News Chief of general staff: Czech army seriously underfunded
The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Petr Pavel, has warned that the military is seriously underfunded. Addressing a conference in Prague marking the 15th anniversary of the country’s accession to NATO, General Pavel said the army was below sustainability levels; if the situation is not promptly addressed, the army will lose some of its capabilities, according to the chief of the general staff. This year, the Czech military is set to receive around 43 billion crowns which is some 12 billion less that it needs, according to army officials.
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Attendance at Czech cinemas last year was at the highest level since 1993, according to figures released on Thursday by the Union of Film Distributors. Czech cinemas attracted over 15.6 million viewers in 2016, with domestic films taking 30 percent slice of overall attendance. The Czech fairy tale Anděl Páně 2 attracted the highest number of visitors, over one million, since its premiere in November.
The Senate has approved a bill that should introduce a broad ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants. The vote was preceded by a five-hour long heated debate in the upper house, with numerous efforts to modify the ban. According to Health Minister Miloslav Ludvík, the bill is a vital step in protecting public health and particularly that of the young generation which frequently tops the European ladder in tobacco and alcohol abuse. If the draft bill is signed by the president it should come into force in May of next year.
The current spell of cold weather is expected to continue for the next few days, with night time temperatures dropping down to -20 degrees Celsius. Friday is expected to see clear skies and daytime highs ranging between -5 and -1 degrees Celsius.
Former football referee Dagmar Damková has become a member of FIFA Referees Committee for the next four years. Damková, who is 42, holds the same post in the UEFA, in charge of European women’s football refereeing. Dagmar Damková is regarded as one of the best female referees in the world. In 2011, she became the first woman to officiate in the Czech men’s first division. She also refereed the 2008 Olympics women’s final and the 2009 UEFA Women’s Euro final.
Europe’s football authority, UEFA, has banned Sparta Prague fans from the away leg of their Europa League match against Rostov. As well as the ban on travelling fans, Sparta will also have to pay a fine of 45,000 euros for the behaviour of their fans at the last group game at Milan. Around 100 Sparta supporters then tried to break down the barriers separating the opposing fans with 16 security guards injured in the ensuing melee. The game against Rostov is scheduled for February 16 with the return leg in Prague a week later.
Eighteen people were killed in plane crashes in the Czech Republic last year, which is more than twice as many as in 2015. The number of sport plane and parachute accidents has significantly increased as well. Specialists investigated 77 airplane accidents last year, Josef Bejdák of the Air Accidents Investigation Institute said at a press conference on Thursday. He said one of the main factors behind the growing number of accidents was the increasing number of recreational pilots.
The number of tourists visiting the Czech Republic has been on the increase in recent years, according to Czech Tourism agency. Between eight and nine million tourists visited the Czech Republic last year, which is around seven percent more than in 2015, Czech Tourism’s Monika Palatková said on Thursday at the Regiontour trade fair in Brno. She said the Czech Republic was regarded one of the safest countries in the world, adding to the country’s popularity as a tourist destination and which is likely to continue in the future.
Reconstruction of the Fanta building, the historical part of Prague’s Main Train Station, should be completed by 2022. It is expected to cost the Czech Railway Administration 730 million crowns, Tomáš Drmola of the administration announced on Thursday. The first phase of the reconstruction, which includes renovation of the historical façade, windows and doors, should get underway in 2018. The Railway Administration refused to extend the lease of Italian firm Grandi Stazioni after it failed to complete a renovation of the historical part of the building by October 2016.
The Ministry of Interior has rejected claims from four out of five Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon to compensation totalling 40 million crowns. The four maintain that the Czech state failed to prevent their kidnapping due to botched cooperation between intelligences services. The Czechs were seized in mid-2015 and released in February 2016. Their release was linked with the decision of Czech authorities not to hand over Ali Fajad to US authorities in connection with a terrorism investigation.
The upper house of parliament, the Senate, has voted for local councils to be given increased rights over the management of national parks. Other changes to the existing rules, including changes to rights to buy land and increasing the areas where logging is banned, were not backed following a four hour debate in the house. The proposed changes, most of which have been opposed by Minister of Environment Richard Brabec, will now return to the lower house.