German President Joachim Gauck is set to arrive in the Czech Republic on a three-day official visit in early May, a spokesman for the Czech president said. The visit is planned between May 5 and 7. No details of the president’s programme in the Czech Republic have been released but the German head of state will likely take part in commemorating the end of WWII as well as the Prague uprising against the Nazi rule which began on May 5, 1945. Mr Gauck and his Czech counterpart, Miloš Zeman, first met in Germany last June; the German president first officially visited the Czech Republic in 2012.
The former Palestinian ambassador in Prague, Muhammad Jamal, who died in an explosion on New Year’s Day, was killed by a semtex charge concealed in a book, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday quoting police sources. An investigator told the paper the police was now only working with one version of what happened; the Palestinian diplomat was going through old things at the embassy with no knowledge there were two explosive charges among them. The police said last month he died after the charge exploded in his hands. The police are reportedly nearly 100 percent positive the explosive was the Czechoslovak-made semtex from the 1970s.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka sees no need to revise the government’s coalition agreement over recent arguments between the Social Democrat and ANO parties. Speaking during his visit to the Zlín region on Monday, Mr Sobotka said adhering to the agreement’s principles was the best way of settling the dispute; the prime minister and ANO leader and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš have clashed over plans to assist the mining firm NWR with keeping its Paskov mine operational until 2016 after Mr Babiš refused to back the originally proposed 1.1 billion crown in support for the mine, and made his own deal with the firm. Mr Babiš and Mr Sobotka are going to discuss their views at a meeting planned for Tuesday, the news agency ČTK reported.
The Civic Democrats will give back one million crowns they had received under suspicious circumstances, party chair Petr Fiala told a news conference in Prague on Monday. The party received the donation in 2013 from a 22-year-old woman on a maternity leave; Czech medial reported she owns no property, and speculated the real donor might have been her partner, an entrepreneur in medical products. The Civic Democrats said they would give the money back despite the fact no law was breached, and that they would tighten the rules for accepting donations in the future.
Czech exports to Ukraine dropped by 28.8 percent in February while exports to Russia registered an 0.4 percent in that month, the Czech Statistical Office said on Monday. Analysts see the Crimea crisis as the main reason behind the drop, as well as a slowdown of the Russian economy. Overall, Czech exports grew by over 15 percent in February, driven by trade with Germany, Austria, China, France, and other countries. A spokesman for the Exporters’ Association said Czech companies were concerned about an escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, adding that many expect lower volumes of new orders from their Russian business partners.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has struck a deal with NWR, the owner of the north Moravian Paskov coal mine, to keep it operational until 2017. The Czech government will pay 600 million crowns for social programmes for the mine’s employees; the mining firm NWR has agreed to spend 500 million on the remediation of the mine, Mr Babiš told reports on Monday after a meeting with NWR board chairman, Gareth Perry. The finance minister said the deal was yet to be approved by the government and the European Commission. The government was planning to spend around 1.1 billion crowns to keep the unprofitable mine operational until 2016.
The leader of the Dawn party, Tomio Okamura, said one of his party’s candidates in the European elections, Klára Samková, had “not a drop of Gypsy blood” in her veins. Ms Samková has worked as attorney for a number of Romany clients and was married to a Romany man. Mr Okamura made the comment on Facebook when asked why the party, known for its anti-Romany rhetoric, had fielded Ms Samková for the election. The comments came under criticism from Romany advocates; for her part, Klára Samková came out in defence of Mr Okamura, saying he meant no offence.
Iraq will buy 12 Czech-built L-159 aircraft, the news website lidovky.cz reported on Monday. The contract, signed by Representatives of Iraq’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday, is worth around 200 million US dollars, the website said quoting sources familiar with the deal. The Czech military has been trying to sell off the redundant aircraft after it only found use for 28 out of 72 planes it ordered in 1997. Last year, a US training company signed a deal to buy 28 L-159 planes for around 500 million crowns.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday rejected President Miloš Zeman’s criticism of the government’s rescue plan for the north Moravian Paskov coal mine. The cabinet is planning to offer some 1.1 billion crowns to the unprofitable mine’s owner, OKD, in order to keep the mine operational until 2016. President Zeman told Czech Radio on Sunday this suggested the government was helplessness. However, the prime minister said his government would not remain passive, and seek ways to help the mine’s employees. The issue has also sparked a dispute within the coalition after the ANO party refused the back the plan.
Czech industrial growth accelerated in February to 6.7 percent year on year, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Monday; compared to January, the industry grew by 1.7 percent. The value of new orders rose by nearly 20 percent, mainly thanks to foreign demand. The growth is attributed mainly to the production of motor vehicles, metal construction as well as rubber and plastic manufacturing. Analysts say the latest figures confirm the continuing recovery of the Czech economy, and expect substantial manufacturing growth in the coming months as well.