News Sobotka: Justice minister’s disputes bad for government’s image

17-06-2014 18:17 updated | Ian Willoughby

Disputes between the minister of justice, Helena Válková, and her subordinates are causing negative publicity for the government, Prime Minister Bohoslav Sobotka said on Tuesday. The Social Democrat premiere said neither Ms. Válková nor her ANO party chief Andrej Babiš had delivered on recent pledges to calm the situation at the Ministry of Justice. Hana Marvanová quit as first deputy justice minister in early June after a dispute with the minister, while on Tuesday (after Mr. Sobotka’s comments) Ms. Válková dismissed the deputy minister for prisons, Pavel Štern, a Social Democrats’ appointee, over his handling of a contract to buy electronic tags.

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Pendolino lead car may be largely beyond repair

30-07-2015 11:27 | Jan Velinger

Further inspection of a Pendolino train badly damaged in a tragic head-on collision in Moravia suggests that only the undercarriage of the lead car might be salvaged and that the rest of the car could be beyond repair. The head of Prague's Depo kolojovích vozidel or Prague's Track Vehicles Depot, Miroslav Kupec, confirmed the news. Damage to the vehicle in the tragic collision in Studénka, Moravia, has been estimated at 150 million crowns. In the recent accident, a Polish truck driver drove onto the track, allegedly ignoring warning signals; the crash killed three people. Representatives of Czech Railways, insurance companies as well the manufacturer of the Pendolino, Alstom, have been meeting to work out the eventual cost of repairs. 

Government agrees to refurbishing and continued technical support for Sokol helicopter fleet

30-07-2015 11:08 | Jan Velinger

The government has agreed to a plan for the general overhaul of eight Sokol helicopters as well as the continuation of standard service repairs of all ten used by the military up until 2021. The general overhaul and repairs (but also spare parts and training of flight and repair crews) are expected to cost the Defence Ministry around one billion crowns. The Sokol copters are used primarily in air rescue, or search and rescue, missions as well as within the Medevac programme. 

Prague Zoo sees birth of first silvery gibbon in Czech Republic

30-07-2015 10:06 | Jan Velinger

A silvery gibbon female at Prague Zoo, has given birth to a healthy baby - the first born in captivity in the Czech Republic. The parents are the female Alangalang and male Flip, both ten years old, who were acquired by the zoo last year. Alangalang arrived in Prague from Howletts, England, and Flip from Munich. Both take excellent care of their young, Prague Zoo said. In the wild, silvery gibbons live on Java and rank as the most endangered of primates. 

Czech fighter pilots, maintenance crews, begin Iceland mission

30-07-2015 09:46 | Jan Velinger

Czech Gripen jets on Wednesday began protecting Icelandic airspace, a mission which will run until August 25. Four of the Swedish-leased jets will patrol the skies over the country while a fifth jet is being kept in reserve. Czech pilots are guarding airspace over Iceland for a second time; the Czech military also served in similar missions in the Baltic states as a member of NATO. On Wednesday, the Czechs took over duties from the Royal Canadian Air Force, whose pilots will now reportedly take part in airstrikes against the terrorist group Islamic State. 

Jablonec lose home leg of Europa League qualifier

30-07-2015 09:05 | Chris Johnstone

In football, Czech club Jablonec lost 0:1 in their initial home leg of the third prequalifying round of the Europa League against Copenhagen. The sole goal of the match was struck from almost 25 metres by winger Benjamin Verbič in the 51st minute. Jablonec, which had a handful of scoring opportunities in the first half, complicated their chances an equalizer after Stanislav Tecl was red carded in the 69th minute. 

Cabinet proposes tighter rules for financing political parties

30-07-2015 09:04 | Chris Johnstone

Stricter rules for the financing of political parties were agreed by the Cabinet on Wednesday. The proposed measures include a 3 million crown ceiling on donations to a party from an individual or company. The Ministry of Interior, which drew up the proposal, had been pressing for a lower limit of 2 million crowns. The proposal also seeks to clamp down on the increasing use of political institutions under the guise of non-profit organisations. The proposal calls for them not to be financed in future by a single party. Their operation will also be supervised by a newly created authority tasked with overseeing the financing of political parties. Financing oversight was previously carried out by a parliamentary committee and frequently criticized for its laxity. 

Jana Hybášková selected to head EU Namibia representation

29-07-2015 18:43 | Chris Johnstone

Former Czech member of the European Parliament and diplomat Jana Hybášková has been confirmed as the European Union’s new ambassador to Namibia. Hybášková previously the 28-strong EU as ambassador in Baghdad. She was previously a member of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009 and before that worked for the Czech diplomatic service with postings in Slovenia, Kuwait, and Qatar. She speaks Arabic fluently. The announcement was made in Brussels on Wednesday amid a series of other staff changes. 

Škoda Auto boosts turnover, profit, and car sales in first six months

29-07-2015 17:36 updated | Chris Johnstone

Škoda Auto, the Czech Republic’s biggest car maker and one of the main industrial motors of the economy, has boosted first half operating profits by around 23 percent to 522 million euros compared with the same period in 2014. Overall turnover rose 7.5 percent to 6.4 billion euros. The manufacturer, part of the Volkswagen Group, said favourable currency rates and lower prices for raw materials helped the improvement. Car deliveries in the first half topped 544,000, a rise of 4.2 percent. 

Cabinet proposes clampdown on gaming business

29-07-2015 17:21 | Chris Johnstone

Tighter rules on the gaming industry were approved Wednesday by the Czech Cabinet. The proposed measures include giving local council greater power over opening hours, including an obligatory closing period during the night, and higher taxes on companies. Taxes on lottery games should increase from 20 to 25 percent. The proposal would also ban gaming machines from bars and restaurants. The Czech Republic has long had a reputation as a gaming paradise compared with other European countries but with the serious social impact that around 100,000 people are now estimated to be addicted to gambling. 

Almost 40 illegal immigrants detained Tuesday night by Czech police

29-07-2015 12:05 | Chris Johnstone

Czech police detained almost 40 illegal immigrants, of which 13 were children, on Tuesday night, Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec announced on Wednesday. He warned that the increasing trend is set to be long term. So far in the first six months of the year police have detained around 3,000 illegal immigrants. Next year the total is expected to be between 5,000 and 7,000. The minister said an extra 1,200 beds in detention centres for illegal immigrants by the end of this year should be sufficient if the situation did not dramatically worsen and as long as it was possible to return some of the immigrants back to Austria and Hungary. 

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