News EU threatens to withhold subsidies for Czech operational programme
The European Commission may withhold hundreds of millions of crowns in subsidies for the Czech operational programme Education for Competitiveness, the daily Lidové Noviny reported on Friday. According to the daily, the Ministry of Education has received a letter from EU auditors, who say the system needs to be significantly improved. The review took place in May, checking up on some fifty projects and revealing problems mainly in the system of internal control. The Education for Competitiveness operational programme has faced problems for years. The Czech Ministry of Education will now have two months to answer the EU criticism.
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Some of the country’s most popular castles and chateaux opened their doors to the public this weekend, marking the start of the tourist season. Among them are Karlšejn, Křivoklát and Konopište, which annually attract over half a million visitors. Prague Castle also opened its doors to visitors this weekend. The country’s other historical attractions are due to open the season on April 1st or the long Easter weekend with price cuts and special events for visitors.
The 120 vehicle strong US military convoy, which is expected to cross Czech territory on its way back to Germany from a NATO military exercise in the Baltic states, is due to arrive at the Polish-Czech border at around 10 .30 am on Sunday. The convoy, which is travelling through six NATO member states to demonstrate NATO unity and US commitment to stability in Europe, will spend four days in the Czech Republic before heading for its home base in Bavaria. It is expected to meet both with supporters and opponents who disapprove of what they describe as NATO muscle-flexing on Czech territory. On the eve of its arrival several hundred people gathered on Wenceslas Square to air their views. Protesters, largely communist party sympathizers, mingled with supporters carrying US flags and the two comps engaged in heated verbal disputes. The police was out in force to keep the demonstrations under control. According to a recent poll 82 percent of Czechs have no problem with the convoy passing through and Czech politicians have repeatedly stressed that the US convoy is an allied force, not a foreign army.
The winner of the 2015 Prague Half Marathon is Daniel Kinyua Wanjiru from Kenya who covered the 21 km distance in 59 minutes 51 seconds. The first woman to reach the finishing line was Worknesh Degefao who covered the track in 1:07:14. Over 12,000 participants from around the world took part. The Prague Half Marathon holds IAAF Gold Label Road Race status and is managed by the same organization that holds the Prague Marathon in May.
The annual shift to summertime or daylight saving time is due to take place at 2am on Sunday, when clocks will be moved forward by an hour. In the Czech Republic the shift to summertime, introduced for economic reasons, has been implemented, with a number of breaks, for 36 years. Until 1995 summertime in the Czech Republic lasted for six months of the year, after that the country brought it in line with EU norms and it now lasts for seven months- i.e. until the end of October.
The Czech authorities have not disclosed any details with respect to the
negotiations leading up to the release of the two Czech women who were
kidnapped in Pakistan in 2013 or said where they were kept in detention.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said that the ministry did not want to
reveal further details at this point. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec
indicated that the Czech Republic had not paid a ransom to bring them back.
The Czech Republic does not negotiate with terrorists or pay ransom money,
he told Czech Television.
President Miloš Zeman’s spokesperson said the president was extremely happy to hear that the two young women had been freed and expressed his gratitude to the IHH NGO for negotiating their release.
Two freight trains collided head-on near the town of Litomerice on Saturday morning. One of the engine drivers was badly injured in the accident. It is not yet clear how the trains came to be on the same track. An inspection team is at the site of the accident and the rail track will be closed at least until the end of the day. The preliminary damage estimate is around 100 million crowns.
Two Czech women who were kidnapped in Pakistan two years ago have been released, Czech Television reported early on Saturday citing Turkish media sources. The IHH Turkish charity reportedly participated in negotiations to secure their release and the two young women returned home via Turkey late on Friday night. The news of their safe return has since been confirmed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who thanked the IHH for helping to secure their release and asked the media to respect their and their families’ privacy in order to enable them to return to a normal life as soon as possible. The Turkish media published a photo of the young women on which they both appear to be unharmed.
In connection with the tragic Germanwings plane crash, the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines has said it has an internal regulation according to which there must be two crew members in the cockpit at all times during a flight. If one of the pilots needs a few minutes break they must wait to be replaced by one of the cabin assistants before leaving, a spokesman for Czech Airlines told the news site novinky.cz. The regulation has been in force for the last ten years. The airline Travel Service has confirmed a similar policy.
Defense Minister Martin Stropnický said all was in readiness for the 120
vehicle strong US military convoy, which is expected to pass through Czech
territory at the end of this week. Speaking at a press briefing in Prague
on Friday the minister said the smallest details had been taken care of to
ensure a smooth transfer, and all was in readiness both at the military
barracks where the soldiers will be staying the night as well as along the
given route. Traffic police are prepared for the event and we have all the
necessary licenses, the minister noted. The cost of the operation
–estimated at 175,000 crowns will be covered by the US army.
The convoy, returning from a NATO exercise called Operation Atlantic Resolve in the Baltic states, is travelling through six countries on its way to a military base in Germany. It will arrive in the Czech Republic on Sunday and spend four days on Czech territory.
The Labour Ministry is working on a proposed legislation which should enable up to 4,000 miners to go into early retirement – by up to five years earlier than the present pension law allows. The present criteria for early retirement allow miners who have worked below ground since 1993 and who undertook 3,300 work shifts by 2008 to ask for retirement 5 years earlier. Labour Minister Michaela Marksova said on Friday she wanted to all miners who have undertaken the said number of work shifts without specification by what date to have the same advantage. The measure is being undertaken to ease the social impact of the planned mine closures.