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Czech PM meets with Austrian chancellor

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann arrived in Prague on Thursday for talks with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. On the agenda was the discussion of plans to improve cross-border transport infrastructure including the modernization of railway connections between Vienna and Prague. Also on the agenda were candidacies for the European Commission as both the Czech Republic and Austria are hoping to clinch the post of commissioner for regional policy. On Thursday, Prime Minister Sobotka and his Austrian counterpart agreed to meet in the future on a regular basis, also incuding Slovakia's prime minister; the next meeting is expected to take place next spring.

Police arrest Georgian recidivist at Prague’s international airport

A 36-year-old Georgian national, wanted on an international arrest warrant and regarded as highly dangerous, was apprehended on Monday at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport, a spokeswoman for the Czech Foreigners’ Police has revealed. The foreign national, a known drug addict and recidivist suffering from hepatitis, travelled from Kiev using a fake Russian passport. His luggage contained a large quantity of methadone and a device used for monitoring individuals and their vehicles, the Czech News Agency reported.

According to the police spokeswoman, the country’s unit for uncovering organised crime had determined beyond a doubt the suspect arrived in the country to commit a murder. The identity of his supposed target remains unknown. In the past, the wanted man served eight years in Georgia for illegal arms possession and was jailed in Russia for kidnapping. Extradition proceedings against him have been launched; he faces up to ten years in prison in his homeland.

EC candidate: Talks on postponement of Czech civil service bill possible

The introduction of new civil service legislation by January 1, 2015 is not an ultimatum set by the European Union and a postponing of the deadline could still be negotiated, the Czech candidate for European commissioner Věra Jourová said on Thursday in an interview for Czech TV. She made the statement as it remains unclear whether the coalition government will succeed in pushing through its amendment in the lower house, even though it has a majority, due to the right-wing opposition doing its utmost to preventing a vote on the amendment from taking place. The opposition TOP 09 and Civic Democrats say they will not stop blocking the session unless the coalition accepts a number of changes to the amendment. The ruling coalition Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats discussed the matter on Thursday.

Coalition to debate civil service law with opposition

The three parties in government have agreed to hold talks with the opposition on the final framework of a civil service amendment. According to the Czech News Agency, two representatives from each of the parties in the lower house will meet on Friday. A number of alternatives regarding parts of the legislation have been proposed for debate; critics have charged quality legislation was needed rather than just meeting the deadline of January 1. The centre-right opposition of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have said they will block the bill unless the proposal sees changes.

Czech TV: Former head of Pražské služby charged

According to Czech TV, police have pressed charges against Tomáš Kolinger, the former head of Pražské služby (overseeing waste management in the capital), two days after detectives raided the firm’s headquarters and confiscated material. Police were allegedly searching for documents possibly related to the firm’s multi-billion deals on waste collection as well as a planned acquisition of an additional stake in the company by Prague City Hall. Kolinger faced questioning by the police, his lawyer revealed. The spokeswoman for the state prosecutors’ office in Prague, along with the spokesman for the anti-corruption police unit, said they would not be revealing additional information at present.

Sixty-two people die on Czech roads in July

Sixty-two people died in accidents on Czech roads up to July 31st, the Czech News Agency reports. The month was the second-worst so far this year. The worst was June, during which 67 people died in traffic accidents. The first half of the year saw just over 40,000 road accidents resulting in 266 deaths and more than 1,200 suffering serious injuries. The number of road deaths in 2014 overall has increased by 26 compared to the same period last year.

Vandals damage Václav Havel site in České Budějovice

Vandals damaged an unconventional memorial dedicated to the late Václav Havel located on campus at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. Unknown perpetrators broke three of four glass decorative items on two chairs at the Václav Havel "bench", a small area designed to invite discussion. The decorative elements, like the chairs in Prague’s version, were designed by architect and friend to Mr Havel, Bořek Šípek. Police are checking data from a surveillance system to try and gain information. Besides České Budějovice and Prague, three more such memorials are located in Washington D.C., Dublin and Barcelona.

Daily: Czech-owned military helicopters dependent on Russian supplies

A decision by Russia to halt supplies of spare parts for military helicopters, in response to EU sanctions, would impact the Czech military, financial daily Hospodářské noviny writes. Such a move would, for example, eventually ground the military’s fleet of 16 Mi-171s. Citing analysis by the Defence Ministry, the daily reports the aircraft could only operate for six months without a new influx of parts and supplies. The Mi-171s are highly-regarded within the military, otherwise easy to maintain and capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, the only “flaw” being their dependency on spare parts from Russia, the daily writes. To fulfil urgent tasks, the military needs a minimum of 12 helicopters in operation. A short-term solution, in case of a supply halt, would be the "cannibalisation" or taking parts from some of the aircraft for use in others. In the meantime, the military would have to seek Western-made helicopters to replace the Mi-171s.

Česka spořitelna posts 4.6-percent profit decrease in H1

The Czech Republic’s biggest bank, Česká spořitelna, has posted a consolidated net profit of 7.78 billion crowns for the first six months of the year which is 4.6 percent less than in the same period last year. The bank’s operating profit remained at 11.47 billion. The bank said the decrease in profit was due to decreasing prices of financial services as well as growing costs of commissions paid for credit and debit card transactions. Česká spořitelna’s parent company, Austria’s Erste Group Bank, has meanwhile posted a loss of nearly 930 million euros for the first six months of 2014.

Vítkovice Steel to close Ostrava plant next Sept. at latest

Vítkovice Steel will close its Ostrava plant by September 30, 2015 at the latest, spokesman Jaromír Krisica told the Czech News Agency on Thursday. Vítkovice Steel currently employs more than 1,000 people, with 250 located at the Ostrava plant. It is not yet clear how many people will be dismissed. The company management decided to halt investments in one of its units. Without the unit, a permit which it needs for the steel plant´s operation expires on September 30 next year. Shareholders ordered the management to prepare a phase-out plan for the steel plant that will minimise the impact on employment in the region and will respect customer-supplier relations, Krisica said.