Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said his government wished to play an active role in the discussion on the future of Europe. Mr. Sobotka said European integration was in the interests of the Czech Republic as the country lay in the centre of the continent and worked closely with Eurozone states. For her part, Mrs. Merkel said she welcomed the pro-EU orientation of the new Czech government. Mr. Sobotka also held a meeting with the German president Joachim Gauck. On Friday the Czech leader is due to visit the HQ of Volkswagen, which owns the Czech-based Škoda Auto.
The minister of industry and trade, Jan Mládek, is considering the creation of a state enterprise to build new reactors for the Temelín nuclear power station, Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday. Mr. Mládek has refused to reveal details about the proposal. However, Hospodářské noviny said its sources indicated that Temelín’s owner, semi-state power company CEZ, would likely conclude a tender to complete the plant in the next few months without picking a winner. The construction project would then be hived off from CEZ, meaning it would be relieved of any risks linked to the investment.
The police have charged a man in connection with the murder of Roman Houska, an influential figure in the Social Democrats in Ústí nad Labem, north Bohemia. The suspect was arrested on Wednesday, the state attorney said. Mr. Houska was gunned down in front of his home in Chomutov in November in what appeared to be a contract killing. Media reports at the time described the businessman, who reportedly claimed to have compromising materials on opponents, as an eminence grise in politics in the region.
The police’s anti-corruption unit are investigating jailed former senator Alexandr Novák and influential businessman Patrik Oulický on suspicion of money laundering, Czech Radio reported on Thursday. The two are suspected of covertly investing CZK 17 million in a casino, the station said. Mr. Novák is currently in prison after being found guilty of accepting a bribe of over CZK 40 million. Both he and Mr. Oulický were regarded as “godfathers” in the Civic Democrats in Ústí nad Labem but are no longer party members.
The Czech Roman Catholic priest and professor Tomáš Halík has received the 2014 Templeton Prize, a UK-based award for “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities”. The organisers said Monsignor Halík, who is 65, had risked imprisonment for illegally advancing religious and cultural freedoms after the Soviet invasion of his country, and had since become a leading international advocate for dialogue among different faiths and non-believers. The Templeton Prize comes with a monetary award of about USD 1.8 million.
A smog alert remains in effect for parts of the Moravia-Silesia region in the northeast of the country, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said. The alert was declared on Wednesday over dust emission values that in some places twice exceed the permitted limits; the highest levels of pollution have been registered in the Karviná district, with 242 micrograms per cubic metre. The situation is not likely to improve on Thursday, meteorologists said. The Ostrava region is one of the most polluted in the country, with heavy industry, traffic and home heating among the major factors.
A memorial to the late Czech president Václav Havel is likely to be erected at Maltézské náměstí by Prague’s Kampa district, the city’s mayor, Tomáš Hudeček, told the Czech News Agency. The “Havel’s Place” memorial features a circular table around a tree and two chairs and was designed by architect Bořek Šípek. Versions have already been unveiled in Washington, Dublin and Barcelona. The Prague one should appear this spring.
An exhibition that opened on Thursday at Prague’s National Library highlights samizdat books and magazines produced in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s. Entitled Samizdat: The Creative Power of Resistance, the show has been organised in conjunction with Libri prohibiti, a privately held library that possesses some 13,000 books produced illicitly in Czechoslovakia under communism. The exhibition is due to run at the Clementinum until April 18.
Viktoria Plzeň are preparing to face the French club Olympique Lyonnais in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie on Thursday evening. The second leg takes place in West Bohemia next week. Plzeň overcame the wealthy Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, who won the competition’s predecessor in 2010, in the previous round.