News Višegrad Group states urge US to boost natural gas exports to Europe
The Višegrad Group states are urging the United States to boost natural gas exports to Europe as a hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine. Ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland made the appeal in a letter to the US Congress. The letter asks for Congress to support speedier approval of natural gas exports, noting that the "presence of U.S. natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe." The ambassadors warn that the unrest in Ukraine has brought back Cold War memories and that energy security threatens the region's residents on a daily basis.
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Czech arms manufacturers increased their exports last year to CZK 15 billion, according to figures released on Tuesday by the head of the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic, Jiří Hynek. In 2014 the industry’s exports totalled CZK 11.8 billion. Mr. Hynek attributed the jump to a marked increase in sales to the United States and the European Union. Czech arms makers export 90 percent of their products.
The Czech Republic is not demanding the resignation of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, says the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Sobotka made the comment in Brussels on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders to discuss the UK’s plans to quit the bloc. On Sunday the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, indirectly called for Mr. Juncker to step down over his responsibility for the UK’s Brexit vote. But Mr. Sobotka said it was not about one person; rather the European Commission needs to change how it operates as an institution.
A new exhibition in Prague is set to display previously unseen pictures of St. Vitus Cathedral by the great Czech photographer Josef Sudek. While Sudek’s photos of the cathedral taken in the 1920s during construction are well-known, the works on show date from the Nazi occupation of the city. The exhibition In the Shadows of the Cathedral runs from Wednesday until August 30.
Czech and Dutch police have arrested 58 people in connection with the large-scale production and distribution of illegal drugs, police spokespersons in both states announced on Tuesday. Coordinated raids uncovered six laboratories, eight cannabis factories, 32 kilo of synthetic drugs, 54 kilos of marijuana and a host of other illicit materials. Police said they had been monitoring the gang, which was also active in other countries, for three years.
In tennis, Lucie Šafářová is through to the second round of Wimbledon after saving three match balls against US doubles partner Bethany Mattek-Sands. Šafářová converted her first match ball to win the tie 6:7, 7:6, 7:5. She faces another US opponent, Samantha Crawford, in the next round.
Czech electricity producer ČEZ has began proceedings to reclaim billions of crowns lost after the prolonged closure of three out of four of its nuclear reactors at the Dukovany plant following faulty safety checks on pipes. Czech Radio reported that proceedings have begun against engineering company Škoda JS to reclaim around 3.5 billion crowns. Škoda JS recruited a sub-contracted to carry out X-ray checks on pipes at the plant which were later found to be flawed. Much of the reactor was closed in late 2015 and into 2016 as a result. Škoda JS has denied being guilty.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and deputy prime minister Pavel Bělobradek have paid homage on behalf of the government to the victims of Communism. Bělobradek, the leader of the Christian Democrats, laid a wreath at a memorial in Prague 5 district. Monday is the 66th anniversary of the execution of Milada Horáková, the woman member of parliament found guilty in a show trial in 1950 staged by the Communist regime. The death penalty was carried out in spite of last minutes pleas for clemency from the likes of Albert Einstein and the Pope. A series of commemorative events were scheduled in the Czech capital and across the country.
In football, the future of Czech national manager Pavel Vrba is in the balance. The web pages of the football association reported Monday that it has been approached by officials of the Russian club Makhachkala. The club is interested in the possibility of using an escape clause in Vrba’s current contract and has been cleared to start preliminary talks. Vrba’s Czech squad finished early in the Euro 2016 championships with just one point from a draw with Croatia in the group stage. Makhachkala was 12th in the Russia league last season.
The guerrilla arts group Ztohoven has said it has cut up a presidential standard into 1152 pieces that will be sent ad hoc to people across the Czech Republic. The group took down the presidential banner and replaced it with a giant pair of red underpants in a stunt in September last year. The group had gained access to Prague castle after dressing up as chimney sweeps. The court trial of the three, who could face prison terms of up to three years, starts on Wednesday. The fate of the presidential standard was for many months the subject of mystery to the outside world.
The Czech state’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, has concluded in a report that awareness among most Czechs of how EU funds were spent and the existence of various operational programmes has not increased in spite of the hundreds of millions of crowns spent by ministries to publicize them. The office said around 250 million crowns was spent between 2008 and 2015. Around half that total was spent on a series of tv spots which the office said offered hardly any basic information. The ministries of labour and social affairs, regional development, and education were the biggest spenders on publicity material.