Security at Czech ministries, government offices and other state institutions has been tightened after the Interior Ministry received another letter containing suspicious substance on Friday, the third such letter to have arrived at the ministry over the last weeks. One of the letters was found to contain poison. A poison letter also arrived at the Finance Ministry last week while envelopes containing harmless substances have been delivered to the office of the president and the commercial TV channel Prima. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told a news conference on Friday the police would closely monitor mail delivered to state institutions which would receive manuals on recognizing potentially dangerous shipments. Mr Chovanec also said he believed that the perpetrators would soon be traced.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said that Kurds injured in the fighting against Islamic State radicals could be treated in Czech spas. The Foreign Minister made the proposal during his one-day visit to Baghdad on Thursday. Mr Zaorálek held talks with President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister of the Kurdish regional government Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil. Czech military aid to the Iraqi armed forces was also on the agenda of the talks.
The Czech economy grew by 2.4 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to revised figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Friday. Compared to the previous quarter, the country’s gross domestic product grew by 0.4 percent. Both figures are 0.1 percentage points higher than previous estimates. The Czech economic growth is stable, bigger than the EU average, and has a relatively sound base, the Statistics Office said.
The public broadcaster Czech TV has been accused of editing an address by President Miloš Zeman. In reporting about Mr Zeman’s speech at a conference marking 25 years of capitalism in the country earlier this month, Czech TV edited out a line in which the president criticized the businessman Zdeněk Bakala, the owner of a major mining firm and a large media company. Czech TV CEO Petr Dvořák rejected speculation that the president was censored, instead blaming an “editorial error”. A spokesman for President Zeman has however accused Czech TV of acting like communist-era censors.
Prague City Hall will not seek arbitration over the city’s controversial Opencard project, Mayor Adriana Krnáčová said. City Hall officials were planning to take the owner of the Opencard application, the firm EMS, to arbitration over the city’s alleged debt to the company. However, they will now wait for a court ruling in the case, Ms Krnáčová said. Since its introduction in 2006, the Opencard project, originally conceived as a smart multipurpose card, has cost the city some 1.2 billion crowns, and now serves as a public transport pass in the city. Five former City Hall employees have been sentenced on corruption charges in relation with the project.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has criticized plans to increase the salaries of lawmakers and other public officials by 14 percent. Mr Sobotka told the news website novinky.cz on Friday the wage hike should correspond to the growth of salaries in the public sector which is some 3.5 percent. Coalition leaders said on Thursday they would reconsider the proposed 14-percent surge in public officials’ salaries after the plans came under criticism from the public as well as some opposition MPs.
The number of internet users in the Czech Republic exceeded seven million in October, a survey by the NetMonitor agency has found. Since last year, the Czech online population has grown by 200,000. The survey also found that 51 percent of Czech internet users are men while the most active users are in the 35 to 44 age group. The number of people accessing websites from their mobile devices has exceeded three million, an 8-percent increase since September.
A bridge on the D1 motorway in Ostrava is only safe for cars, vans and other vehicles of up to 3.6 tonne, a spokesman for the Czech Roads and Motorways Directory said, quoting the results of a mathematical analysis of the structure’s capacity. The bridge was built in 2010; however, after structural problems appeared on two bridges on the motorway several months ago, the directorate imposed a speed limit and prohibited trucks from entering the bridge.
The Czech Union of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners would like more young people to join their ranks in order to stop the steady decline in their numbers, the head of the union, Jan Hinterholzinger, said. The organization now has some 150,000 members, down from around 250,000 in the year 2000. Their numbers were even higher during communism when allotment gardening was one of the most popular pastimes. The average age of the union’s members is now between 60 and 70. The gardeners’ union would also like Parliament to pass legislation that would recognize gardening as a publicly beneficial activity, a status gardeners enjoy in several other EU countries.
Sparta Prague drew 0:0 against the Italian side Napoli in Europa League’s group stage tie in Prague on Thursday night. Sparta dominated the game but only hit the bar several times. The Italians beat Sparta 3:1 in their first group stage match but the Czechs have since recorded three successive victories. Sparta and Napoli are now tied on nine points at the top of the group standings. Sparta is next scheduled to play Switzerland’s Young Boys Bern in the spring.