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Lower house approves parameters of 2016 budget

The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved the 2016 budget in the first reading. The bill sets next year’s deficit at CZK 70 billion, CZK 30 billion lower than this year’s. While Wednesday’s vote set the parameters for the budget, individual chapters can still be negotiated by lower house committees. A final vote will take place in December. The government expects this year’s deficit will be lower than it originally planned.

Internal affairs officers raid organised crime squad days after launch of major case

Members of GIBS, the Czech police’s internal affairs unit, raided the headquarters of the force’s organised crime squad on Tuesday evening, the news site Lidovky.cz has reported. The latter’s spokesman refused to comment on the matter on Wednesday. Last week the organised crime squad launched an operation that has so far resulted in charges against four people: Olomouc regional governor Jiří Rozbořil, businessman Ivan Kyselý, deputy chief of the Olomouc regional police Karel Kadlec and the head of the local economic crime unit Radek Petrůj. The case is believed to involve the influencing of trials and the leaking of information from police files. The Olomouc branch of GIBS is accused of ignoring a tip-off about possible collusion between Mr. Kyselý and Mr. Kadlec in the past.

Israeli president thanks Czech Republic for support on Prague visit

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, has expressed thanks for the Czech Republic’s support for his country. He made the comment after a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Miloš Zeman, at Prague Castle on Wednesday on the first full day of an official visit to Prague. Mr. Zeman said that as long as he was in office he would continue to support Israel. The two states have traditionally enjoyed warm relations. The Czech president also said on Wednesday that he hoped Israel would back his plan for international anti-terrorism units under the UN Security Council. During his stay, Mr. Rivlin is also due to visit the Czech Senate and to meet the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka.

News site: Smoking ban from January now unlikely

A bill aimed at banning smoking at pubs and restaurants in the Czech Republic from the start of January now appears unlikely to be approved by that date, the news site iDnes.cz reported on Wednesday. Government MPs voted against the bill being included on the agenda of a lower house session this week, meaning it will not have time to make the statute books by the beginning of next year. Jiří Mihola, head of the parliamentary group of coalition party the Christian Democrats, told iDnes.cz that he would push for clarification on the cabinet’s position on the issue at its next meeting.

Czech PM to visit Jordan at weekend

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, will travel to Jordan at the weekend, the government’s press office said on Wednesday. Mr. Sobotka is set to visit a refugee camp housing 80,000 people in the Middle East state that the Czech Republic has helped equip and finance. During his two-day stay, he will also hold meetings with King Abdullah II and PM Abdullah Ensour. Over 600,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Jordan.

Government making CZK 27 billion available for green heating

The Czech government is to make CZK 27 billion available over the next six years as part of a project aimed at encouraging environmentally friendly home heating. The minister of the environment, Richard Brabec, presented the New Green Savings scheme on Wednesday. The programme differs from an earlier version in that households will be able to apply for grants at any point between now and 2021, rather than in a period of just a few months. Mr. Brabec said the ministry wanted people to draw with ease on grants that will save them thousands of crowns in the future.

Bill putting CZK 3 million annual ceiling on party donations passes first hurdle

Individuals and companies will be able to donate no more than CZK 3 million a year to political parties under a government bill approved in the first reading by the Chamber of Deputies. The amendment also envisages the creation of an agency to monitor party financing. MP Martin Plíšek of the opposition TOP 09 said it was an illusion to imagine the new body could be more independent than the finance committee currently in place. The bill will now go before the lower house’s constitutional and legal committee.

Brno court overthrows fines over Prague’s Opencard system

The Regional Court in Brno has overthrown fines totalling CZK 1.1 million levied on Prague and the city’s transport authority by the country’s competition regulator over the Opencard electronic ticketing system. The court has sent the matter back to the regulator, the Czech News Agency reported. It imposed the fines two years ago after ruling that Prague City Hall and the transport authority had breached procurement rules by signing contracts with Haguess, the company that manages the Opencard project. The Opencard system has been dogged by controversy since it was introduced.

Beskid and Jeseníky mountains most popular domestic destinations

The Beskid and Jeseníky mountains have this year been the most popular places for Czechs to holiday in their own country, according to Czech Television, which cited research conducted for CzechTourism by the Median agency. Czechs spend an average of CZK 14,000 per person when they take domestic vacations, the survey found. With regard to foreign holidays, Croatia has been the most popular destination for Czechs, followed by Italy, Slovakia and Austria.

Three Czech universities ranked among top 10 in region

Three Czech universities have been ranked in the top 10 third level institutions in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Prague’s Charles University placed third in the list compiled by UK education specialists Quacquarelli Symonds, while the city’s Technical University was ranked eighth, one place ahead of Brno’s Masaryk University. Moscow State University was judged the best in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.

Špotáková reunites with former coach Černý ahead of Rio

The Olympic javelin champion Barbora Špotáková has announced she will train for next year’s games in Rio de Janeiro with Rudolf Černý, a coach she parted company with in 2010. After ending her association with Jan Železný, Špotáková (34) was without a trainer this year and performed disappointingly at the Athletics World Championships in Beijing. The javelin world record holder, who previously worked with Rudolf Černý for 11 years, said Rio was likely to be her last Olympics and she wanted to give it her all.