News German MEP says Andrej Babiš faces conflicts of interest as minister
A German Christian Democrat politician has expressed fears that Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš represents such a danger of conflicts of interests that cooperation with Prague will be difficult. CDU member of the European Parliament and member of its budget control committee, Ingeborg Grassle, expressed her concerns during a press conference, adding that Babiš’ companies have been paid 2.6 million euros from EU funds. She added that the Czech Republic’s system for pumping EU funds laid them open to massive abuse. The head of the budget committee later said she was expressing a personal opinion. Concern have frequently been expressed that billionaire Babiš’ media, agricultural and chemical interests make it difficult for him to make objective decisions as finance minister.
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A second group of Christian refugees from Iraq arrived in the Czech Republic on Friday. The 17 Iraqis, comprising four families, follow a group that arrived here almost two weeks ago. Over 150 more are due to resettle in the country in the coming weeks. The Iraqis come from the city of Mosul in the north of the country, which has been taken over by Islamic State.
The number of acute respiratory illnesses in the Czech Republic grew by 10 percent this week while flu cases increased by over 50 percent, according to figures released on Friday. Seven people have died of the flu. One official said an epidemic was developing around virtually the entire country but was so far regional in nature. Central Bohemia and Moravia Silesia have been among the hardest hit parts of the Czech Republic.
A court in Norway is expected to receive on Tuesday a petition from the Czech state to be allowed to participate in a case involving a Czech woman whose two sons were put up for adoption against her will. The government says it wants to employ a Norwegian legal mechanism under which it would defend the public interest in the case. However, no state has ever taken that role and it is not clear whether the court will permit it to do so. Eva Michaláková’s appeal against losing her parental rights is due to be heard in the last week of this month.
Ai Weiwei is set to officially open an exhibition of his Zodiac Heads at Prague’s National Gallery on Friday evening. The Chinese artist and activist on Thursday covered the statues, which were erected last weekend, in gold-coloured emergency survival blankets, in what may be a reference to Europe’s migrant crisis. Ai said he was aware there was opposition in the Czech Republic to the acceptance of refugees, which he found surprising. He also referred to Václav Havel, describing the late Czech president and human rights champion as a great thinker. The exhibition is part of celebrations of the 220th anniversary of the National Gallery.
MP Petr Gazdík of the Mayors group has called on Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to apologise to the United States after the Czech authorities freed a Lebanese man Washington wished to extradite. The opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats have called for a lower house debate on the circumstances surrounding the release of Ali Fayad, who was wanted in the US on suspicion of supporting terrorism. The American ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, expressed shock over the move, which he said could harm cooperation between the two states’ law enforcement agencies and encourage criminal groups and terrorists. Mr. Fayad’s release came after five Czechs released in Lebanon last year were freed.
Cigarette packets in the Czech Republic will have to carry graphic images meant to deter smokers alongside the present written health warnings under a new regulation being prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, iHned.cz reported. The edict will come into effect on May 20 and retailers will have a three-month period in which to sell off older supplies, the news site said. Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka said the government’s main concern was making the public more aware of the risks associated with smoking and that 65 percent of the front and back of cigarette packets would now be given over to health warnings.
President Miloš Zeman is the most “trusted” Czech politician, suggests a public opinion poll conducted last month by the CVVM agency. In the regular survey Mr. Zeman climbed by 10 percentage points to leapfrog over ANO chief and Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš, who ranked second. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, also of ANO, moved up to third in the poll, ahead of Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
Czech police will on Friday begin questioning five men released this week after being abducted in Lebanon, a police spokesperson said. The force’s organised crime unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding their kidnapping in July last year. The five are currently being examined by doctors at a Prague medical facility after returning to the Czech Republic on a government plane on Thursday. The head of the organised crime unit, Robert Šlachta, was among the Czech delegation that picked them up. The five were freed just days before a Lebanese man who stood to be extradited to the US was released from prison in Prague, prompting speculation about an exchange deal.
In football, Czech captain and Arsenal midfielder Tomáš Rosický has reportedly torn his thigh muscle and looks like he will be out for the rest of the season. The player was injured at the weekend in a FA CUP encounter with Burnley. An update on his condition was given by the English daily, the Sun. For Czech supporters the news puts a big question mark over Rosický’s participation in the European Championships starting in June.
In ice hockey, Jaromír Jágr has not been included in the preliminary Czech team selection for the World Cup of Hockey taking place in Toronto, Canada, in September. The new national coach and team, however, say they will sound the veteran star and current player for the Florida Panthers about his intentions and willingness to play. Jágr said after the last world championships hosted by Prague and Ostrava that he intended to end playing for his country.