News Czech priest and academic Tomáš Halík receives Templeton religious award
The Czech Roman Catholic priest and professor Tomáš Halík has received the 2014 Templeton Prize, a UK-based award for “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities”. The organisers said Monsignor Halík, who is 65, had risked imprisonment for illegally advancing religious and cultural freedoms after the Soviet invasion of his country, and had since become a leading international advocate for dialogue among different faiths and non-believers. The Templeton Prize comes with a monetary award of about USD 1.8 million.
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Czech president Miloš Zeman defended Czech Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová when she was received at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Zeman told the fourth ranked singles player that the successful are often subject to envy from those who couldn’t do anything better. The president was referring to the comments of a Social Democrat member of parliament, Stanislav Haml, who suggested that Kvitová lose her Czech citizenship for locating to the tax haven of Monaco. Zeman apologized for not being present at Kvitová’s second Wimbledon singles win earlier this month but said that he disliked politicians’ habit of try to get a share of other people’s triumph. He was presented with a ticket for the Fed Cup finals in Prague in November when the Czech Republic faces Germany.
The head of state aviation holding company Český Aeroholding has resigned from his post. Miroslav Dvořák’s departure as board chairman was announced in a press release on Wednesday. He has been under pressure from finance minister and ANO party boss Andrej Babiš to step down. The post will be filled by his former deputy, Václav Řehoř. The change must still be approved by Korean Air, which has a minority shareholding in Czech Airlines. Český Aeroholding’s main asset is its ownership of Prague’s main Václav Havel airport.
Prague and National Geographic have reached a written agreement putting to bed a case concerning a controversial episode of a TV series broadcast by the National Geographic Channel in 2012. The city maintained that the show Scam City, focusing on the darker side of tourism, had hurt Prague’s reputation, faking some sequences which consequently cast the city in a poor light. Criminal investigators later confirmed some scenes had been staged. Scenes that were reportedly faked included tourists being ripped off by a taxi service or by workers at a sex club (which in reality had long been closed). In the agreement, National Geographic admitted some scenes were staged and agreed to block the episode’s further dissemination. A formal apology, which the city previously sought, was not part of the deal, the Czech News Agency reported.
The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee for European Affairs on Wednesday backed Minister for Regional Affairs Věra Jourová’s nomination for EU commissioner. Out of 19 members on the board, coalition members from the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats voted in favor; members of the opposition abstained. Jourová’s candidacy is to be officially confirmed by the government on Thursday. Leaders of the coalition parties agreed on the candidate after it became apparent that the next president of the EC, Jean-Claude Juncker, favored having at least nine women on the commission. It is thought that a female candidate will have a better chance at gaining one of the more important portfolios.
The Czech Republic has the highest percentage of female teachers in primary schools in Europe, according to a Eurostat report published by the Czech Statistics Office. Close to 98 percent of Czech teachers at primary level are women, the report found. However, the Czech Ministry of Education questions the figure of 2 percent male teachers, saying around 15 percent of teachers of first to ninth grade pupils are men. According to the Eurostat report, Denmark has the highest percentage of male teachers, with almost a third of educators in its primary schools being men.
Sparta Prague have qualified for the third qualifying round of the Champions League. After beating Levadia Tallinn 7:0 in Prague last week the Czech title holders fielded a side largely composed of reserves in the away leg on Tuesday evening, which ended in a 1:1 draw. Sparta will face either Sweden’s Malmo or the Latvian club Ventspils in the next round. That will be followed by a play-off round to decide spots in the group stage of the lucrative competition.
Czech Airlines said that its two flights linking Prague and Tel Aviv took off as normal on Tuesday night and were due to arrive in the early morning of Wednesday at each destination. The Czech airline said that it had consulted with security experts at home and in Israel before giving approving for the flights. Many airlines have cancelled flights to Tel Aviv because of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip with the US Federal Aviation Agency imposing a 24-hour ban on flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. Many European airlines have suspended flights. Rockets fired from Gaza landed near the airport on Tuesday.
Czech cyclist Leopold König has moved up and is now placed seventh overall in the Tour de France after the 16th state of the race and trails sixth placed US competitor Tejay van Garderen by just six seconds. The 26-year-old Czech is trailing leader Vincenzo Nibali by just over nine and a half minutes. The cyclists face the second of the three part Pyrenees challenge on Wednesday in one of the shortest but most difficult stages.
Czech exports to Ukraine dropped by 43.1 percent in May compared to the same period a year earlier after a fall of 51.2 percent in April, according to the Czech Statistics Office. During the first five months of this year they have fallen by 3.7 billion crowns, or just short of 30 percent. According to business grouping the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic, Ukraine now risks being excluded from the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s list of 12 priority countries for exports, the confederation said. The list highlighted states where efforts would be made to boost Czech exports until 2020. The confederation warned that no improvement in business looked likely in the short term due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The Czech daily Mláda Fronta Dnes reported Wednesday how two men convicted of wiretapping top state figures received conditional sentences and the identity of those who ordered the spying was never revealed. Former policeman Marian Hudec received a conditional jail sentence of 26 months suspended for four years and Michal Kondla 20 months suspended for three years. The two were convicted tapping the phone calls of Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Rychetský and close aides to the then president Václav Klaus. The tapping took place ahead of parliamentary elections in 2010. The paper said it established links to the security firm ABL, owned by former Public Affairs party leader Vít Bárta. The company has denied any wrongdoing.