EU funds, deputy regional development minister Daniel Braun told reporters on Wednesday. The programmes that are most threatened by the likely losses include the environment, research and development for innovations, and the northwest and Prague operational programmes. Ministry officials said the losses were partly due to the depreciation of the Czech crown by the Czech National Bank. The Czech Republic’s record of drawing EU funds is the worst of the entire bloc; last year, Czechs failed to source some 10 billion crowns.

Bill to allow gays to adopt their partner’s child

A group of Czech MPs are planning to put forward legislation that would allow gays and lesbians living in registered partnership to adopt their partner’s child. MP Radka Maxová from the ANO party told reporters on Wednesday the bill, which should enter the legislative process later this week, was needed to allow registered partners take care of their children without fear of legal consequences. The legislation would however not make it possible for same-sex couples to adopt children from children’s homes and other institutions. There are around 900 children living in same-sex households in the Czech Republic, according to 2011 population census data.

Government approves biofuel support until 2020

The Czech government on Wednesday approved support for biofuels for the period of 2015 to 2020. The support consists in breaks or exemptions from the excise tax on fuels with added renewable methanol. As an EU member state, the Czech Republic has pledged to replace 10 percent its petrol and diesel consumption with biofuels by the year 2020. The government will however decrease support for two types of biofuel, biodiesel B100 and ethanol E85, which will be subject to taxation, the Czech Agriculture Ministry said, quoting new EU regulations of state support for renewable energy sources as the reason.

More than half Social Democrats took part in inner-party referendum

Some 11,800 out of 22,500 members of the Czech Social Democratic Party have taken part in an internal referendum, a party spokesperson said on Wednesday. In the vote, they were asked whether ballot nominees should be approved by all party members in an electoral district, whether the party should adopt a 40-percent quota for women on ballots, and whether the number of public offices held by Social Democrat members should be limited. The results of the referendum are to be announced later on Wednesday.

Finance minister’s firm leader on Czech assisted reproduction market

The Prague-based firm FutureLife, owned by Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, has become the leader on the country’s assisted reproduction market following its acquisition of the Iscare clinic, the news website ihned.cz reported on Wednesday. The value of the transaction has not been disclosed but it is said to have reached hundreds of millions of crowns. In May, FutureLife acquired another two clinics specializing in reproductive medicine, Brno’s Reprofit International and the Prague-based GynCenter. The latest transaction is yet to be reviewed by the Czech anti-monopoly agency; if approved, Mr Babiš’s firm will control some 20 percent of the market with annual revenues of around 600 million crowns.

Prague hit-and-run driver faces eight years in jail

The police have charged 24-year-old man who killed a woman in a hit-and-run incident of causing death through negligence, failure to provide assistance and driving under the influence of illegal drugs. The man, Marek Půček, allegedly drove his black BMW into a bus stop at Náměstí Kinských in Prague 5 at about 4:30 AM on Tuesday, hitting a 21-year-old woman who died at the scene. He abandoned the car and fled before turning himself in to the police on Tuesday evening after his photograph had appeared all over the media. He now faces up to eight years in prison if found guilty.

Prague Zoo expresses dismay at deaths of antelopes donated to South Africa

Prague Zoo has expressed dismay at the deaths of eight antelopes it donated to South Africa. The animals were put down after they arrived in Johannesburg on Friday in various stages of dehydration and without proper documentation, South Africa's National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said. However, Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek blamed Johannesburg Zoo for the animals’ deaths, and criticized the institution for planning to pass the antelopes on to a private breeder. Mr Bobek also slammed the South African authorities for ordering the slaughter of the animals over "one missing veterinary examination". Prague Zoo has filed a complaint over the incident with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Veselý quits NBA for Fenerbahce

Czech basketball player Jan Veselý is leaving the NBA after three seasons to join the Turkish club Fenerbahce. Veselý was seventh in the draft in 2011 and played for Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets. After signing a two-year contract with Fenerbahce on Tuesday, the Ostrava-born forward said he had been considering a return to Europe for some time. The move means there are now no Czech players in the NBA.

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