News Czech towns and cities mark Holocaust Remembrance Day
A number of Czech towns and cities marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday with traditional outdoor ceremonies at which the names of Holocaust victims are read out by politicians, church dignitaries and leading cultural figures. In the Czech capital the ceremony took place at Prague’s Náměstí Míru square attended among others by the minister for human rights and minorities, Jiří Dienstbier, the Israeli ambassador to Prague Garz Koren and others. The event, held for the 9th year now, is jointly organized by the Foundation for Holocaust Victims and the Terezín Initiative Institute. Of Czechoslovakia’s pre-war Jewish population of 350,000, 250,000 died during the Holocaust.
For the daily news summary, available after 8pm CET, click here.
Defense Minister Martin Stropnický says he wants to the expand army’s ranks by 6,000 new recruits over the next five years. Speaking at the Brno University of Defense on Friday, Mr. Stropnický said the Czech Armed Forces would be boosted by close to 2,000 new recruits this year and as many more in 2016. The minster has asked for an additional two billion crowns for the Defense Ministry budget next year to meet this goal. The Finance Ministry has so far promised an extra billion. Mr. Stropnický argues that the military was underfunded for several years and needs more money to meet its commitments within NATO. The army has 21,000 soldiers at present and the minister wants to expand their ranks to 27,000 in the next five years.
Czech foreign minister says his trip to Lebanon is to help gain more information on case of missing Czechs
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Friday that the purpose of his upcoming trip to Lebanon would be to exchange information with the local authorities on the five Czechs who went missing in the country earlier this month. Following a meeting of the crisis team set up to deal with the case, Mr. Zaorálek said that the Czech side was prepared to release the information it had on the case to the Lebanese authorities and hoped to glean new information from them. The minister dismissed speculation that he would hold negotiations other than with local politicians and investigators. The date of his trip has not yet been set, but according to previous unofficial information it should be sometime next week. The five Czechs disappeared in the Bekaa Valley, near the border with Syria, on July 18th and the Lebanese interior minister said last week that the case had a criminal background and was allegedly linked to drug and arms smuggling.
Career diplomat Libor Sečka is to be the new Czech ambassador to Great Britain, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. He will replace the outgoing ambassador to London, Michael Žantovský, who is due to return to Prague in September and will head the Vaclav Havel library in the Czech capital. Mr. Sečka has previously served as ambassador in Spain, Mexico, Italy and Malta. He is currently winding up an ambassadorial term in China.
The police has been ordered to step up security around an asylum facility in Bela, north Bohemia, from which some 60 foreign migrants attempted to flee on Thursday. The group damaged two security gates on the facility grounds but failed to break through the iron fence surrounding the asylum centre. The illegal immigrants housed there are due to be returned to their country of origin and are under close supervision. According to the Bela management there have been cases of the migrants going on hunger strike or threatening to harm themselves.Interior Minister Milan Chovanec who met with the migrants on Friday said they were demanding to have their passports returned and to be allowed to travel to Germany.
The police have detained a Hungarian lorry carrying 76 illegal migrants, 23 of them children, the ctk news agency reports citing police sources. The lorry was detained on the D5 highway in the Tachov region during a routine check on Friday morning. A police spokeswoman said the migrants had no IDs and were now being questioned via an interpreter. She said the driver of the lorry had been detained and would be charged with people-smuggling.
Banks in the Czech Republic provided almost 50,000 mortgage loans for 88 billion crowns to individuals in the first half of this year, compared with over 41,000 mortgage loans for 67.9 billion granted a year earlier, Hypoteční banka told the Czech news Agency, citing Regional Development Ministry statistics. The bank’s CEO Jan Sadil said that if there were no unexpected changes, 2015 would be a record year in terms of mortgage loans. The CEO outlined a combination of factors as having influenced growth, namely record-low interest rates, stable economic conditions with a positive outlook, increased activity by developers selling and building new housing projects mainly in large towns, and growing real estate prices.
Figure skating legend Ája Vrzáňová-Steindler, who won back-to-back world championships in 1949 and 1950 in Paris and London, has died at the age of 84. After travelling to London, Vrzáňová defected, opting not to return to Stalinist Czechoslovakia which had pressured her to end her career. Her family was later repeatedly harassed and threatened by the Communist regime. Vrzáňová settled in the US, marrying restaurant owner Pavel Steindler in 1969. The former champion was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2009.
A fire in a family home in the Ořechovka neighbourhood in Střešovice, Prague, claimed the lives of two elderly women, aged 87 and 92, early Thursday morning. Why the fire broke out is unknown but investigators are treating the case as one of negligence resulting in death. Emergency workers at the scene found both women already unconscious from smoke inhalation and were unable to save either. On Thursday afternoon, the Czech News Agency reported the women who died may have been renowned former opera soprano Ludmila Dvořáková and her sister Květoslava. Neither identity, however, has been officially confirmed.
A court has wrapped up an arbitration case between the engineering and construction company IDS (Inženýring dopravních staveb) and the city of Prague, ruling that the city must pay 183 million crowns plus interest owed the firm for work on the Blanka tunnel complex. The news was confirmed by Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek. The interest, meanwhile, amounts to just under 14 million. The deputy mayor said an arbitration case was the only way forward in the disagreement over work conducted and monies owed; he stressed that while he regretted the high amount, it was less than the 300 million IDS had sought. A spokesman for IDS confirmed the company was satisfied by the result. Both sides will still have to sort out other invoices which still remain unpaid, the Czech News Agency noted.
Thirty-one Iraqi pilots have begun training on L-159 fighter jets in the Czech Republic, Deputy Chief of the general Staff of the Armed Forces František Maleninský and Defence Minister Martin Stropnický confirmed. Training on the jets could take over a year; the pilots are to be joined by ground crews who will be given maintenance training. Earlier this year, the Czech Republic agreed to a 750 million crown deal with Iraq on the purchase of 15 L-159s the Czechs no longer need. The price was later adjusted to 780 million due to fluctuation in currency exchange.