News Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka makes first Polish visit

05-03-2014 16:17 updated | Chris Johnstone

Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka made his first trip as premier to Poland on Wednesday. Discussions with Polish counterpart Donald Tusk focused on the situation in Ukraine and improved road and gas connections between the Czech Republic and Poland. Prime ministers agreed that infringements on the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine were unacceptable. Environment, industry and trade, and transport ministers from the neighbouring countries will also hold parallel talks. Poland has been one of the most active EU countries in the current Ukrainian crisis. One of Sobotka’s first visits in Warsaw was to the memorial of Ryszard Siewiec, the Pole who set fire to himself to protest the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. A Polish government delegation has been invited to the Czech Republic in the autumn.

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E15: Kmoníček will replace Gandalovič as ambassador to US

30-03-2015 18:08 | Jan Velinger

Close aide to the president Hynek Kmoníček will replace Petr Gandalovič as the next ambassador to Washington, the daily E15 reports. It is not the first time the story has surfaced. Mr Gandalovič’s term is to end this year. Mr Kmoníček is a former ambassador himself, having served in five countries including India. The decision is now up to the government, E15 writes. 

Football: national squad faces Slovakia in friendly

30-03-2015 18:00 | Jan Velinger

Czech national football team coach Pavel Vrba will test newer players in Tuesday’s friendly against Slovakia, news website idnes reports, a line-up which will not include top names including Tomáš Rosický, Petr Čech, or David Lafata. Goalkeeper Tomáš Vaculík will step in for the team’s No.1 in the friendly; at least three other changes in the lineup are expected. The Czech squad has 13 points in five qualification games for Euro 2016, most recently tying unexpectedly with Latvia. Slovakia’s national team is five-for-five in a group which includes Spain and Ukraine. 

Virtual tour of Havel’s office to go online

30-03-2015 17:35 | Jan Velinger

A virtual tour of the Prague office that the late former president Václav Havel used after leaving office in 2003 will be available for viewing as part of a virtual tour online in early April, the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vision 97 announced on Monday. The premises in the centre of Prague were furnished and decorated after a design by Havel made in cooperation with architect Bořek Šípek. The rooms remained untouched since Havel´s last stay there, his widow and former First Lady Dagmar Havlová told journalists. The office "witnessed" a number of important meetings and events, she said, “visited by [former] U.S. president Bill Clinton, by the Tibetan spiritual lader, his Holiness Dalai Lama..., Joan Baez, Tom Stoppard, Suzanne Vega, Kofi Annan, Lou Reed, the Škvoreckys and others. There are many valuable objects and presents from our friends from all over the world," the former First Lady said. The virtual entry into the first room will be free, while the tour of the rest of the office will be available for a small fee. The proceeds will be used to finance further development of the project. 

Amendment promises changes at Czech universities

30-03-2015 17:29 | Jan Velinger

How Czech universities are run could change substantially in the future. On Monday, the cabinet agreed on an amendment which would introduce new rules for accreditation and a new system for judging the quality of existing schools. The overall aim, Education Minister Marcel Chládek said, was to improve the overall quality of Czech universities. The amendment would also make it possible to revoke academic titles earned in a questionable manner. The bill now has to be debated in Parliament. 

Families of abducted girls release statement of thanks and relief

30-03-2015 17:23 | Jan Velinger

Two Czech women released by kidnappers after two years are reportedly healthy but need rest to recover from the ordeal, their families told the Czech News Agency on Monday. Their families thanked the Turkish IHH humanitarian organisation for its help, the Czech cabinet for support, and all those who expressed solidarity. “For us, it is beyond words to express our feeling of happiness and relief at having the girls back at home,” the families of Hana Humpalová and Antonie Chrastecká wrote in a statement released to ČTK. They thanked all who contributed to the young women´s release. Unknown gunmen abducted the young women, then aged 24, in southwestern Pakistan in March 2013 when they were travelling by bus from Iran to India. Two videos of the girls appeared on the internet in June and October 2013. Czech diplomacy did not comment on the case for fear it could jeopardize the chances of their being safely released. 

TOP 09 in Prague call on mayor to resign

30-03-2015 15:12 | Jan Velinger

Members of TOP 09’s Prague branch have called on ANO representative and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová to resign. Its politicians charge that the mayor broke the law and hurt the interests of the city by opting for a new legal team to represent Prague in a legal dispute over the rental of Škodova Palace, owned by Copa Retail. TOP 09 leaders allege the mayor hired lawyers at the recommendation of the other party and went behind the backs of other city councilors. The mayor has denied the allegations saying the law firm in question was chosen according to rules on public tenders. The three-party coalition as a result scheduled talks to discuss the situation on Monday afternoon. 

Part of US convoy takes alternate route following non-related traffic accident

30-03-2015 12:48 | Jan Velinger

The first part of an American convoy travelling across the Czech Republic headed for army barracks in an outer Prague district experienced delays on the road on Monday, travelling from Liberec, the Czech Army reported. An unrelated road accident slowed traffic, leading the convoy to transfer to an alternate route. Three columns of US forces are travelling across the Czech Republic from the Baltic states after taking part in the operation Atlantic Resolve. The aim was to highlight NATO and the United States’ dedication to stability in Europe in the face of Russian intervention in Ukraine. The convoy of some 120 vehicles and 500 personnel will regroup in Prague before later continuing the journey to Plzeň and to the army’s home base in neighbouring Germany. 

NHL action: Jágr scores twice in must-win game for the Florida Panthers

30-03-2015 12:33 | Jan Velinger

Czech NHL hockey forward Jaromír Jágr scored two goals on Sunday to help the Florida Panthers defeat Ottawa and keep alive hopes for a playoff berth. The final score was 4:2. The player told the media everyone on the team knew of the game’s importance, calling Sunday’s match a “game 7” – referring to the NHL playoff series system. The veteran player only recently joined Florida from New Jersey. The goals on Sunday were the 699th and 700th of Jágr’s NHL career. Florida hold the second wild card in the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. 

Former prime minister suspects he was poisoned

30-03-2015 10:13 | Daniela Lazarová

The former prime minister Stanislav Gross who is seriously ill and is reported to be suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis believes he was poisoned, the ctk news agency reports. According to his lawyer and close friend, Miroslav Jansta, Mr. Gross had samples of his hair analysed to prove his suspicion. The hair sample tests, done two years ago after doctors confirmed the fatal diagnosis, reportedly uncovered an unusually high content of heavy metals that may damage the nervous system. Doctors, nevertheless, consider his theory improbable. Neurologist Tomas Sindler told the news agency that he did not know of any case where AIS had developed in reaction to external poisoning. 

President Zeman not planning to meet with released hostages

30-03-2015 09:54 | Daniela Lazarová

President Miloš Zeman has said he will not meet with the two young women who were kidnapped in Pakistan in 2013 and released last Friday thanks to the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation. Mr. Zeman said in a live interview on Frekvence 1 radio that the girls had acted recklessly causing problems for themselves, their families, those who worked on negotiating their release and indeed for the whole country. He said he hoped this would be a lesson to them and any others who might consider taking similar stupid risks. On the other hand, the president said he would very much like to meet with the people who contributed to the young women’s release. 

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