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Czechs mark third anniversary of Václav Havel’s death

Czechs are marking the third anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, the country’s first post-communist president. Cardinal Dominik Duka will celebrate a mass in his memory at Prague Crossroads centre on Thursday afternoon and the Václav Havel library will be hosting a staging of Havel’s play Protest. People around the country are also joining the “short trousers for Václav Havel” initiative, rolling their pants up to remember Václav Havel’s first inauguration to the presidency, when he wore visibly short trousers.

President signs state budget for next year into law

President Miloš Zeman on Thursday signed next year’s state budget into law. The budget projects a deficit of 100 billion crowns, or around three percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Compared to this year’s budget, the revenues are set to increase by 20 billion while expenditures should rise by 8 billion. The budget was backed by 105 MPs of the governing coalition and one opposition MP from the Dawn party. The opposition has criticized the budget over lower funds allocated for investment; these are set to reach 75 billion crowns next year, some 25 billion less than in 2014.

Senate approves three-percent hike in lawmakers’ salaries

The Senate on Thursday approved a three-percent hike in salaries for lawmakers. Under the new legislation, which was passed by the Senate without debate, the basic monthly salary of an MP will increase next year by 17,500 crowns, to 57,600 crowns. President Miloš Zeman said on Wednesday that he was ready to sign the legislation into law.

Czech woman sues Norway’s social services for having taken her sons

A Czech woman has filed a lawsuit with a court in Norway appealing a decision of the country’s social services to take away her two sons and place them in foster care, the paper Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The lawsuit is a prerequisite for Czech diplomats to put pressure on Norwegian authorities in the case, the daily said. Norway’s social services took the sons away from their Czech parents in 2011 over alleged sexual abuse. The police later dropped the case but the authorities placed the children in foster care. The case has recently come into the spotlight in the Czech Republic where a number of officials including President Miloš Zeman vowed to help get the children back to their mother.

Education Minister appoints 64 new professors

Minister of Education Marcel Chládek appointed 64 new professors on Thursday. The ceremony at Prague’s Karolinum was not attended by President Miloš Zeman, who, according to his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček, was getting ready for the upcoming meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann. The president in the past expressed his desire to leave the tasks of appointing new professors to the education minister or Speaker of the Senate, but the lower house rejected an amendment to the law which was drawn up in line with his request.

Czech firm wins tender to grow medical cannabis

A Czech company has won a public tender for growing medical cannabis, the State Institute for Drug Control, announced on Thursday. Sixteen Czech firms have placed their bids for a license to grow and sell cannabis to pharmacies. The name of the winner has not been disclosed yet due to administrative procedures. The law on medical marihuana opening way for patients suffering from cancer and neurological diseases to use the drug under medical supervision came into force in February last year. Czech pharmacies started to sell the drug, which is now legally imported from the Netherlands, in mid-November.

Municipalities close to Temelín call for expansion of nuclear power plant

Mayors of municipalities in the close vicinity of the Temelín nuclear power plant have called on the Czech government to carry on with the plant’s expansion. In an open letter addressed to the government, the mayors argue that significant funds have already been spent in anticipation of the project. Plans to expand the Temelín plant were put on hold in April after the Czech government refused to provide state guarantees for the price of electricity generated by the new units. The government is set to decide on the future of the project by the end of the year.

Foreigners deny collaboration with terrorists at Prague court

Three foreign nationals, who are accused by the US of collaborating with terrorists, denied their guilt at a hearing at Prague’s municipal court on Thursday. Ali Fayad, Faouzi Jaber of Libanon and Chalid Marabi of the Ivory Coast were allegedly planning to sell weapons and cocaine to American secret agents, who were disguised as members of a Colombian terrorist organisation. The court on Thursday started to discuss their extradition to the US. The men have been in custody since April, when they were arrested by the Czech police at a hotel in Prague.

Czechs disposed of unused medication worth over CZK 55 billion

Czechs disposed of unused medicines worth two billion Czech crowns last year, according to a survey carried out by the State Institute for Drug Control. Unused medicines made up for more than three percent of all the medication supplies to pharmacies and hospitals. Only a half of Czech households dispose of unused medicines by returning them to pharmacies. The survey also indicates that Czechs have stock piles of medicines in their homes worth 362 million crowns.

Man who set himself on fire in central Prague dies of his wounds

A man who set himself on fire in central Prague on Tuesday night has died of his injuries, a spokesman for the Vinohrady hospital in the capital said. The man, who was 56, doused himself in a flammable liquid and set himself alight at the top of Wenceslas Square shortly before midnight. Passers-by attempted to put out the flames with jackets before a fire extinguisher was found. He was taken to hospital with severe burns where he died on Wednesday night. A spokesperson for the police said the man had been on day-release from a Prague 8 mental hospital but had not returned in the evening.