Members of the Czech lower house of parliament approved an EU association agreement with Ukraine after several hours of rowdy debate on Thursday night. The final vote was 107 in favour with 29 against. Most of those opposed to the agreement came from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Social Democrat members of parliament though also criticized the stance of Ukrainian nationalists and the continuing influence of oligarchs in Ukraine. The Czech Republic is one of the last four EU states to ratify the agreement. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, did so already in November last year. The Czech head of state still has to give his approval to the agreement.
The Social Democrats, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has made clear, will not field a party candidate “at all costs” in the 2018 presidential elections. He made the statement in an interview for the financial daily Hospodáršké noviny, suggesting a party referendum could decide which course to take. In the view of the financial daily, a decision by the Social Democrats not to field their own candidate would markedly help President Miloš Zeman’s chances for re-election, if he runs. The daily notes that communication between Mr Sobotka and the president has improved in recent months.
Several hundred members of the Czech military and police forces will take part in a one-day training exercise at the end of September to secure the borders of the Czech Republic. The mock scenario will test command and personnel readiness in the event of a marked worsening of conditions and a jump in the number of illegal migrants heading for the country. So far, the Czech Republic has served largely as a transit country for migrants heading to neighboring Germany and other parts of Central or Western Europe.
Czech monthly pensions will only be raised by an average of 40 crowns in 2016 as the result of low inflation and a government decision which raised a promised one-off bonus for pensioners from 600 to 900 crowns, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová said on Friday. Pensioners will get the bonus - to compensate for low pension indexation in recent years – in February 2016 and not in December as was previously expected. Minister Marksová originally proposed to raise pensions higher than set by the law. They were to go up by an average of 205 crowns, or 1.8 percent. The government coalition eventually agreed to raise pensions according to existing legislation and to pay out a one-off bonus before Christmas. The centre-right opposition, however, blocked the fast-track passing of the proposal in the Chamber of Deputies meaning pensioners will get the one-off payment in February.
September 17 proved to be the most tragic on Czech roads so far in 2015, with 11 people losing their lives in traffic accidents, the police have confirmed. Prior to Thursday, the worst day had been July 23, when 10 people lost their lives. Over the course of the summer holidays, 150 people died in traffic accidents – a seven percent rise from the same period last year. On September 17, five Polish nationals died and three were injured in a single accident alone.
This Saturday will see the opening of Prague’s Blanka tunnel complex, comprising of three connected sections - Brusnice, Dejvice and Královská obora. The tunnel will handle an estimated 70,000 vehicles daily. The site will be launched with a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony, given that it came in years late and far over the original budget. The tunnel passed a series of tests on Thursday paving the way for the weekend launch.
One of seven people, brutally attacked on Wednesday when unknown assailants held up a family business in the area of Tábor, South Bohemia, has died from his injuries. According to available information, three people were seriously injured - two of them critically – in the incident. The police did not confirm the exact number of attackers nor weapons used but it is thought that those hurt were beaten with metal rods after being tied up.
The Czech Army is investigating a mid-air incident between its Airbus A-319 and an as yet unidentified object. Contact between what could have been a drone - but was in all likelihood a swan - took place at 600 metres on Thursday night, news site iDnes reported. The incident took place near the airfield in Kbely; the police were later informed. No one was hurt in the incident but the aircraft suffered slight damage which will need repairs, the spokesman for the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces confirmed. The spokesman denied the aircraft was a flight returning for Azerbaijan with the head-of-state on board. iDnes reported that according to available information the flight was returning from Armenia.
Czech football teams made a mixed start in the their initial group games in the Europa League on Thursday night. Viktoria Plzeň won 2:0 against Dynamo Minsk. Sparta Prague earned a tough 1:1 draw away at Greek side Asteras Tripolis. Slovan Liberec lost 0:1 at home against Portuguese team Braga.
Goalkeeper Petr Čech will face former club Chelsea for the second time since moving to cross-London club Arsenal but in their first regular season match. Arsenal are currently in fourth place in the team standings while the league champions began the season poorly and are 17th. At the beginning of August, Čech helped the Gunners defeat Chelsea 1:0 in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium.
Earlier this week, Čech was rested and replaced in goal by Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina in their opening Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal lost 2:1.
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