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Memorandum on transfer of buildings at Prague Castle to Church signed

Czech President Miloš Zeman and Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka on Thursday signed a memorandum on the transfer of two buildings at Prague Castle to the Catholic Church. The Church has received the Saint George’s Convent and the Mocker Houses on condition that it will renovate them within five years and drop its claims to other buildings at Prague Castle. The move has been criticised by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who said the memorandum was anti-constitutional and unlawful and violated democratic principles. Under the 2012 church restitution law, the country’s churches will receive 75 billion crowns in assets confiscated by the communist regime and get 59 billion crowns worth of compensation money for the rest.

City hall refuses permission for demonstration in solidarity with immigrants

Prague city hall has refused permission for a demonstration to be held on Saturday in Wenceslas Square in solidary with immigrants. The demonstration was scheduled to take place at 4 PM in the afternoon in the lower section of the square. Three other demonstrations have already been approved on the square on Saturday afternoon, two by groups opposing immigrants and one in favour. An anti-immigrant demonstration on July 1, which attracted 700 people, created controversy as a result of the mock gallows displayed and inflammatory slogans.

Spending watchdog says unclaimed EU funds could total 105 billion crowns

Czech spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NKÚ) has warned that the country could fail to pump up to 105 billion crowns of EU funds under a worst case scenario for the current payments period. The office made the warning Thursday when it unveiled its EU Report 2015. The office said that 85 billion, or around a third of the overall amount, in EU funding might not be claimed this year. Added to unclaimed funds from previous years, that could take the total to 105 billion crowns. The Czech Republic has one of the worst records for spending EU funds among the EU 28 over the ongoing seven year period.

Top NATO official visits Czech Republic

The head of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Jean-Paul Paloméros met with Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Josef Bečvář in Prague on Wednesday to discuss the defence budget and exercises of NATO rapid reaction forces. On the agenda was the Noble Jump exercise of these forces held in Poland in June, which Mr Paloméros called a great success. This year, Czech units are set to participate in several NATO joint defence exercises. Jean-Paul Paloméros, who heads one of the two strategic commands within the NATO structure, will continue his visit of the Czech Republic on Thursday.

14th Colours of Ostrava festival kicks off in Ostrava on Thursday

The 14th annual international music festival Colours of Ostrava kicks off in the eastern city of Ostrava on Thursday night with a concert of Bjork. The Icelandic singer will present her new album Vulnicura and her show will be accompanied by a 15-member string orchestra. The festival’s line-up this year features more than three hundred events, including a concert by the British band Kasabians as well as a number of Czech performers. The festival, which is held in a former mining and industrial complex in Dolní Vítkovíce, runs until Sunday.

Krkonoše Mountains issue ban on blueberry pickers

The administration of the Krkonoše Mountains National Park has banned access to some parts of the park in an attempt to limit damage to nature often caused by blueberry pickers who go off the marked trails in the summer months. The ban concerns about 15 percent of the park’s total area and doesn’t apply to marked trails. It will take effect as of Monday, July 20 until October 15. Those who are caught breaking the ban face a fine ranging from 1000 to 10 000 crowns.

Dominik Simon to join Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL

Czech ice hockey forward Dominik Simon announced late Wednesday that he had signed a three year agreement to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. Simon leaves Czech ExtraLiga team Škoda Plzeň after a successful season with 19 goals and 14 assists. The 20-year-old caught the attention of the US club during his appearances for the Czech national side when he played in the recent World Championships, scoring one goal and providing five assists.

Hockey player Ručinský announces end of career

Czech hockey player Martin Ručinský has announced the end of his career, his club Litvínov informed on Thursday. The 44-year-old veteran forward and former NHL player holds three World Championship golds as well as Olympic Gold from Nagano. He has played altogether 12 seasons for his home club Litvínov, and helped the club clinch their first-ever Extraliga title this April. In his National Hockey League career, he tallied 612 points in 961 games. Ručinský could not represent the Czech Republic in the Ice Hockey World Championships in Prague in May due to injury.

Rivers across Czech Republic fall to record lows

Rivers across the Czech Republic fall to record lows. The majority of the country’s rivers are down to fifty percent of normal levels and in some cases, water levels have dropped to ten percent. The worst situation is on the river Lužnice in South Bohemia, which has recorded the lowest water level over the past 100 years. According to the Czech Hydrological Institute, the main reasons behind the current drought are the recent heatwave, low rainfall in recent months as well as mild winter, which has not brought enough snow.

Czech Republic braces for another heatwave over weekend

Meteorologists have warned the public to brace for a severe heatwave, which is expected to hit the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. Temperatures on Friday and Saturday should hover between 31 and 35 degrees Celsius in most of the country. In East Bohemia and South Moravia they could reach up to 37 degrees Celsius, the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said on Thursday. Doctors have advised people to stay out of the sun and limit physical activity. Dry weather and high temperatures have also prompted meteorologists to issue a heightened fire warning for the weekend.