News Czech WWII RAF veteran laid to rest in Plzeň
Family members, army officials, veterans and members of the public bid last farewell to Miroslav Štandera, a WWII veteran of the Royal Air Force, in Plzeň on Wednesday. General Štandera died on Wednesday at the age of 95; he was the last surviving Czech fighter pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain. Czech Air Force commander Libor Štěfánik said Mr Štandera’s demise marked the end of a significant generation of Czech pilots who fought the Nazis during the Second World War.
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The Czech prime minister, speaking in France after meeting President Holland, said Russia needed to reduce its military presence along the border with Ukraine and to ease tensions in the area. He added that the Czech Republic was watching developments there with concern. Mr Sobotka also maintained that Prague and Paris held similar views on development in Ukraine, namely that the massive concentration of Russian troops on the Ukraine border was escalating pressure and could be considered an act of intimidation.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka began a two-day visit to France on Thursday, his first trip to the country as PM. Mr Sobotka met French President François Holland; a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is scheduled for Friday. The Czech prime minister’s agenda is dominated by trade and investment issues as well as Europe’s energy security and EU affairs. Mr Sobotka, who is leader of the Czech Social Democrats, is also due to attend several events held by the French Socialist Party as part of their campaign ahead of European elections.
The construction company Metrostav has broadened for the second time a complaint against Prague City Hall over Blanka Tunnel and an alleged unpaid 3.7 billion crowns for the project which includes a new bridge in the Prague-Troja area. Prague City Hall said it had the funds to pay off bills due but no legal framework for payment after it came to light contracts between Metrostav and the city might be invalid. The matter ended up in arbitration court. Blanka Tunnel is expected to cost Prague some 36 billion crowns. It was originally meant to be opened in May; now a date in September is being discussed, after a preliminary decision ordered Metrostav to continue work on the tunnel complex.
The Office of the President has been ordered to return a building seized by Czechoslovakia’s former Communist regime to relatives of the original owners. The family home, located within the vicinity of Prague Castle, was seized by the state in 1957 for security reasons. The state now has three days upon receiving the verdict to sign an agreement with the family on restitution. Although the decision is binding, the Office of the President is reportedly considering taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
A lab for the production of the illicit drug pervetin, uncovered by the police on Wednesday in the region of Karlovy Vary, was capable of producing dozens of kilos of the methamphetamine worth tens of millions of crowns. The police commented it was not often they saw a facility of comparable size. Three people, reportedly of Vietnamese descent, were arrested and several kilos of the drug were seized. The Czech News Agency reported it took officers equipped with gasmasks two trips with a transport vehicle to remove chemicals from the facility. Early estimates suggest that more than 50 kilos of pervetin were produced at the site.
The Czech coalition parties have approved plans to cut the VAT rate on to drugs, medicine, diapers and food for infants from 15 to 10 percent as of 2015. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the Finance Ministry would now incorporate the move into the draft of next year’s state budget; it is estimated that the lower VAT rate would cost the budget several billion crowns. The Czech government is yet to discuss the plan with the European Commission; it will consider plans for further cuts of the VAT rate only after measures to improve VAT collection are implemented, according to the prime minister.
Hockey player Tomáš Slovák, bike rider David Pabiška and former cyclist Jan Smolík received the Czech Fair Play awards on Wednesday. Škoda Plzeň defenceman Slovák was honoured for admitting to the referee he had deflected a puck out of play during the decisive match of last year’s play-offs finals. David Pabiška, meanwhile, assisted an injured rider during last year’s Dakar Rally; he called a medical helicopter and waited with the injured Italian biker until it arrived. Former cyclist Jan Smolík, who won the international Peace Race event in 1964, received an award for his life-time commitment to fair play principles, the organizers from the Czech Olympic Committee said.
The top Czech division club Slovan Liberec have fired manager Jaroslav Šilhavý. The 52-year-old coach’s contract with the club was to expire at the end of the season but owners dismissed Šilhavý after they learned he was planning to coach regional rival Jablonec. Šihlavý joined Liberec in 2011 and won the league title with the north Bohemian club the following season. This year, Liberec is ranked 5th in the Gambrinus liga with four rounds to go, 26 points behind leaders Sparta.
A large exhibition of works by the graphic artist Bohuslav Reynek opens at Prague’s Waldstein Riding School on Wednesday. Entitled Reynek – A Genius We Were Supposed to Forget, the exhibition presents some 80 graphic pieces by the artist who lived in seclusion in his country house until his death in 1971. Heavily influenced by Catholicism, Reynek’s work was not publicly displayed after the 1948 Communist takeover; his first exhibition under communism was held in 1964. The Prague retrospective, organized by a Czech advertising firm and curated by Reynek’s granddaughter Veronika, runs until the end of July.
The Czech Finance Ministry’s plans to cut the two existing VAT rates by one percent to 20 and 14 percent, respectively, in 2016 have not been approved by the coalition parties and would have an disproportionate impact on the state budget, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said. Mr Sobotka’s remarks came in a reaction to the daily Mladá fronta Dnes’ report on Wednesday detailing the plans. The Finance Ministry would also like to introduce a third, 10-percent VAT rate next year that would apply to drugs, books, and baby food; the prime minister said this was a reasonable compromise.