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Prague wants to make own decision on how many refugees to accept, says minister after EU talks

Speaking after EU talks in Luxembourg on Tuesday on ways to respond to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, the Czech minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said Prague wished to make a sovereign decision on how many asylum seekers to accept on the basis of its capacity to take them in. The Czech Republic is among those EU members that have rejected European Commission proposals for a quota system for refugee and advocates a voluntary system. Mr. Chovanec said Prague wants to help people who are fighting for their lives; however, at least 60 percent of those attempting to enter Europe via the Mediterranean are economic migrants, in his view. Under the EC’s plans, the Czech Republic would have to take in over 1,300 people from Syria and Eritrea.

First case of suspected MERS identified in Czech Republic

The first case of suspected MERS has been identified in the Czech Republic, the country’s minister of health, Svatopluk Němeček, announced at a special briefing on Tuesday. The patient - a 25-year-old Czech man who has travelled in South Korea - is being examined for the potentially fatal respiratory infection at Prague’s Na Bulovce hospital. Since an outbreak of MERS in South Korea last month at least 150 people have contracted the disease; nineteen have died.

Czech experts fly to Tbilisi to help at zoo devastated by flooding

A group of Czech zookeepers have flown to the Georgian capital Tbilisi to provide help at the city’s zoo, which was devastated by flash flooding at the weekend. Seven Czechs are taking part in the mission, including five from Prague Zoo and one each from the zoos in Ústí nad Labem and Zlín. Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek said the Czech zookeepers could share know-how gained when his institution was inundated in 2002 and 2013.

President Zeman wants increased security at Prague Castle residence

President Zeman wants increased security at Prague Castle residence

President Miloš Zeman has requested that security be beefed up at his Prague Castle residence, the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, told journalists after a meeting with the head of state on Monday evening. Mr. Chovanec said the president had called for measures to increase the safety of visitors and the protection of historical landmarks. The minister said changes at Prague Castle would “be visible” but refused to specify individual measures. The two men also discussed the European Commission’s proposal for compulsory refugee quotas, with Mr. Zeman expressing support for the Czech government’s opposition to the plan.

Financial sector more resilient to shocks but housing loans pose threat, says central bank

The financial sector in the Czech Republic is now more resilient to potential shocks, but revived credit demand, a fall in interest rates and a loosening of credit standards could pose a risk to financial stability in the future, says a report issued by the Czech National Bank on Tuesday. The Report on Financial Stability says that Czech banks are in good health, having increased their capital and liquidity reserves. The main risk for the financial sector remains a renewed recession causing a fall in profitability, the central bank said.

Police search for 21-year-old shooting suspect

Police are searching for 21-year-old Lukáš Minařík, who they suspect of opening fire on a vehicle in Brně-Žebětín on Monday, injuring the motorist. The suspect’s photo and details have been revealed but members of the public have been asked not to try and stop the youth who is armed and dangerous. Later on Monday, the suspect allegedly held up a gas station at the gunpoint where he made off with cash and cigarettes.

Okamura registers new anti-immigrant party Freedom and Direct Democracy

Populist senator Tomio Okamura has registered a new political party named Freedom and Direct Democracy (Svoboda a přímá demokracie in Czech) after being sidelined in his previous grouping Dawn. Speaking at the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Okamura said his party was in favour of a Czech exit from the European Union and would push for a “zero tolerance” policy on immigrants. Freedom and Direct Democracy are now accepting new members and will hold their first policy congress in September, the Czech-Japanese businessman said.

Playwright Josef Topol dies at 80

Josef Topol, regarded as one of the most significant Czech dramatists of the second half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 80. The playwright enjoyed particular success in the 1960s. After signing the Charter 77 protest document he was only able to publish his plays in samizdat form. He was the father of the novelist Jachým Topol and the late musician Filip Topol.

Civic activist behind free pianos brings classical concert to Prague’s Blanka tunnel

A classical music concert will be held inside the Blanka tunnel complex in Prague on August 20. Up to 10,000 people are expected to attend the free performance by the Prague Philharmonia, said the organiser Ondřej Kobza, a café owner and civic activist who previously brought free pianos to the Czech capital. The construction of the CZK 37 billion tunnel, which should have been completed four years ago, has been accompanied by legal disputes and controversy. Blanka now has a launch date of mid-September but the Czech News Agency reported there were some doubts as to whether it would be ready by then.

Hockey: Chicago Blackhawks win Stanley Cup

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on home ice on Monday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2:0. Overall, the ‘Hawks took the series 4:2. The championship win is the team’s third in six years. The team’s Michal Rozsíval, who suffered an ugly ankle injury in the playoffs, will also receive a Stanley Cup ring. The famous trophy could travel to the Czech Republic later according to an unofficial tradition in which each player is allowed to have it for a day.