Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is heading a Czech government delegation on a three-day-visit to Israel. The prime minister is accompanied by seven members of cabinet among them Defense Minister Martin Stropnický, Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka, Health Minister Svatopluk Nemeček and Culture Minister Daniel Herman. On Monday Czech and Israeli ministers are to hold a joint session of cabinet, a tradition established in 2012, underscoring the close links between the two countries. The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe. On Tuesday the Czech delegation is expected to visit the Jad Vashem memorial.
An envelope containing a suspicious substance which was sent to Czech Finance Minister, Andrej Babiš last week is reported to have contained a lethal amount of cyanide-based poison. A similar envelope, also containing poison arrived at the Ministry of the Interior. Both letters were sent from abroad, though from different countries. Neither envelope contained an accompanying letter. The police have refused to disclose further details. Suspicious envelopes containing a white powder were earlier sent to the Office of the President and commercial TV Prima, but in both cases the substance was found to be harmless.
Aero Vodochody is the ninth fastest-growing aircraft producer in the world for 2013, and ranks 100th on the PricewaterhouseCoopers list of the world´s biggest aircraft manufacturers, the ctk news agency reports. Aero produces L-159 fighter jets, parts for the military cargo aircraft Embraer KC-390 and the transport planes Airbus A321 neo and Bombardier CSeries. The company has been posting profits since 2007 when it was acquired by the investment group Penta. The company now has over 1,900 employees, almost 800 more than at the end of 2010. The biggest aircraft producer in the Czech Republic raised its net profit to 343million crowns last year from 264 million in 2012. Over a third of its output are contracts for military aviation.
On a state visit to Kazakhstan Czech President Milos Zeman said the country had achieved an economic miracle since his last visit as prime minister in 1999 and offered considerable potential for economic cooperation. President Zeman who is accompanied by a group of Czech business leaders, including Škoda representatives, the heads of engineering firms and bankers, aims to boost business ties especially in the areas of energy, engineering and infrastructure. During talks with his Kazakhstani counterpart Nursultan Nazarbajev, President Zeman said he would push to simplify the visa procedure for Kazakhs travelling to the Czech Republic.
A proposed 14 percent increase in pay for lawmakers and officials in the executive branch is dividing the Social Democrats of the ruling coalition. The proposed monthly wage increase was proposed by the budget committee of the lower house following an agreement by parliamentary groups across the board. The 14 percent pay increase is seen as a compromise because if no agreement is reached MPs salaries would automatically grow by 26 percent next year in the wake of a wage-freeze affected during the economic crisis. The leader of the Social Democrats, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has slammed the proposed wage hike as excessive and is in favour of an increase of 3.5 percent, which the government approved for all state employees.
The Czech government has approved the reopening of a defence ministry munitions depot in Kvetná, in the Svitava region. The depot should be used for the transfer of munitions which were left undamaged by the blast at the munitions depot in Vrbětice in Moravia last month. Uncontrolled explosions on the grounds of the depot have now abated, making the planned transfer of 2,800 tons of munitions possible. A closer investigation into what caused the blast is also underway now that experts can work in the epicentre of the explosion. Villages in the close vicinity of the Kvetná depot are not averse to having munitions stored in the area but insist that the military must be in charge of security. The depot in Vrbětice had been leased to a private company and it was some time before the army was called on to help.
Education Minister Marcel Chládek has suggested setting up a fund which would help schools finance their security needs. Minister Chladek ordered an inspection into security at schools around the country in the wake of last month’s tragic incident at a secondary school in Zdiar in which a deranged woman stabbed to death an 18-year-old student. He said that the vast majority of schools were secure, but some could benefit from security cameras or someone who would guard the school entrance to prevent strangers entering. The Education Minister has also suggested introducing crash courses for teachers and students in how to behave in crisis situations.
The annual fee for city transport in Prague should be cut by 1,000 crowns according to a coalition agreement signed between the ANO party, the Social Democrats and a three-way grouping of Greens, Christian Democrats and independents, the weekly Týden says in its Monday edition. The coalition agreement has not yet been released, but according to Týden the cost-cut was initiated by the Greens as a means of attracting more passengers and reducing car traffic in Prague. A cut in the price of city transport in Vienna allegedly attracted an additional 100,000 passengers. It is not yet clear as of when the cost cut may be affected.
A 26-metre-tall pine has been felled in Nespeky, near Benešov to serve as this year's Christmas tree on the Old Town Square. The owner gave to go-ahead for the tree, which stood for more than 70 years, to be cut down. Organisers chose the winner from a list of 17 trees around the country. Transport of the pine will require the city’s Pařížská Street to be cleared of parked vehicles well in advance.
Montreal Canadiens’ centre-forward Tomáš Plekanec has an excellent game against traditional rivals the Boston Bruins at the weekend, setting up a goal and scoring another to help sink the Bruins 2:0. Plekanec is second on goals and assists for the Habs this season, one point behind fellow player Max Pacioretty. Montreal are in top spot in the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.