News Bavarian prime minister in Prague
Visiting Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday met for talks with the Czech head of government Bohuslav Sobotka. The two officials signed an agreement on strengthening cooperation in business, science and education. Fighting cross-border crime was also a topic high on the agenda since the Bavarian authorities are having an increasing problem with home-made drugs smuggled across the border from the Czech Republic. Bavaria will open an official representation in Prague later this year which should further improve bilateral relations, long hampered by the controversial Beneš decrees.
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More than half of Czechs think that Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, who owns the Agrofert business empire, has a conflict of interests. According to the results of a survey conducted by TNS Aisa for Czech Television 52 percent of respondents said there is a definite conflict of interests, while 39 percent of respondents came to the opposite conclusion. It also emerged that 26 percent of those who said Mr. Babiš had a conflict of interests voted for his party in the general elections.
Freedom Celebrations continued in the west Bohemia city of Plzeň on Sunday. Thousands of people turned up to greet the Convoy of Liberty, made up of historical military vehicles carrying around twenty US and Belgian war veterans who helped liberate Plzeň 70 years ago. Although the group of veterans, who are now over 90, have a packed agenda throughout the celebrations, they made the trip through the city center standing in their jeeps saluting and waving as the enthusiastic crowd cheered and threw lilac at the vehicles as people did 70 years ago. Live street bands helped create a festive atmosphere reminiscent of the liberation and there was a fly-over of Gripen fighter jets to mark the occasion.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has proposed giving Syrian students grants to study at Czech universities as a way of helping to build intellectual elite in the war-racked country. The proposal, which is to be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, envisages offering grants to 20 students for the next six years which would cost the state five million crowns a year. The first year would be devoted to learning Czech after which the students could study in Czech or English. Applicants would be processed by the Czech embassy in Amman in cooperation with UNHCR. The final selection would be made by the Czech Education Ministry.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is to pay a one-day working visit to Berlin on Monday. He will be meeting for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel and the country’s business leaders. The Czech prime minister is also scheduled to speak on the subject of European integration at Humboldt University. One of the issues on the agenda is a dispute over whether the Czech state is the rightful owner of 1.2 billion crowns worth of diesel that was being held by Viktoriagruppe, a company that administered some of the country’s strategic oil reserves in Germany but went bankrupt last September. The Czech Republic which stands to lose the reserves has threatened legal action over the matter.
The Czech Republic beat Latvia 4:2 in their second game at the Ice Hockey World Championship on Sunday night to take the top spot in Group A. Latvia took a lead twice and their second goal forced a change in the Czech goal where Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondřej Pavelec replaced Alexander Salak. The Czechs then scored three power play goals, the second of them by Jaromír Jágr.
Top-seeded Karolina Plíšková rallied from a set down to claim her fourth WTA title by defeating qualifier Lucie Hradecká 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Czech final of the Prague Open on Saturday. The 14th-ranked Plíšková wasted three match points when she was 5-2 up in the final set. But she served out the match in the following game, converting her fifth match point with a forehand winner.
A group of 30 bikers, including members of the Russian Night Wolves bikers club, are reported to have crossed the Czech border with Slovakia on their way to Bratislava and later Austria. Several members of the Russian Night Wolves are said to have attended Thursday’s remembrance events in Ostrava marking the end of WWII. The Night Wolves, who are said to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced their intention to ride through Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Austria and reach Berlin by May 9 to commemorate the victory of Russian troops over Nazi Germany 70 years ago. However the ride evoked controversy and Poland denied them entry. The Czech traffic police said it would closely observe their movements in the country.
Several dozen Star Wars fans joined the first-ever Star Wars parade in Prague on Saturday held to mark Star Wars Day on May 4th. The group wearing Princes Leia, Luke Skywalker costumes and those of other popular characters made their down Wenceslas Square and across Charles Bridge stopping to take photographs with tourists along the way. The procession was co-organized by Czech Star Wars Universe and fan organizations such as the Rebel Legion and the Czech Garrison, one of the "outposts" of the 501st Legion serving the Czech Republic.
The opening of the World Ice Hockey Championship in Ostrava was marked by tragedy. An 18-year- old hockey fan was hit by a train in the early hours of Saturday. According to the news site novinky.cz the incident happened at dawn and the fan who was killed on impact was reportedly a foreign national. The police have not released details regarding his nationality. According to a police spokeswoman the engine driver saw a figure on the rail tracks but was too close to avert a collision.
A memorial to U.S. General George S. Patton who commanded the Third United States Army that liberated Plzeň on May 6, 1945 was unveiled in the town on Friday within six days of Freedom Celebrations. Its unveiling was attended by General Patton's grandson George Patton Waters, representatives of the U.S. embassy and local dignitaries. The city’s mayor Martin Zrzavecký expressed regret that for so many decades it had not been possible to give proper thanks and credit to the US army for liberating the town. During communist rule the role of the US army in liberating west Bohemia was played down.