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Foreign minister Zaorálek attends special EU meeting on Iraq crisis

Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek is attending an extraordinary session of Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Friday. EU foreign ministers are meeting to discuss current situation in Iraq, Libya and Ukraine following the latest political and security developments. The ministers are also assessing current humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip. After arriving in Brussels on Friday, Mr Zaorálek told reporters that Russia could easily calm down the situation in Ukraine by ceasing the supply of soldiers and weapons to the east of the country. The meeting in Brussels follows a call by key member states to respond to Iraqi Kurd appeals for weapons in the face of a jihadist onslaught in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek earlier this week announced plans to send weapons to the Kurdish forces in Iraq to assist their struggle against the jihadist group Islamic State. According to the Reuters news agency Prague could start supplying weapons to Kurds at the end of August.

EU threatens to withhold subsidies for Czech operational programme

The European Commission may withhold hundreds of millions of crowns in subsidies for the Czech operational programme Education for Competitiveness, the daily Lidové Noviny reported on Friday. According to the daily, the Ministry of Education has received a letter from EU auditors, who say the system needs to be significantly improved. The review took place in May, checking up on some fifty projects and revealing problems mainly in the system of internal control. The Education for Competitiveness operational programme has faced problems for years. The Czech Ministry of Education will now have two months to answer the EU criticism.

Dozens protest against Israel

Dozens of people gathered in Prague on Thursday evening to support Palestinians and call for the end of the Gaza Strip blockade. The event was held by the “Not in Our Name! Initiative for a Just Peace in the Middle East.” The protesters met at the top of Wenceslas Square, some of them carrying banners with anti-Israeli slogans. Former foreign minister Jan Kavan also attended, calling for protests to continue. The march ended at the Israeli embassy, with the demonstrators lighting candles for the victims of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. No incidents were reported.

Czech Republic to host NATO military air exercise in September

Some 1400 soldiers from the Czech Republic and 11 other NATO allies including Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, and the US, will take part in international military air training in the Czech Republic in September. Thirty airplanes and helicopters, including Gripen and F-16 fighter jets, as well as 50 ground military vehicles will be used in the training. Ample Strike 2014 will be similar to previous operations such as Flying Rhino, but for the first time it will be held under the auspices of the Czech Army. It will take place from September 3 to 15.

President Zeman to name 15 new judges

President Miloš Zeman will name 15 new judges on Friday. The ceremony will take place at Prague Castle. The candidates, nine of them men, will fill various posts at the regional courts all over the country. Most of the new judges have previously worked as lawyers, only three of them are candidate judges. Among the nominees is Filip Dientsbier, an expert on administrative law from Palacký University in Olomouc, who will be heading to the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno.

Debt plagues more than a third of socially excluded citizens

The Czech Republic has the highest number of indebted inhabitants from socially excluded areas among all of the central and eastern European countries, daily Lidové noviny reported on Friday, referring to a poll conducted by the Median agency. According to the results of the survey, more than a third of the socially excluded have a bank loan or have borrowed money elsewhere. In other countries, this number stands at around 20 percent, the daily writes. Nearly a fourth of the inhabitants of the socially excluded areas in the Czech Republic have borrowed from dubious sources.

Czech Republic facing biggest railway traffic closure this year

The country’s biggest railway traffic closure this year will take place on Saturday. The main railway connection between Bohemia and Moravia will be disrupted, with nearly all trains delayed or suspended. The operation on one of the busiest of Czech railways between the towns of Dlouhá Třebová and Ústí nad Orlicí will be limited to one line only, due to a planned reconstruction of one of the train stations. Czech Railways will provide replacement bus service.

American actor Wood taking part in Trutnoff Open Air Festival

American actor Elijah Wood, known for his roles in numerous films, including The Lord of the Rings and Sin City, was applauded by thousands of attendees at the Trutnoff Open Air Festival which kicked off on Thursday. Wood is attending as part of a project titled Wooden Wisdom & DJ Fitz. The actor received a hand-carved wooden pipe from organisers as a gift. Trutnoff is one of the Czech Republic’s best-known music festivals with a more than 30-year-long tradition. The festival has ties to the former underground scene in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and was often attended by late president Václav Havel or the late poet Martin Jirous. The legendary Patti Smith is performing at the festival this year; Thursday saw performances by the seminal Czech punk group Visací zámek and others.

Špotaková wins gold at European Athletics Championships

Czech javelin thrower Barbora Špotaková made history on Thursday by winning her first European Championship title, the only major title she had missed in her collection of medals until now. The two-time Olympic champion pulled off the win on her fifth-round throw of 64.41 metres in Zurich’s Letzigrund Stadium on Thursday evening. The victory puts her one better than her coach, legend Jan Železný, who won three Olympic gold and three world championships during his career but never secured the European Championship title.

Three Czechs advance to the finals at European athtletics championship

Two Czech discus throwers, Eliška Staňková a Jitka Kubelová, have advanced to the finals of the European Athletics Championships in Zürich in Friday's qualification. Czech runner Jakub Holuša has also secured a place in the men's 1500 metres finals.