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20-08-2015

National Security Council meets over Czech Post corruption allegations

A meeting of the National Security Council over the allegations of corruption surrounding the state-owned company Czech Post and the Social Democratic Party is taking place on Thursday. The meeting was requested by Interior Minister Milan Chovanec. According to the allegations, a member of the Social Democratic Party requested a 3 million crown bribe, of which one million was to be for Minister Chovanec himself. The information appeared on the internet news site neovlivni.cz over the weekend. The minister has rejected the allegations and is filing charges of slander. The case is being investigated by the police. Speaking prior to the meeting, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said it was the government’s duty to respond to the alleged corruption.

Experts reject Russian propaganda

A group of journalists, historians and experts on Ukraine have prepared a text rejecting Russian propaganda concerning the current crisis in Ukraine. The study, prepared in cooperation with the Prague-based think-tank European Values and the Slovak CEPI institute, was presented at a press conference on Thursday. The text deals for instance with the presence of Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and the Euromaidan events. The authors have also described President Zeman, the Communist Party and some Social Democratic deputies as some of the country’s biggest Russian apologists.

Transparency International: Czech Republic not combating international bribery

The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has criticised the Czech Republic for not sufficiently penalizing corruption of Czech nationals and Czech companies abroad. According to the 2015 report on fighting bribery in business, which was carried out in 39 signatory countries, the Czech Republic doesn’t abide by an OECD convention on combating bribery in international business transactions. The Czech Republic, which had been criticised for not upholding OECD agreements in the past, has placed in the most poorly rated group of countries.

Government agrees to preserve Biological Protection Centre in Těchonín

The government on Thursday agreed to preserve the Defence Ministry’s Biological Protection Centre in Těchonín in east Bohemia. The Czech military’s specialised medical institution will continue to be maintained by the ministry, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said after the government’s meeting on Thursday. Mr Stropnický said the existence of the centre was essential in case of unexpected epidemics as well as in times of increasing migration. The government was considering to close down the centre due to economic reasons.

Government doesn’t approve financial help for indebted Klokánek

The government has not approved an extraordinary 20-million financial injection for the indebted Fund for Children at Risk Klokánek, which runs a number of children’s homes around the country. The plan was proposed by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš but the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Michaela Marksová was against it, saying that it wouldn’t be fair to other institutions caring for children in need. The charity owes the state around 120 million crowns in overdue social and health insurance payments for its employees, and faces a threat of property seizure. It has already sold three of its facilities in order to lower the debt.

Ministers support Czech scientists’ appeal for greater tolerance of refugees

Minister for Huma Rights Jiří Dientsber and Education Minister Kateřina Valachová, both from the Social Democratic Party, have supported the petition of Czech scientists and members of academic institutions calling for greater tolerance toward asylum seekers. According to Mr Dientsbier, the scientists are right at pointing out that growing xenophobic sentiments present a greater threat to democracy than immigrants. Mrs Valachová said she is ready to discuss the petition with President Miloš Zeman at their meeting on Friday. The President’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček earlier criticised the appeal, saying that it merely served to deepen the gap between Czech society and “so-called elites”.

First Czech scientific diplomat to take up her post in Israel in October

The first Czech scientific diplomat, Delana Mikolášová, is set to take up her post in Israel in October. Her main task will be to establish contacts with Israeli scientists, research institutions and innovative firms and help forge ties with similar institutions in the Czech Republic. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mrs Mikolášová said she would like to focus mainly on the fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, IT and mechanical engineering. The diplomatic post, which is covered by the government Council for Research, Development and Innovations, is for two years and can be extended.

Government approves increase of minimum wage to 9,900 crowns

The government has approved an increase in the minimal monthly wage by 7.6 percent, or 700 crowns, to 9,900 crowns as of January next year, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday. The government has pledged in the coalition agreement to gradually increase the lowest salary to around two fifths of the average wage. The minimal wage was introduced in 1991 when it was set at 2,000 Czech crowns. It was last raised in January by 700 crowns. There are currently some 2.3 percent of Czechs earning a minimum wage.

Czech Television to broadcast Zeman speech after Prague Castle talks

Czech Television will this year again broadcast a speech by President Miloš Zeman on October 28, a state holiday marking the anniversary of the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. Speaking after a meeting with the head of state at Prague Castle, the public broadcaster’s director general, Petr Dvořák, told reporters the live relay would go ahead. Last year the broadcast was interrupted due to a power failure, with both Prague Castle and the station suggesting it had been the fault of the other side. Mr. Dvořák said measures had been taken to ensure the problem would not reoccur.

Traffic at Prague’s Main Train Station interrupted over bomb threat

Traffic was interrupted at Prague’s Main Train Station on Thursday morning due to an anonymous bomb threat. Czech Railways received a call at around eight A.M., according to which there was a bomb in one of the trains standing at the station. Police and explosive experts searched the train but no explosives were found. Several platforms had to be cleared during the search and trains were diverted to different stations. The hoax threat is now being investigated by the police.

News site: FA chief and Nedvěd to fly to China with Zeman

The head of the Czech Football Association, Miroslav Pelta, and former European player of the year Pavel Nedvěd will be on board President Miloš Zeman’s plane to China at the start of next month, Neovlivní.cz reported. The news site said the two would discuss cooperation with Chinese companies, with Mr. Nedvěd hoping to open a soccer school in Shanghai. President Zeman is the only EU leader planning to attend events in Beijing marking the anniversary of the end of WWII in the Pacific.

20-08-2015