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Czech foreign minister criticises Israeli settlement policy

Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek has condemned Israel’s continued policy of building settlements on land earmarked for the Palestinians. Zaorálek said that by persevering with the policy Israel was torpedoing any chance of meaningful peace talks being revived. Building on land, for example in East Jerusalem, gave the impression that Israel was not serious about restarting talks on the so-called two-state principle, he added. The comments were made ahead of a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanjahu on Monday. Zaorálek is on a three-day trip to Israel and Palestine which has included a trip to the Gaza Strip. The foreign minister said he was shocked by the devastation following the bombardment and partial occupation by Israeli forces in 2014 and the slow pace of rebuilding. The Czech foreign minister added that sporadic rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel should cease.

Czech-Israeli working holiday agreement signed

Separately, the Czech Republic and Israel have signed an agreement opening the way for young people from both countries to work for a year abroad without needing a visa. The opportunity for working holidays will be open to those aged between 18 and 30. The Czech Republic already has similar agreements up and working with Canada and New Zealand. The latest agreement must be cleared by parliaments in each country before it can become operational.

Unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent in May

The unemployment rate in May dropped to 6.4 percent from April’s 6.7 percent, according to the Czech Labour Office on Monday. That means that there are almost 466,000 registered for jobs without work, the lowest figure since June 2009. The number of vacancies stands at almost 93,000, that is the highest figure since November 2008. A year ago the unemployment rate stood at 7.5 percent with only half as many job vacancies announced.

April trade surplus stands at 19.9 billion crowns

In other economic news, the Czech Republic had a trade surplus in April of 19.9 billion crowns. That is around five time the 4.2 billion total for the same month in 2014. Exports of Czech companies rose by around 6.0 percent. The customary heavy import bill for imported oil, gas, and some specialized chemicals continues to be cushioned by low prices for these raw materials. Overall, the Czech trade surplus with the rest of Europe increased but the deficit with the rest of the world deepened.

Ministry proposes zero payment to ČEZ board members from profits

The Ministry of Finance has proposed that board and supervisory board members of almost 70 percent state owned electricity producer ČEZ forego their customary payments from profits. The proposal from the ministry with regard to 2014 profits has been tabled for Friday’s annual meeting with its passing a near certainty unless there is a change of mind. The payment proposed by the company to board members totals 25.5 million crowns. Payments allocated from profits to board members have been made without interruption since 2001.

Cabinet agrees to double mineral water charges

The Czech Cabinet on Monday agreed to a proposal to double charges imposed on drinks companies for the right to use mineral water. The meeting agreed to double the charge, currently fixed at 3 crowns/cubic metre and unchanged since 2001. The Ministry of Finance, which drafted the proposal, said it was a question of better managing the state’s assets. The Mineral Water Association, which groups mineral water companies, said the increase was a large one and would hit them hard, adding that the charges relate to the maximum amount of water that can be used with companies often only using up a third of their allocation. Smaller companies would be hardest hit, it added.

Lobbyist Ivo Rittig faces charges in tunnelling case

Charges against notorious Czech lobbyist and wheeler dealer Ivo Rittig have been lodged by the state attorney’s office, the Czech News Agency reported Monday. As well as Rittig, nine others face charges in the case focused on the company Oleo Chemical. The charges are alleged to have been paid around 20 million crowns by the company for fictitious services. The defendants say acted as consultants. Rittig, a former boxing promotor, is famous as a behind the scenes fixer and wheeler-dealer particularly concerning dubious deals involving Prague City Hall.

Prague prepared to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Prague is prepared to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said in a speech delivered at a security conference in Israel on Sunday. On a three-day visit to the Gaza Strip and Israel, Mr. Zaoralek said both sides of the conflict should do more to reach a solution. The Czech foreign minister also criticised the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory, which he called a major problem. On Monday minister Zaorálek is to meet for talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Czech Republic boasts two women in singles top 10

The Czech Republic has for the first time in a quarter of a century two women tennis players in the singles top 10. Lucie Šafářová has entered the WTA top 10 for the first time at number seven following her success reaching the final of the French Open. Petra Kvitová jumps to second place due to the poorer performance of higher ranked players at the Grand Slam tournament but still trails number one Serena Williams by around 4500 points. But top Czech men’s player Tomáš Berdych slips from fourth to sixth place.

Javelin thrower Veselý second in Birmingham Diamond League

Javelin thrower Vitezslav Veselý placed second at the Birmingham Diamond League on Sunday with a throw of 88.18 metres; his second best throw on record. Kenya’s Julius Yego claimed victory with a throw of 91.39 metres, the best throw in the world since 2006. Another Czech in the race, Jakub Vadlejch, came fourth with a throw of 84.34 metres.