News Sobotka : Medium-term target for defence spending 1.4 percent of GDP

20-05-2014 17:30 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, says the government's medium-term target is to raise spending on defence to the equivalent of 1.4 percent of the country’s GDP. He said it was not aiming for the 2 percent encouraged by NATO, of which the Czech Republic is a member. Nevertheless, the country will reduce its military spending in 2015, Mr. Sobotka told reporters on Tuesday. On a recent visit to Prague the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called on the Czech Republic to boost defence spending.

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Justice minister under fire from sweet toothed pensioner

29-05-2015 18:31 | Chris Johnstone

Minister of Justice Robert Pelikán came under fire from an angry pensioner in the centre of Prague on Friday morning. The man shot his starter pistol three times at the ground a few meters from the minister before being apprehended by his bodyguards. The man was quickly freed and the minister told the ČTK news agency that no charges would be pressed. The man was reportedly angry about how a case in which he had been accused of stealing from an automatic machine dispensing chocolates and other confectionary had been dealt with. Former president Václav Klaus was the victim of a similar attack in 2012. The head of his personal bodyguard resigned in the aftermath of the incident for alleged failings of the service. 

Second wave of social inclusion staff give notice

29-05-2015 16:58 | Chris Johnstone

A second wave of workers have given notice they will quit the government Agency for Social Inclusion, the institution tasked with dealing with some of the country’s worst social problems, over ongoing differences over its management. In the latest wave, 14 workers have given notice which means that 24 out 68 staff have now resigned. Staff leaving said the most recent moves by minister in charge of human rights Jiří Dienstbier, deputy ministers, and the newly appointed head of the agency, Radek Jiránek, only exacerbated their grievances. Jiránek was appointed on Wednesday. Matters have come to a head since the sacking of the previous long-term head of the agency, Martin Šimáček. 

Italian suspected of sending poison letters to Czech minister charged with terrorism

29-05-2015 15:56 | Chris Johnstone

A 24 year old Italian of Slovenian origin who is suspected of having sent poison filled letters to Czech personalities has been charged with terrorism and two other criminal offences the agency ČTK reported Friday citing Slovenian sources. Ivan Cernice is believed to have sent a letter containing cyanide to Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš last year. A similar letter with poison was dispatched to the Ministry of Interior and letters without poison arrived at Ministry of Justice. Cernice was detained by police near the border town of Nova Gorica, Slovenia, in November and has been in custody ever since. He has also been charged with illegal production and sale of drugs and falsifying official documents. 

Czech churches open doors on Friday evening

29-05-2015 15:35 | Chris Johnstone

More than 1,500 churches, chapels, and other places of worship across the Czech Republic will open their doors on Friday night for the seventh annual version of the event. This year sites will be exceptionally opened after dusk. Concerts, organ recitals, cultural events, and films are some of the accompaniments on offer this year. The open doors event was last year attended by around 500,000 people. In Prague, various works of contemporary art will be on show at some of the churches taking part. 

Lucie Šafářová proceeds at Roland Garros, Lukáš Rosol drops out

29-05-2015 15:17 | Chris Johnstone

In tennis, Lucie Šafářová beat German Sabine Lisicki 6:3, 7:7 to reach the fourth round of the Paris Open at Roland Garros. The Czech 13th seed will now face the winner of the match between Australian Samantha Stosur and Russia’s Maria Sharapova. In the men’s singles, Lukáš Rosol lost to Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets: 4:6, 4:6, 4:6 in the third round. 

Czech researchers help track down new blood disease

29-05-2015 14:44 | Chris Johnstone

The Medical Faculty at Brno’s Masaryk University has played a part in research which has discovered a new type of hereditary blood disease. The disease manifests itself through a shortage of blood platelets and has been found to increase the likelihood of the onset of leukaemia. Long term research by laboratories in the United States and Italy helped in the breakthrough discovery. Scientists’ suspicions were aroused by the high number of patients with blood disorders whose children also had low platelet counts. Platelets help blood to clot. 

Marcel Chládek decribes himself as victim of ANO campaign

29-05-2015 13:45 | Chris Johnstone

Outgoing minister of education Marcel Chládek described in a press conference that his dismissal was an unprecedented step. He said that he was a victim of a campaign by the fellow coalition party, ANO, led by billionaire businessman Andrej Babiš, which was connected with his moves to win a bigger budget for the education ministry. Chládek warned that his example could be a dangerous precedent for fellow ministers or officials whose policies clashed with the interests of Andrej Babiš or his agro-chemical group Agrofert. He added that the comments about his alleged bullying of ministry officials were lies put together by a Babiš owned newspaper and drawn from comments of workers who had already quit a year ago. He said it was important for his successor to continue the fight for more funds for education, adding that without these the Czech Republic could not hope to compete on a global stage. 

Škoda Auto fined for cartel deal with distributors

29-05-2015 12:42 | Chris Johnstone

The Czech Republic’s biggest car maker Škoda Auto has been fined just over 49 million crowns by the country’s competition office for an illegal cartel. The company set a minimum price for the margins of car distributors, meaning that they could not go lower than them and give a better deal to car buyers. The case was only made public by the daily Mláda Fronta Dnes after it pressed the competition office for details under public access of information legislation. 

Court clears former prime minister’s chief of staff of spying on PM’s wife

29-05-2015 12:28 | Chris Johnstone

A court has cleared the former head of office of ex-prime minister Petr Nečas of abusing her public position by ordering the army’s intelligence service to spy and keep track of Radka Nečasová, the prime minister’s then wife. Jana Nečasová, formerly Nagyová, was romantically linked to the prime minister and later became his wife. Charges against three co-defendants from the military espionage service were dismissed. The case brought down the centre-right government of Petr Nečas when it exploded in June 2013. The state prosecutor, who demanded a three-and-a-half jail sentence for Nečasová and similar penalties for the other defendants, said an appeal would be lodged against the verdict. Nečasová afterwards said the charges had been totally fabricated with the aim of discrediting her and Petr Nečas. 

Education ministry: Czech schools should not limit use of religious symbols

29-05-2015 10:06 | Ruth Fraňková

Czech schools should not insist on any general limitation of the use of religious symbols by their students in their school rules, the Education Ministry said in a manual for school principals released yesterday. They can only do so for the sake of security and health protection in a specific situation, the manual says. Headscarves have become an issue in the Czech Republic after a medical school in Prague banned two students from wearing them more than a year ago. Ombudsman Anna Šabatová then demanded that the school rules be changed, arguing that the school indirectly discriminated against the girls. 

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