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Czech finance minister says it would be better for Greece to leave eurozone

Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has expressed little enthusiasm for the results of last-minute talks held by representatives of all 19 eurozone countries, arriving unanimously at a decision to provide Greece with a third financial aid package. In response, Mr Babiš warned, Greece’s crisis would repeat a few years down the line. He said he considered Greece’s departure from the eurozone – and a writing-off of part of Greece’s debt – as better alternatives.

PM, finance minister, say Czech Republic will not guarantee possible loan to Greece

The Czech government has come out staunchly against the idea that the Czech Republic could act as a guarantor for any loans to Greece under a proposed bailout agreed by the Eurozone countries, both Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the country’s finance minister, Andrej Babiš, made clear after meeting on Monday. Europe is considering a short-term loan for Greece from the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, as part of a proposed bailout package; the mechanism applies to all 28 member states. In the Czech Republic’s case that would mean guaranteeing 1.13 percent of said loan. Finance Minister Babiš stated on Monday that the European Council had said the EFSM would not be used after 2013; he added the Czech Republic was against the mechanism being used now. Earlier, the Czech News Agency quoted the State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza as saying the country could be called upon to provide a guarantee.

Government approves referendum bill

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has approved legislation which would make it possible to hold state wide referenda on the basis of public petitions which gathered at least 250 thousand signatures. The news was revealed by the Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier. The minister suggested the bill could find the necessary approval in Parliament; some, including the country’s ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, expressed reservations over the bill “as is”: in her view a minimum of 100 thousand signatures would suffice.

Foreign police detained over 80 illegal migrants over weekend

The Czech Republic’s foreign police detained 81 illegal migrants, including children, over the last weekend, the Foreign Police spokeswoman Kateřina Rendlová told the Czech News Agency on Monday. During the first six months of the year, policemen detained 3,003 illegal migrants, which is 48 percent more than in the same period last year. Most of the apprehended people come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and most of them were caught in south Moravia, Ústí nad Labem and Prague. Police stepped up controls on trains and on roads in the border area in mid-June.

Zeman says army will be required to secure border “one day”

Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed the conviction that “one day” the Czech Army will be required to secure the country’s borders in response to the migration problem. He made the comments after the ceremonial unveiling of a new bust of the late French president Francois Mitterand. Mr Zeman said a greater influx of refugees from Ukraine could not be ruled out but said he would be willing to accept a limited wave. He called Ukrainians “culturally close” and “willing to work instead of accepting social benefits”.

Government approves foreign policy roadmap

The government on Monday approved a new foreign policy roadmap, focussing on both economic diplomacy but also human rights, the country’s Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza confirmed. The document is to set the course for years to come. According to the Czech News Agency, the roadmap draws on legacies outlined by Czechoslovakia’s first president T.G. Masayrk, the Prague Spring, or the Charter 77 human rights movement. The document reportedly stresses the Czech Republic’s place withïn the Euro-Atlantic space and membership in the EU and NATO.

Rath's lawyer says her client should be acquitted of all charges

Marcela Ondřejová, the lawyer for former Social Democrat MP and governor David Rath, has said that her client be acquitted of corruption charges. In a closing statment on Monday, she told the court that the prosecution's arguments were a mix of conjecture and speculation and charged there was no direct evidence, nor a combination of indirect evidence against her client. Mr Rath is on trial on charges of having taken bribes and of having manipulated public tenders in Central Bohemia. In 2012, he was arrested with a suspected bribe of seven million crowns on his person; if found guilty, he could face a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

Traffic police purchase 85 new Škoda Octavia cars

The country’s traffic police have signed a contract for the purchase of 85 new Škoda Octavia sedans which will be unmarked as police vehicles but will boast surveillance and radar technology. The aim is for officers to be able to crack down on traffic misdemeanors country-wide. Currently some such vehicles are already in use but only in some areas. The Octavias will bring an added boost to a fleet of Passats and Superbs already used by traffic officers.

Guitarist Otakar “Marpo” Petřina dead at 66

The highly-respected guitarist, composer and singer Otakar Petřina died at the weekend, members of his family have confirmed. Petřina, who composed for performers such as Václav Neckář, Petra Janů, or Luboš Pospíšil, was 66. As a young man, Petřina studied at the Prague Conservatory and was later a member of the Rokoko Cabaret Theatre and of the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra. Some of the hits he penned were Nautilus, Motorest nebo Marilyn, and Good-Bye. Under the Communist regime, he was banned from performing for 14 years and was allowed only studio work.

Masters of Rock Festival attracts more than 25,000 visitors

The 13th annual Masters of Rock festival which took place in Vizovice in south Moravia attracted over 25,000 visitors this year, the organizers said on Monday. Over four days fans could see bends including Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation, Switzerland’s Krokus and Scottish punk band The Exploited. The festival came to a close with a performance by the Finnish band Nightwish.