News Defense minister: Ukraine crisis a threat to EU & NATO security
The current crisis in Ukraine represents a serious security risk for both the European Union and NATO, the Czech Defense Minister Martin Stopnický has said. Speaking at a meeting in Bratislava, he stressed it would be necessary to increase defense spending; he also made clear he strongly supported increased military cooperation by the Visegrad countries, backing a plan to form a joint combat unit of up to 4,000 soldiers by 2016. Earlier this week, the defense minister caused a major stir at home when he suggested NATO troops might be less than welcome on Czech soil, especially by those who still remembered the historic occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Mr Stropnický came under fire from the opposition as well as members of the government and was forced to backtrack. He put forward a declaration in the lower house emphasising the Czech Republic’s commitment to NATO and common defense.
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So-called Public Private Partnership Projects (PPP) could be used in the future to finance high speed rail connections in the Czech Republic, the director of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure, Zbyněk Hořelica. He was speaking at a transport conference in Prague. The fund is current carrying out technical surveys on possible routes with planning permission for construction possible after 2030. The search for new sources of financing stems from the fact that most EU funding for transport initiatives will dry up after 2023. Priority routes for high speed routes are likely to be to Germany via Ústi nad Labem and Dresden, to Munich via Plzeň, and to Vienna and Bratislava from Brno. PPP projects, in which a private investor builds the infrastructure and then, often, charges for it, have often been mooted as a means for building transport infrastructure while deferring the up front costs.
Czech made L-159 sub-sonic aircraft have been used in Iraq for the first time against Islamic State, according to the Iraqi Army. The Czech government cleared the sale of 15 excess to requirement aircraft being held by the company Aero Vodochody. The Iraqi Army said the Czech aircraft are now being used on the outskirts of Mosul, which the army and Kurdish forces are currently attempting to win back from IS. Czech training and aircraft advisors have been in Iraq since June to help train Iraqi’s to use the planes.
Italian scholar, writer, and essayist Claudio Magris will be awarded this year’s Franz Kafka prize in Prague on Thursday. Born in Trieste in 1939, Magris is known for his focus on Central Europe and German. His most famous book, Danube, followed the course of the river through the region. Magris’ wok first appeared in Czech in 1992. He will be the 16th winner of the Franz Kafka award, which seeks to give recognition to writers who have followed in the literary path of the celebrated Czech 20th century writer.
The weather on Friday, a holiday in the Czech Republic to mark the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, will be overcast with the chance of some sunny spells. Maximum daytime temperatures across the country will range from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday presented Holocaust survivor George Brady with the Karel Kramář medal. The prime minister said the award was recognition of Czech-born Brady’s lifetime work promoting freedom, democracy, and human rights. Referring to the recent scandal over whether presidential officials threatened to withdraw an earlier promised state award to Brady because his nephew, culture minister Daniel Herman met with the Dalai Lama, Sobotka said it was unfortunate and that figures such as Brady should be honoured. Brady survived the Czech collection camp at Terezín, where he was sent by the Nazis, and later the Auschwitz death camp. He later emigrated to Canada and devoted much of his life telling younger generations of his life story.
The scandal around the alleged withdrawal of a state honour to Holocaust survivor George Brady has taken a new turn with news that an episode of the popular talk show Jan Kraus on commercial broadcaster Prima failed to be screened. The episode, recorded on Tuesday, was supposed to go out on Wednesday night. Prima said that was not possible because the copy of the recording arrived late. An earlier episode was repeated instead. The station’s version was challenged by the show’s producer, who said it was delivered as usual and in time. Other guests on the show, such as musician Anna K, have complained of media censorship. Jan Kraus, known for his outspoken comments and stand against corruption, has not commented so far. Brady, the uncle of culture minister Daniel Herman, has been in the spotlight the last week in a scandal focused on whether the president’s office first offered him a state award and then warned it would be withdrawn if the minister met with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Prime later said the episode would be screened on Thursday.
Judges in a pending Constitutional Court judgement which threatens to effectively close the archives of the communist-era police, the StB, to researchers and historians are unlikely to take such a dramatic step, the daily Hospodářské Noviny reports on Thursday. The government, archivists, and the Czech authority for protecting personal data are against the step, it reports. A decision from the 15-member court is needed after questions were raised whether current access to the files infringes personal privacy. Historians warn that a system giving the greatest protection to personal details would mean most of the files being blacked out before being handed over to researchers.
The Czech Republic’s biggest car maker Škoda Auto raised its operating profit in nine months of the year by 28.1 percent to 25.5 billion crowns (around 940 million euros) according to figures released by German parent company Volkswagen on Thursday. Škoda has been able to boost its sales and spread its costs over the period. To September, the carmaker has been able to produce 606,000 cars and is set for a record production figure for 2016.
The lower house of parliament in first reading passed on Wednesday evening the broad outline of the budget for 2017. This counts on a budget deficit of 60 billion crowns next year compared with the approved deficit of 70 billion crowns this year. Opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats failed to push through a proposal to get the approved deficit for next year cut by a further 30 billion crowns to a final 30 billion crowns. Lawmakers can now propose changes within the agreed overall budget and spending and revenue raising limits.
Former top policeman Robert Šlachta has been appointed deputy general director of the Czech Customs Administration in charge of investigations and searches, the administration said on Wednesday. Šlachta was a central figure in the recent row over the reorganisation of elite police units which pitted government parties against each other. He resigned as head of the special police unit for combatting organised crime in June in protest at what he described as a politically motivated shake up aimed at curbing his force’s effectiveness. The customs administration said Šlachta was successful in his application in the tender for its high level job, it previously reported that there were no other candidates.