Queen Elizabeth II has decorated Czech Romany policeman Petr Torák with the Order of the British Empire. Torák, who left the Czech Republic in 1999 over repeated attacks by neo-Nazis, now lives and works in Peterborough, north of London and has been hailed as the new face of British policing. Torák, who speaks five languages, has been applauded for his services to the local Romany community and his skills in dealing with migrants. Other Czechs who have received the Order of the British Empire are architect Eva Jiřičná or conductor Jiří Bělohlávek.
The European Commission has turned down an application by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš for an extension of the VAT reverse charge mechanism, Czech Radio reported on Thursday. The finance minister wanted the extension as an instrument for prevention of tax evasion. The EC likewise rejected similar applications by Austria, Bulgaria and Slovakia. The Czech finance minister has been pushing for EU member states to be able to decide for themselves what goods and services will be subject to reverse charge. However, VAT ranks among harmonised taxes in the EU and its rules are set at the EU level.
A Czech L-159 training jet collided with vulture at the Trident Juncture 20115 NATO training exercise in Spain, the ctk news agency reported on Thursday. The wing of the aircraft was damaged but the jet landed safely and will be transported by road to the Czech Republic. According to technicians who inspected the plane had the collision been closer to the cockpit the pilot would have had to eject. The jet was flying at 600 km per hour on its way back to base when the accident occurred.
Fifty Czech police officers departed for Hungary on Thursday to help guard the country’s outer Schengen border for the course of one month. They are being sent at Hungary’s request and will join twenty Czech soldiers whose mission started in mid-October. The Czech police officers will guard the border in three areas near the town of Szeged. They will patrol the border along with a Hungarian soldier and police officer and they will be under Hungarian command.
The Czech government is considering sending several dozen soldiers and police officers to Slovenia to help boost security along the county’s borders and deal with the growing flow of migrants. According to Chief of the General Staff Josef Bečvář the army could spare fifty soldiers with medical and logistics support. The government is to make a final decision on Monday. The Czech Republic is assisting Hungary in a similar manner. Since Hungary closed its border with Croatia in mid-October, the stream of migrants is flowing through Slovenia and Austria on its way to Germany. 86,000 migrants crossed Slovenia in the past fortnight.
The parties of the coalition governing Prague are gearing up for talks aimed at preserving the alliance which is under severe strain following internal fighting and the dismissal of four councilors who were voted off the council on grounds of poor performance. They were dismissed in a stormy session of the council which observers later described as a tit-for-tat war between the ANO party, the Social Democrats and the three-way coalition of Greens, Christian Democrats, and the STAN group of mayors and independents. The three-way coalition said on Thursday it had agreed on a list of conditions which would have to be met for the coalition to continue. It wants to be put in charge of the Institute for City Planning and Development and to have supervision over the city’s waste removal problems.
An appeals court has rejected a compensation claim filed by the descendants of the former shoe magnate Jan Antonín Baťa. Five of Baťa’s descendants are jointly seeking compensation to the tune of 56 million crowns for property that was confiscated from Baťa in 1947 under the post-war Beneš decrees for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. In 2007, however, a court cleared Bata’s name, ruling that no crime had been committed. The appeals court upheld a lower court verdict which rejected the compensation claim on the grounds that the restitution laws pertain to property confiscated after February 25th 1948 and cannot apply to a case that occurred a year earlier. The claimants may still appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court.
Czech President Miloš Zeman bestowed state decorations on 35 people, on the occasion of the national holiday marking the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state in 1918. At a special ceremony on Wednesday evening, the president bestowed the top Czech decoration, the Order of the White Lion, to the late RAF pilot Josef František. The Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, in memoriam, was given to Frantisek Kriegel, the only Prague Spring leader who refused to sign the Moscow protocol in 1968 legitimising the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Medal of Heroism was given to Petr Vejvoda, a 16-year-old student who was killed by a mentally ill woman when defending a girl in a secondary school in Žďár nad Sázavou. Other recipients included former football international Pavel Nedvěd or the late Karel Weirich, a Czech journalist who saved the lives 200 Czechoslovak Jews in Italy during WWII.
Opposition politicians have expressed reservations with regard to some of the people who received state distinctions from President Miloš Zeman on occasion of Czechoslovakia Independence Day on October 28th. Among those decorated was Miroslav Toman, a former agriculture minister in a pre-1989 communist government, and currently President of the Czech Food Chamber. The leader of the Civic Democratic Party Petr Fiala and the deputy head of TOP 09 Miroslav Kalousek said they were appalled to see a former communist party apparatchik decorated with a state award. Criticism was also leveled against actress Jitka Frantová Pelikánová, who is alleged to have cooperated with the communist secret service, accusations that the actress vehemently denies.
Air quality in smog-hit Moravia and Silesia appeared to be improving Thursday after several days where air quality has been way below permitted limits. Measurements at five out of 13 measuring sites across the region were below the limits and improvements were registered at most of the other sites, the national weather office announced. The one glaring exception was Karvina where the total of small particulate matter increased to around three times the acceptable limit. The region, which is known for the worst air quality in the country, has been suffering from smog on recent days caused by weather conditions and the start of the heating season. Small particulate matter can cause cancer.
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