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V4 countries back Eastern Partnership at meeting in Slovakia

The foreign ministers from the Visegrad 4 countries (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland) met on Friday in Slovakia to discuss and express support for closer cooperation between the EU and six post-Soviet countries under the Eastern Partnership project. At the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit, the V4 are set to discuss the liberalisation of visa policy. At Friday’s meeting, the foreign ministers expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, in the face of the annexation last year of Crimea by Russia. Ukraine has been participating in the Eastern Partnership, along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova. Friday’s meeting was also attended by High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, Foreign Minister of Latvia Edgars Rinkevics, Foreign Minister of Romania Bogdan Aurescu and Foreign Minister of Sweden Margot Wallstrom.

Czech economy grew by 3.9 percent year-on-year in Q1

The Czech economy grew by 3.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015, significantly faster than in the last quarter of last year, according to the preliminary GDP estimate released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. The numbers year-on-year represent the fastest economic growth since mid-2008. This is a first flash estimate which could still see changes due to regular revisions. Strong results in the field of manufacturing, especially the manufacture of motor vehicles and other transport equipment and also machinery, were of key importance, statisticians confirmed. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka commented the results, saying the data reflected the current economic policy course set by the cabinet. He said the government had left behind a policy of cuts and austerity implemented by the former centre-right government, backing exports and employment.

15.7 percent of students fail high school leaving exams

Almost sixteen percent of students this year failed their high school leaving exams, the Education Minister Marcel Chládek confirmed on Friday. Of that number, 24 percent of students received failing grades in math and 20 percent in German. Some 6.3 percent failed in English and 6.5 percent received fails in Czech. Poor grades varied among different types of schools in the education system: the failure-rate at grammar schools was 1.7 percent compared to 17.3 percent at vocational schools and 43.6 percent at schools offering extra vocational studies. The ministry is to further analyze the results and test questions used this year.

Interior Minister seeks over 10 billion crowns to boost police force

The Czech Ministry of Interior will need 10.6 billion crowns in the next four years to enable the police to recruit 4,000 new employees and modernize its technical equipment, according to the Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec. Chovanec made the statement after meeting with police president Tomáš Tuhý and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš on Thursday. Mr Babiš has not made any promises so far, but he said he regarded the requirement as justifiable and was ready to undertake further negotiations. The Czech Police currently employs around 40,000.

Police force will need to replace around 4,000 of its vehicles over next two years

The police on Friday received 85 new Škoda service Octavias for 36 million crowns from the Mláda Boleslav-based carmaker. The police force currently of 8,000 vehicles currently in use, around half will need to be replaced over the next two years. The force is therefore looking for finances in cooperation with the Interior Ministry. Police President Tomáš Tuhý said on Friday the force will present a new modified vehicle, complete with racks for long firearms, new flashing lights and a multi-purpose display.

Removal of munitions at Vrbětice to continue well into 2016

The removal of remaining munitions at the damaged site in Vrbětice near Zlín wil take at least until Q2 of 2016, policewoman Monika Kozumplíková has revealed. To date, some 153 truckloads of munitions were removed, from 17 of 40 storage spaces at the depot. The operation began at the beginning of the February. Safety at the site was severely compromised by an initial explosion at the site last October and it took weeks for conditions to stabilize. Two people lost their lives in the intial blast.

Former gymnast Věra Čáslavská diagnosed with cancer

Former gymnast and legendary athlete Věra Čáslavská, a seven-time Olympic champion and honorary chairwoman of the Czech Olympic Committee, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is undergoing surgery this Friday, the Olympic Committee announced. The former champion, who won three gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and added four more at the next games in Mexico, was diagnosed three weeks ago. She issued a statement thanking her children and all those who supported her, saying she had learned to fight as an athlete and would fight now. Pancreatic cancer, often fatal, affects some 1,800 people in the Czech Republic each year.

Police search for Prague 4 man suspected of murder

The police were alerted to a shooting in a garage in a Prague residential area on Friday. At the scene, a home in Zaběhlice, detectives found the body of the apparent shooting victim. Detectives are searching for a 43-year-old suspect, Lukáš Borovan, listed in the district of Prague 4. Police have asked the public to call a hotline in case of a sighting, but warned individuals to under no circumstances try and intervene, as the man is considered armed and dangerous.

Brace of goals from Jaromír Jágr gives Czechs semi-final win over Finland

In ice hockey, the Czech team has secured its place in the semi-finals of the world championships after beating Finland 5:3 on Thursday night. In a dramatic match, the Czechs opened the scoring but the Finns levelled and then pulled ahead 2:1 early in the second period. Jaromír Jágr pulled the score back to 2:2 in the 34th minute and Jan Kovář put the Czechs back ahead two minutes later. Finn Alexander Barkov tied at 3:3 in the 45th minute but Jágr gave the Czechs the lead again with his second on the night five minutes before time. Vladimír Sobotka eased Czech nerves by finding an open goal in the final minute. The win sets up a semi-final match against Canada on Saturday.

Hockey: Plekanec joins Czech squad ahead of Worlds semifinal

Czech forward Tomáš Plekanec, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens who were recently eliminated in the Stanley Cup playoffs, will play on Saturday in the semifinal match against Canada in this year’s Ice Hockey World Championships. National team coach Vladimír Růžička confirmed the information. Plekanec was the second-highest goal-scorer for Montreal during the NHL regular season; he is expected to skate on Friday evening and to also train on Saturday morning ahead of the match.