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Czech cabinet debates impact of EU sanctions against Russia

The main impact of EU sanctions against Russia can be expected in the course of 2015, but a tangible change in Moscow’s attitude will take much longer, the Czech Foreign Ministry has said in a report which was discussed by the Czech cabinet on Monday. According to the report, the first symptoms of the sanctions include the fall of the rouble, limited access to financial markets and an outflow of foreign capital from Russia. Along with a decline in oil prices, such factors had caused a synergistic effect that had significantly impacted the Russian economy, the report maintains. After the meeting, Tomáš Prouza, the state secretary for European Affairs, made clear unless Moscow did not rapidly change course on Ukraine, the existing sanctions against Russia would not be softened. Some, such as Czech President Miloš Zeman, have questioned the usefulness of the measures; but Mr Prouza and others have maintained that they are having a very clear and tangible effect.

Czech EU commissioner to meet with cabinet once per quarter

The Czech Republic’s European Commissioner Věra Jourová will meet with the cabinet of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka quarterly to drum up support for initiatives as well as to fill in the government on the latest developments in Brussels. The minister, whose portfolio includes gender equality, also wants ministers from the ANO movement to change their mind and support EU quotas for women on supervisory committees and administrative boards for large state companies. The proposal for quotas was originally proposed by Ms Jourová’s predecessor Viviane Reding and called for 40 percent of members to be women. The aim is to implement the measure by 2018; some 5,000 companies would be affected, according to the Czech News Agency. In the Czech Republic it would be around eight companies, the commissioner has said.

Food ‘row’ put to rest by agriculture ministers

Poland's Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki has made clear he considers a recent dispute with the Czech Republic over allegedly tougher Czech controls of food products imported from his country a closed matter and will not turn to the European Commission over the issue. Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Monday, he said that European legislation and rules of the single market should be a basis for solving similar problems in the future. Mr Sawicki and Czech counterpart Marian Jurečka came to an agreement on the matter on Monday morning. Last week, the minister expressed anger over a regulation that allegedly demanded stricter controls by Czechs of food products from Poland than of food products from other countries. The Czech side denied any discrimination.

Czech Army reopens former munitions site

The Czech Army has reopened a site used for decades for storing munitions which was only mothballed last year. The site, in Kvetné in the Svitavy area, is to receive part of the munitions from the unstable site in Vrbětice near Zlín, which has seen numerous uncontrolled explosions since an initial blast in October killed two people and levelled several buildings. ČTK reports that some in Kvetné are apprehensive about the transfer; military personnel will be guarding the site. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický is to visit the storage facility on Tuesday.

Prague considers several options to help homeless people in extreme weather conditions

If extreme cold strikes the Czech capital this winter, Prague’s City Hall could ask the transit authority Dopravní podnik, to allow those with nowhere to go to spend the night in entrance vestibules in the city’s metro, news website aktualne.cz reports. Irena Ropková, the city councilor overseeing social issues, stressed the situation as a worst-case scenario. Extreme cold has hit the capital before, putting the homeless at risk of death from exposure. The city councilor said alternatively heated tents, capable of temporarily housing up to 200 people, could be used.

EMS cancels meeting with Prague administration

eMoneyServices, the firm owning the rights to Prague’s multi-purpose transit pass known as the opencard, called off a planned meeting on Monday with the new administration at City Hall. The news was confirmed by a representative of the Pirate Party. It was the first planned meeting since a new assembly was formed and Adriana Krnáčová was named mayor. The previous administration, led by Tomáš Hudeček, refused to renew the license at the cost of half a billion crowns. Since, a number of meetings were held to try and reach a compromise. The opencard was a highly controversial project, connected with a number of questionable contracts. The card was picked up by 1.2 million users but the project cost more than one billion crowns.

iDnes: Czech police close to wrapping up investigation of Hrůza attack

Czech police are reportedly close to completing their investigation of two suspects alleged to have brutally attacked popular singer and composer Michal Hrůza in Ostrava in the early hours of July 17 this year. According to Czech news site iDnes, only formalities remain before the investigation wraps up. Two students – cousins aged 18 and 19 – allegedly attacked Mr Hrůza (43) after he attempted to break up an argument. The singer, the former frontman for Ready Kirken, was struck and hit his head, leading to haemorrhaging in his brain and brain damage. He underwent emergency surgery and was kept in an induced coma for two weeks before he was awakened. Originally, the police had hoped to question Hrůza himself but the singer reportedly has no memory of the attack. According to unofficial information, there are eyewitness accounts which the police have access to. If found guilty, the duo could face between five and 12 years behind bars.

Police detain prisoner on-the-run

The police have detained a prisoner on-the-run, who escaped while getting medical attention at a Prague hospital in November. The authorities had warned the public that the man was dangerous. According to a police spokeswoman the prisoner was captured on Sunday thanks to an alert from a woman who recognized him. He was on a bus from Kolin to Prague and offered no resistance. The head of the Pankrác prison house resigned in connection with his escape and two guards are being investigated over negligence.

Argument over 500 crowns leads to murder

Police have remanded in custody a man suspected of killing a former classmate in Brno last week. The murder took place overran argument about 500 crowns (18 euros) - part of a loan the suspect opted not to return to the victim but wanted to save for the weekend, Czech website iDnes writes. When they argued, the borrower killed the other man, who was 22, with an axe from his apartment. It took the police several days to catch up with the suspect. He faces between 15 – 20 years in prison or could receive an exemplary sentence.

Mild weather ahead of weekend spells delays for ski hill operators

Meteorologists have said they expect mild weather conditions on Thursday and Friday, prompting some ski hill operators to delay using snowmaking machines ahead of the weekend, according to reports. Daytime temperatures on Friday are expected to reach between 6 and 12 degrees Celsius, with rainfall in places. Over the weekend, however, snow is expected in mountain areas, which should improve conditions.