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President Zeman appoints Josef Bečvář as Czech army’s chief

Czech President Miloš Zeman on Monday appointed Josef Bečvář as Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces. The ceremony took place at Prague’s Vítkov Hill. Mr Bečvář succeeds General Petr Pavel who stepped down and will head the oldest permanent body in NATO, the Military Committee. Until now he served as General Pavel’s deputy. Mr Bečvář, who is 56 years old, previously worked as head of the Czech military police and military attaché in France. He said his main goal as army chief was to complete planned changes within the army.

Dukovany priority for new nuclear reactor says minister

Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek said Monday that the Czech Republic should push for its next new nuclear reactor to be constructed at the Dukovany site so that it could start to replace the four units that will be gradually phased out there from 2035 onwards. He pointed out that the local region around Třebíč was actively campaigning in favour of new nuclear capacity, which was not the case with the Temelín area. He said that if a specially formed ČEZ daughter company was created to push ahead with construction, then a foreign shareholder, probably the nuclear technology provider, could take a shareholding of up to 49 percent. Mládek said he did not think Russian companies should be excluded from a new Czech nuclear construction tender, but he said he doubted their chances to win it.

New poll suggests majority of Czechs wary of Russia

A new poll conducted by Ipsos suggests that a majority of Czechs are fearful of Russia. According to the survey, 68 percent are uneasy about alleged activities on Czech soil by Russia’s secret service while 61 percent expressed fear of a possible attack by Russia against the Baltic states – allies within NATO. Sixty-three percent do not support President Miloš Zeman’s stance towards Russia.

The Ipsos poll also found that 62 percent of respondents felt more should be done to strengthen ties within NATO with 57 percent saying the organization was the best defence. Pollsters also asked Czechs how the EU and NATO should help Ukraine: more than half respondents said through military training and continuing economic sanctions.

Trust in European Union highest in four years

Trust in the European Union among Czechs at the beginning of April was the highest in four years, a poll by the CVVM agency suggests. Fifty-two percent of respondents replied in the affirmative – up from 49 percent a year ago. The polling agency reported that trust in the EU had slowly shifted away from the mood in the years 2009 – 2012. That period coincided with centre-right governments in the country and the second presidency of Václav Klaus, who has long been highly critical of the EU, specifically greater federalization.

PM Sobotka calls for fast rail link to Berlin

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called for the Czech Republic and Germany to back a high rail link between Prague and Berlin. Sobotka’s call came in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. As well as the fast link to Berlin, Prague is also pushing for a high speed rail link to Munich. Critics point out though that the current plans only commit to an upgrade of the existing rail route and not a specially built stretch of track that could take the fastest trains. Separately, the Czech prime minister said that the D8 motorway link to Dresden from the Czech capital should be finished in 2018 after a missing Czech section is completed. He also said Prague is in favour of the Elbe river remaining navigable all the way to the North Sea. Chancellor Merkel said that the environmental aspects of this still have to be considered but a standpoint should be taken in the next years.

Police detain nine Somali refugees

Police are reported to have detained nine refugees from Somalia travelling with fake Italian passports. A police spokeswoman said the group consisting of three women and six men was travelling on a bus bound for Italy. Police are ascertaining their identity and whether they have already filed for asylum in another country of the Schengen border-free zone.

2014 saw rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Czech Republic, says report

An annual report released by the Czech Jewish community suggests that anti-Semitism in the Czech Republic grew last year, registering a rise in reported cases compared to 2013. While physical anti-Semitic attacks remain uncommon in the Czech Republic and anti-Semitic sentiments are not mainstream within the majority population, there were cases of vandalism, verbal attacks and email threats, the Czech News Agency reports. The community registered five cases of vandalism, mostly of Jewish cemeteries, two higher than the previous year. It also registered 29 cases of harassment and nine threats, compared to six and three, respectively, in 2013.

Czech-Bavarian exhibition to highlight life of Charles IV next year

A Czech-Bavarian exhibition in Prague and Nuremberg will highlight the life of Charles IV, king of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperor on the 700th anniversary of his birth next year, the Czech and Bavarian culture ministers, Daniel Herman and Ludwig Spaenle announced in Prague on Monday. Herman and Spaenle signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of culture. The exhibition is being organised by the National Gallery in Prague together with the Nuremberg-based Museum of Bavarian History and German National Museum. The Czech cabinet will discuss the project, including its financing and the appointment of a Czech commissioner, at its meeting on Wednesday. The exhibition, which has been under preparation for the last three years, will focus on Charles IV (1316-1378) and his period, but will also highlight developments in Bohemia and Bavaria since Charles IV´s era to the present.

Hockey Worlds: Czech Republic faces Team Canada

The Czech national hockey team faces Team Canada at the Ice Hockey World Championships on Monday. Canada, one of the favourites in the tournament, has been on a roll in the championships so far, clinching two wins in two match-ups. On Sunday, the team crushed Germany 10:0. The Czechs lost their first match against Sweden in a penalty shootout and rebounded 4:2 against Latvia. Ondřej Pavelec, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets in the NHL, is expected to start in net. This year’s Worlds are taking place in Prague and Ostrava.

Hockey: Czech team holding two spots on roster

The coach of the Czech national hockey team, Vladimír Růžička, is reportedly leaving two spots open on the squad’s roster at the Worlds in Prague and Ostrava for additional players. A member of the coaching staff told Czech TV that members were hoping Montreal Canadiens’ forward Tomáš Plekanec might be available – if his team failed to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Montreal dug itself into a hole against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday and now trails 2:0 in their best-of-seven series heading back to Tampa. Some contact has been made but the team’s assistant coach Ondřej Weissmann made clear the matter was being handled with a light touch, as Plekanec’s main focus was to help his hockey club. The 32-year-old forward and his wife, Czech pop singer Lucie Vondráčková, are also expecting their second child in the coming days.